HKUST Excels in Sustainability at GSDC Bangkok, Ranks 36th in UN SDG Impact Rankings Globally

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) gained recognition for its efforts to become a global sustainability leader as the University was ranked the world’s 36th, as well as the first in Hong Kong and Mainland China in its debut appearance in Times Higher Education (THE)’s Impact Rankings, announced in its annual Global Sustainable Development Congress (GSDC) yesterday in Bangkok.

Assessing over 2,100 universities worldwide for their impacts in helping achieve the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), THE commended HKUST in particular for its contributions to SDGs 9, 11 and 12, which focus on building resilient infrastructure and industries with innovation, promoting sustainable cities and ensuring responsible consumption and production.

Prof. WANG Yang, HKUST Vice-President for Institutional Advancement (VPIA), expressed delight for HKUST’s achievement in the Impact Rankings. “It is a testament to the University’s unwavering commitment to improving our living environment. The challenges we face today are getting more complex, requiring not only technology but also collaboration across institutions and disciplines to resolve them.  As a breeding ground for innovation and technology, universities should spearhead joint initiatives to promote smart and sustainable development on a global scale,” he said.

To walk its talk, HKUST took the lead to invite top universities in joining a declaration to drive carbon neutrality by turning their campuses into living laboratories for innovations to achieve a sustainable future.  A total of 15 universities from Asia, Europe, Oceania, North America and the Middle East made the pledge at the GSDC today.  The living lab approach was inspired by a scheme implemented on HKUST campus a few years ago, which has funded 36 projects and ideas to date, including smart systems to reduce energy consumption and chemical wastage.

“Sustainability is a mindset.  At HKUST, we have the mindset and vision to transform our campus into a net-zero living laboratory for experiential learning and research,” Prof. Wang added.  “Sustainability also transcends borders and requires collaboration and shared knowledge. I hope this joint declaration, together with our other initiatives such as the Global Knowledge Network which promotes cross-border research work, can help generate more novel ideas and solutions for challenges such as climate change, water resource management, renewable energy or sustainable transportation.”

HKUST scholars also shared their insights on topics ranging from smart cities to solutions in fighting climate change at GSDC, which has attracted over 3,000 global thought leaders and innovators from 700 organizations around the world.

In a session on the development of early warning systems for extreme weather, Prof. Alexis LAU, Head of Division of Environment and Sustainability (ENVR) and Director of the Institute for the Environment at HKUST, Prof. CHEN Fei, Co-Chair of the Urban Prediction Project of World Meteorological Organization (WMO)’s World Weather Research Program and an ENVR Professor, along with Ms. Eva Yeung, Senior Manager of Community Resilience Service from Hong Kong Red Cross, discussed how personalized warnings tailored to vulnerable populations can help reduce live losses and damages amid extreme weather, and how scientists can work with humanitarian and non-profit-making organizations to disseminate the messages to the communities.

In another session, Prof. Hong LO, HKUST Dean of Engineering and Director of the GREAT Smart Cities Institute, elucidated the elements crucial for driving smart innovations in sustainable cities and communities, and how to address urban challenges and promote resource efficiency through the application of big data analytics and integrating technologies such as AI and Internet of Things (IoT).

Meanwhile, Prof. Wang also exchanged insights in a panel discussion on how to drive a sustainable future amid the digital revolution with professionals such as an executive from Google and a ministerial commissioner from Hungary.

Committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, the University has implemented a range of initiatives over the years, including the “Sustainable Smart Campus as a Living Lab” in 2019. In 2020, HKUST installed one of the city’s largest solar power systems, projected to reduce 1.5 million kg of carbon emissions annually over the next 25 years. More recently, the University poised to become the most EV-friendly campus in Hong Kong. With an investment of HK$40 million, it will upgrade 30% of its parking spaces with charging capability and related software support for electric vehicles.