Energy, Sustainability and
Resource Management

Thirty years ago, the United Nations’ Bruntland Commission defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. This tension between present and future, in a region that experiences rapid economic growth, is central to the research activities of the Energy, Sustainability and Resource Management cluster. The research cluster’s questions relate to the sustainable use of natural resources, and are associated with considerations of governance, policy, public participation, socio-economic conditions and cultural levers. The research cluster has a regional focus on China and other East and Southeast Asian countries.

smart low carbon cities

Research Grants Council’s Research Impact Grant (Project coordinator: Dr. Daphne Mah) Exploring the role of big data analytics in promoting smart low-carbon cities: A human centered, community-based, and deep engagement approach in Hong Kong

Drawing on expertise from three departments (Geography, Computer Science and Physics) across the Faculty of Social Sciences, Faculty of Science, and Academy of Visual Arts, the team will test how energy behavioural change of 600 sampled households in four communities in Hong Kong can be catalysed by the combined use of app-based big data analytics and innovative engagement strategies. The study aims to develop and test a model of “Smart Low-carbon Community” for enabling behavioural change among residential electricity consumers.


The project, titled “Exploring the role of big data analytics in promoting smart low-carbon cities: A human-centered, community-based, and deep engagement approach in Hong Kong”, will be delivered by an interdisciplinary research consortium involving 17 co-investigators/collaborators in nine renowned research institutions in Hong Kong and overseas research institutions including Stanford, Kyoto University, and Seoul National University. Nine collaborating organisations from the business, school and societal sectors are also engaging with the project. Based on a long-standing research network hosted by HKBU’s Asian Energy Studies Centre, this interdisciplinary project will combine expertise in data science, climatology, energy modelling, blockchain, GIS, energy resource assessment, energy policies, participatory art and deliberative polling to address a complex problem using a systemic approach. 


GRF Project (PI: Dr Kevin Lo) Decentralized climate governance and policy implementation in China: Unraveling a paradox

A multi-case and multi-site comparative climate governance study aiming to identify and explain patterns of climate policy implementation in China.


Although China is an authoritarian and unitary state, its governance system has become increasingly decentralized. This project involves the development of new conceptual tools and the rigorous collection of data through a comparative approach to study climate policy implementation in China. The main contribution of the project is to improve our understanding of China’s climate governance. Based on this knowledge, we can make sound practical recommendations to improve China’s climate mitigation performance from a policy and governance perspective.


Digital Scholarship Grant (PI: Dr Kevin Lo) HK Solar Map: A GIS web application for rooftop photovoltaics

The Hong Kong Solar Map is a web-based GIS application that Hong Kong residents can use to learn about the potential for solar PVs on their buildings and across the city.


The Hong Kong Solar Map is a web-based GIS application that Hong Kong residents can use to learn about the potential for solar PVs on their buildings and across the city. The main feature is a solar calculator, which takes usable area as an input and generates the following outputs: potential PV capacity, annual electricity generation, annual electricity bill savings, total cost of the system, payback period, and carbon emissions reduction. Furthermore, the calculator can also estimate the impact of net metering and feed-in tariffs on payback periods.



energy transition

Mah, D. et al, 2021 Trust gaps in energy transitions: Japan’s National Deliberative Poll after Fukushima, Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 39(2):249-269

A global decline in public trust has created a strong need for governments worldwide to engage citizens in order to enhance policy legitimacy and ensure effective post-Fukushima energy transitions. Deliberative policy-making – an advanced form of participatory policy-making that emphasises dialogue and debate – is widely regarded as an intervention that can enhance trust and subsequently legitimacy of energy transitions policies. However, the potential and limits of deliberative policy-making remain the subject of debate. This paper contributes to this debate by exploring deliberative policy-making from a trust perspective. We develop a trust-based systems framework of deliberative policy-making in the energy transitions context to understand, examine, and conceptualise the quality of such policy-making processes. Our framework is tested and applied to a case study of a national deliberative poll (DP) on energy held in Japan in 2012. This study draws on qualitative and quantitative data derived from the DP, in particular from a two-day deliberative forum involving 285 citizens. The findings indicate that the existence of a trust gap may jeopardise the quality of deliberative processes where citizen participation is considered as an input and enhanced policy legitimacy as an output of a policy-making system. We also show that the trust gap is a complicated concept consisting of three dimensions (trust in information, motives, and competence) and three types of directional dynamics (vertical, horizontal, and temporal). Our study identifies the context of public distrust as well as the broader political environment as two critical contextual conditions that may inhibit the closure of the trust gap. Our study contains rich insights on deliberative policy-making in the energy context, arguing that it carries no guarantee of enhanced policy legitimacy. Policy-makers in the energy transitions field need to focus attention on creating the conditions to build public trust in order to enhance policy legitimacy and thus realise the potential benefits of deliberative practices of policy-making.

china forestry

Lo, K., 2021 Authoritarian environmentalism, just transition, and the tension between environmental protection and social justice in China’s forestry reform. Forest Policy and Economics, 131, 102574.

Authoritarian environmentalism (AE) has become an important source of social injustice in China. Taking clues from the theory of just transition and a case study of forestry reform in Northeast China, this article discusses the tension between environmental protection and social justice in Chinese AE. From a procedural perspective, the belief in insulated eco-elites being best placed to make environmental decisions, and the emphasis on policy expediency, are manifested in the top-down imposition of a sweeping ban on logging of natural forests. However, this non-participatory approach prevents critical and nuanced viewpoints on local impacts to be recognized and addressed. From a distributional perspective, while AE does not inherently contradict the norm of distributive justice, the forestry reform has negatively affected the undercompensated and under-supported laid off workers, created new energy poverty issues, undermined local public services, and disproportionately affected smaller, remote communities, some of whom have been outright abandoned. The findings highlight the need for scholars to engage with social justice issues in AE by championing the importance of a just transition process, experimenting with public engagement in the context of authoritarianism, and generating policy knowledge that facilitates the transformation toward sustainability.