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Betting on a greener Macao

The Macao government hopes to transform the city into the centre of green development in the Pearl Delta Region and make tourism - its economic backbone - far more sustainable.

The Chinese territory of Macao is famous for its casinos and bright lights, not so for environmental protection or sustainability. But the Macao government hopes to change this by transforming the city into the centre of “green” development in the Pearl Delta Region, and urging for its protection through greater public awareness and increased collaboration among companies and other governments in the Delta region.

To achieve this vision, the Government of the Macao Special Administrative Region (Macao SAR) established the Macao International Environmental Co-operation Forum and Exhibition (MIECF) eight years ago.

A conference, trade fair and public campaign rolled into one, the 2015 MIECF is set to take place on March 26 to 28 at The Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel, where more than 6,000 participants from 50 countries are expected to attend. This year, the event will focus on “Green Economy – Solutions for Clean Air”.

Here’s a quick look at Macao’s efforts to make tourism – the backbone of its economy – sustainable.

1. Macao has one of the world’s highest population as well as “tourism” densities

Compared to Hong Kong and Singapore, which have population densities of 6,571 and 7,618 per square kilometre of land, respectively, Macao squeezes 21,190 people into the same area, according to official estimates by the governments.

It also gets tens of millions of visitors a year – arrivals totalled 31.5 million in 2014. The impact of human activity on the tiny island of 28.2 square kilometres – about one sixth of the United States capital, Washington DC – is huge. Pollution, motor vehicle density, garbage, and deaths from respiratory diseases are all on the rise.

The government therefore adopted a “strategic blueprint” in 2010 to address the sustainability challenge.

2. Macao’s strategic blueprint and Five-Year sustainability plans (2011-2015)

The Macao Government Tourist Office, with Pacific Asia Travel Association, has a 10-point plan it outlined in 2010 – a so-called “strategic blueprint” – to ensure a sustainable approach to the tourism industry.

It included, for the first time, a sustainability charter, which states that the tourism industry should be responsible for its environmental performance. It called for a guidebook for sustainable tourism practices such as sustainable design and construction, green procurement, reduction of waste and the use of water and energy; and contribution towards local environmental initiatives such as vegetation planting and waste-recycling.

The concept of sustainability is slowly taking hold in Macao and environmental protection is emerging as a top priority in the territory’s development. This can only bode well for Macao’s status as a tourism destination. 

Under the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) drafted by the central government in Beijing (hailed as the “greenest” Five-Year Plan ever), China aims to slash energy use and carbon emissions for every unit of economic output by 16 and 17 percent, respectively. Macao is very much part of this plan, and will continue to do so in China’s the next Five-Year Plan.

3. Macao’s gaming industry is encouraged to implement environmental measures. 

Gambling tourism is Macao’s biggest source of revenue, making up about 50 percent of the economy. The industry is therefore the backbone of the territory and its practices has a huge impact on the environment.

In addition to its strategic blueprint, Macao’s Environment Protection Bureau also has smaller initatives to encourage sustainable tourism. For example, it launched the Macao Green Hotel Award in 2007 to raise the awareness of the importance of environmental management in the territory’s hotel industry and commend properties which adopt the best practices.

Properties will have to show that they have reduced annual electricity consumption and carbon emissions continously for a few years. Recent winners include Conrad Macao and Sheraton Macao, which use more energy-efficient lights, insulated glass to reduce heat, and also increased the temperature of air-conditioning.

4. Macao has the support of the Pearl River Delta region.

MIECF has also the support of the provincial and regional governments of the 9+2 region of the Pan-Pearl River Delta: Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan and Hong Kong.

As the area has long been China’s manufacturing powerhouse, it is unfortuantely also among the most polluted regions in the country.

The region’s governments therefore MIECF’s efforts in pushing sustainable devlopment in the region and acting as an important business and technology exchange platform. Delegates from the various governments will be participating in the event to check out the green technology and services on show, as well as promote home-ground companies in the sustainability sector.

China’s National Development and Reform Comission in 2009 also announced plans for projects between governments in the region, such as establishing a joint air quality-monitoring system and implementing more rigorous emissions standards for vehicles and ships.

5. Macao Airport has a progressive food-recycling scheme that’s a first in the region.

Started in 2013, the programme is supported by restaurants, companies and services that operate at Macao International Airport, including catering services company Servair Macao, which produces over 10,000 meals a day, and McDonald’s.

The recycling programme aims to channel all food waste into an ongoing supply of organic fertiliser and completely elimate the use of chemical fertilisers eventually. The resulting compost – from biodegradable waste such as bread, rice, pasta, vegetables and fruits – is then used to grow more plants at the airport. 

The concept of sustainability is slowly taking hold in Macao and environmental protection is emerging as a top priority in the territory’s development. This can only bode well for Macao’s status as a tourism destination.  


This year’s MIECF features former Norwegian Prime Minister Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland as keynote speaker, among others. To hear more from her and other experts, register for the Macao International Environmental Co-operation Forum & Exhibition (MIECF) held from 26-28 March 2015 here. 

With an exciting lineup of an international conference, exhibition, business matching and networking activities, MIECF offers access to opportunities from the Pan-Pearl River Delta Region of China (PPRD Region), Asia-Pacific and Portuguese-speaking countries and beyond. At the Green Forum, speakers will discuss energy efficiency, renewable energy, green building, sustainable mobility, waste and water management, financing and policies. 

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