Leave No One Behind
Author / BY PAT GAO
Taiwan is expanding solar and wind power capacity as part of energy restructuring efforts. (Photo by Central News Agency)
Taiwan is seeking professional, pragmatic and constructive participation in the UNFCCC.
The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) entered into force in 1994 to serve as the main global platform for stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions. Signatories meet annually at the Conference of the Parties (COP), with the 25th edition scheduled to take place Dec. 2-13 in Santiago, Chile.
COP25 incorporates the second meeting of the parties for the Paris Agreement, adopted at COP21 in 2015 to deal with adaptation, mitigation and financing policies against greenhouse gasses. While working to expand commitments to tackling global warming, the Santiago summit will highlight oceans-related issues, as well as adaptation, Antarctica, biodiversity, circular economy, electromobility, forests, renewable energy and urbanization.
A waste incinerator for electricity production at Taoyuan Environmental Science and Technology Park in the northern Taiwan city’s Guanyin District is under construction and expected to go on line in 2021. (Photo courtesy of Taoyuan City Government)
As Taiwan is not a party to the convention, the country is shut out of official activities, mechanisms and meetings. Each year, the Cabinet-level Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) sends a delegation to the summit comprising representatives from the country’s public and private sectors. These include those from academic and research institutes, as well as local enterprises. The participation, mainly involving events on the sidelines and at exhibition venues, is made possible through the assistance of Taiwan nongovernmental organizations (NGO).
Ten homegrown NGOs hold UNFCCC observer status: Taipei City-based Delta Electronics Foundation, Environmental Quality Protection Foundation, Foundation of Taiwan Industry Service, Mom Loves Taiwan Association, Taiwan Carbon Capture Storage and Utilization Association, and Taiwan Institute for Sustainable Energy; New Taipei City-headquartered Taiwan Association of Sustainable Ecological Engineering Development, Taiwan Research Institute, and Telecommunication and Transportation Foundation; as well as state-backed Industrial Technology Research Institute in northern Taiwan’s Hsinchu County.
Taiwan’s COP presence has won considerable recognition from delegates of many U.N. member states and the UNFCCC’s secretariat, according to EPA Minister Chang Tzi-chin (張子敬). “Global climate change is a matter of life and death transcending political concerns,” he said.
“Exclusion from the UNFCCC is unfair and incompatible with its call for extensive cooperation across the world on environmental issues, disregards the Paris Agreement’s emphasis on climate justice and violates the principles of the U.N. Charter.”
As the world’s 22nd largest economy, Chang said, Taiwan has a responsibility to tackle with other countries the urgent threat posed by climate change. “No one should be left behind in this fight.”
Despite frustrations, Taiwan continues seeking participation in the UNFCCC in a “professional, pragmatic and constructive manner,” Chang added. One of the major aims of the EPA is to expand the country’s contributions to global environmental programs in such areas as ecological management, disaster prevention and early warning systems and energy efficient technologies.
“For developing countries, Taiwan offers support based on its similar experiences,” Chang said. “In the past, we tapped expertise and skills from developed nations, and now it’s time for us to help the international community in return.”
Environmental Protection Administration Minister Chang Tzi-chin (Photo by Pang Chia-shan)
Among Taiwan’s major efforts to combat climate change, the country is one of the first in the world to write long-term emission reduction targets into law. The Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act, promulgated in July 2015, specifies the goal of lowering the nation’s carbon emissions to half the 2005 levels by 2050. As a result, EPA regulations stipulate decreases of 2 percent, 10 percent and 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, 2025 and 2030, respectively.
These objectives are bolstered by promoting the National Climate Change Action Guideline as the blueprint of Taiwan’s adaptation and mitigation measures, as well as the Greenhouse Gas Emission Control Action Programs for the government’s agriculture, energy, environment, manufacturing, residential-commercial and transportation agencies. Over the last decade, on the back of joint endeavors by local government, the increase of carbon emissions from traditional energy sources has slowed to an average 0.1 percent rise, outperforming Singapore’s 1.6 percent and South Korea’s 2.3 percent, according to the EPA.
To facilitate progress toward a low-carbon society, the government aims to achieve energy restructuring by 2025 to generate 50 percent of electricity from natural gas, 27 percent from coal, 20 percent from renewable resources and 1 percent from nuclear, with the remaining from oil and pumped storage hydropower. Statistics by the Bureau of Energy under the Ministry of Economic Affairs confirm existing numbers at around 33 percent, 46 percent, 7 percent and 11 percent, in addition to other sources.
Notably, the 2017 amendments to the Electricity Act are intended to create a favorable environment for green energy business development. Chang sees these moves as in line with the Paris Agreement’s core concern of boosting momentum for carbon reduction in all nations.
Taiwan’s commitment to standing with the international community on climate change is further evidenced by its adoption of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and publication in September 2017 of the Voluntary National Review on their implementation.
Around the same time, the National Council for Sustainable Development, an interministerial organization headed by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and staffed by EPA employees, passed in December 2018 Taiwan’s own version of the SDGs comprising 18 goals and 138 specific targets.
Taipei City-based Delta Electronics Foundation, a UNFCCC-accredited group, hosts a forum on ocean and climate change in Taipei. (Photo by CNA)
“We’ve achieved considerable results across core areas,” Chang said, citing care for disadvantaged groups, clean water, energy supply, gender equality, health care, infrastructure, pensions, poverty alleviation, resource recycling, sanitation facilities, universal education and zero hunger.
“Taiwan is ready, willing and able to share its knowledge and experience with other countries to help realize the SDGs,” Chang said. A crucial way for the country to make even further headway in this regard is to maintain an active, dynamic partnership in international organizations like the UNFCCC, he added.
As part of ongoing government efforts to foster global partnerships, the EPA organized the eighth annual conference of the Asia-Pacific Mercury Monitoring Network in August in Jakarta, Indonesia. More than 60 experts and officials from 18 countries such as Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam exchanged best practices and cutting-edge ideas.
The EPA is working to strengthen the regional mercury monitoring network and arrange relevant training programs under the International Environmental Partnership (IEP). Launched in 2014 by Taiwan and the U.S., this network of experts and specialists from around the world seeks to build capacity in tackling environmental challenges.
A key component of the IEP initiatives involves the Global Environmental Education Partnership (GEEP) engaging more than 50 countries. At the U.S.-Taiwan Environmental Education Taskforce meeting held in July in Taipei, the EPA proposed further contributing to the GEEP’s Asia-Pacific network by teaming up with Taichung City Government to form a regional communication and coordination center in the central Taiwan metropolis.
New Taipei City Government staffers carry out an ocean cleanup mission off the coast of northern Taiwan. (Courtesy of New Taipei City Government)
Local government is a crucial force in spurring Taiwan’s global engagement via hosting and participating in environmental and climate-related events. In June, Lu Li-teh (呂理德), who heads the Department of Environmental Protection at Taoyuan City Government (TCG) in northern Taiwan, shared the municipality’s experiences in enhancing climate adaptability at the Resilient Cities 2019 forum in Bonn, Germany.
The Taoyuan delegation was also invited by forum organizer Local Governments for Sustainability, a UNFCCC-accredited group comprising over 1,750 local and regional governments in 100-plus countries, to attend the Bonn Climate Change Conference. In the face of growing climate change impacts, Lu said, it is vital to foster international connections at such events so as to keep abreast of the latest developments and respond appropriately. “We can’t afford any form of isolation, and must seize every opportunity to advance intercity diplomacy as well.”
During the conference, TCG delegates updated attendees on Taoyuan’s progress in realizing the SDGs. This undertaking goes far beyond the work of an environmental affairs authority, Lu said. “It requires an all hands on deck approach from the main actors in the local government.”
A high-profile example is the 2017-established interagency task force for developing a low-carbon green city and a self-governance ordinance taking effect in the same year. The former is headed by Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), with Lu acting as executive secretary.
In addition to expanding solar and offshore wind power capacity, another related measure in Taoyuan is an under-construction waste incinerator for electricity production at the Taoyuan Environmental Science and Technology Park in Guanyin District. Expected to go on line in 2021, the biomass energy center will generate 200 million kilowatt-hours per year.
“The facility is further evidence of the success of efforts by government, private firms and NGOs in achieving the shared goal of sustainable development,” Lu said. “Leave no one behind is not just a U.N. slogan, it’s our battle cry in the struggle to mitigate climate change.”
Retrieve from Taiwan Review