Although Taiwan has representation at the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCC), President Ma Ying-jeou has said that only if Taiwan’s officials were able to participate fully at the conference can the international community truly learn more about Taiwan’s efforts to reduce energy use and cut carbon dioxide emissions.
Attendees at the conference (also known as COP-15 – that is, the 15th session of the Conference of Parties), taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark, from December 7th to 18th, are discussing a post-Kyoto framework and formulating the world’s carbon reduction targets beyond 2012. Taiwan’s representation at the conference, led by Minister Stephen Shen of Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), is relegated to the level of a non-governmental organization, due to the island’s exclusion from the formal UN processes.
Since 1995, Taiwan has participated under the name of Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), which the UNFCC Secretariat has listed under the name of “Hsinchu, China.” This slight has dampened the spirit of the Taiwanese deprived of the opportunity to participate fully and effectively. In one case, an environmental organization decided against attending altogether upon hearing its application would be under the name “China.” Wang Chin-shou made the decision as president of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union. According to the Taipei-based China Post, he thought the government’s stance against COP-15 was too “passive.”
The Taipei-based Environment Quality Protection Foundation decided to attend despite being designated under “China.” Hsieh Ying-shih, the foundation’s chairman said, “It is an international political reality.” Besides, climate change issues extend beyond the boundaries of sovereign countries. In addition to ITRI and the foundation, Taiwan’s Institute for Sustainable Energy has also applied as an NGO.
As the world’s 20th largest economy and as the 18th largest trading country, Taiwan’s economic activities have a direct bearing on the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region in particular. Furthermore, with substantial business interests in Southeast Asia, Taiwan is in a position to influence environmental stewardship outside its own borders. Excluding Taiwan from participating in the dialogue at COP-15 would be seriously detrimental to real progress given that the island is a key production hub, with inextricable links to global economic and trade growth.
Taiwan doing its bit to tackle climate change
In spite of Taiwan’s limited participation, the island has been enacting legislation to meet international standards. It has a greenhouse gas (GHG) management plan, passed the Renewable Energy Development Act, with a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Bill, and an Energy Tax Bill is in the pipeline.
According to Taiwan’s EPA, in 2008, the country reduced its total electricity consumption by 4 billion kilowatt-hours, helping to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 4.4 percent. It is the first time the nation has ever witnessed negative emissions growth.
To further minimize air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, last month the Executive Yuan approved an amendment to the Commodity Tax Act which would allow individuals purchasing a hybrid vehicle with a new plate registration to be eligible for a US$777 tax deduction. Furthermore, the Ministry of Economic Affairs will also propose the elimination of commodity taxes on electric vehicles along with a subsidy to each purchaser, reducing payments from US$3107 up to US$15,535.
As an industrialized country, Taiwan has weighted its development with its efforts to curb carbon dioxide emissions. Although Taiwan is in line with international moves to inspect, report on, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the task ahead would make more sense if the island was a full participant of the global community.
In August of this year, Taiwan was hit with Typhoon Morakot, the deadliest typhoon in fifty years. Yet, this force of nature only crystallized Taiwan’s stark vulnerability to global climate change and the island’s willingness to curb global warming.
- The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.
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