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Good environmental policies can be good for business, too

Last Tuesday, nobody showed the slightest interest when the European Chamber of Commerce Taipei (ECCT, 台北歐洲商會) offered new ideas and solutions to facilitate Taiwan's efforts to build a low-carbon economy and society.

The local media devoted all its attention to the vote on the so-called beef amendments before the Legislative Yuan's formal recess. President Ma Ying-jeou had actively lobbied for legislators to pass amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) that would open Taiwan's market to U.S. beef containing ractopamine, but to no avail. The legislative speaker will have to convene an emergency session next week in order to vote on the amendment.

Extensive flooding from the two-day onslaught of torrential rain last week also caught media attention across Taiwan. On Thursday, President Ma called on the Central Weather Bureau to post its daily forecast earlier, so that local governments have the means to report school or work cancellations to the public; still, Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) had to apologize for not posting the morning cancellation on time.

Most people still don't know why Taiwan needs to develop a low-carbon economy. Most people also don't fully realize why cities around the island should strike a better balance between unabated commercial development and residents' quality of life.

According to the largest group of foreign investors in Taiwan, the Low Carbon Initiative (LCI) aims to share European expertise in low-carbon solutions and initiate partnerships with the government and Taiwanese firms to speed up Taiwan's transition from a fossil-fuel-dependent economy to a low-carbon model.

The LCI offers a platform for industry experts from Europe and Taiwan to discuss trends and business opportunities in the fields of sustainable urban development, transportation and industrial low-carbon solutions. Such operations have already become an integral part of the way European firms do business, and proven technologies can certainly help reduce Taiwan's carbon emissions, while offering economic benefits to both private and public institutions.

The LCI is currently sponsored and endorsed by 20 founding members, which are leading European companies in their respective industry fields, as well as consultants and government institutions, including Airbus, Air Liquide, Mercedes-Benz, Michelin and Siemens, to name just a few.

By also promoting low-carbon products and technology, Taiwan could spur economic activity in green solutions, thereby creating a virtuous circle, reducing dependence on highly polluting fossil fuels while boosting business opportunities.

Even though Taiwan is not a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol or the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, everybody knows that the country could soon become a victim of climate change, such as extreme weather and flooding. The country could be punished by international organizations if it fails to respond to global efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Taiwan's carbon dioxide emissions are currently close to 300 million tons per year, up from 216.8 million tons of CO2 in 2000. On a per capita basis, emissions are almost four times the U.N. recommendation and higher than those of mainland China, Japan and South Korea. Wind and solar energy account for less than 0.5 percent of the island's total capacity.

There is no doubt that the current rising energy costs are a golden opportunity to put Taiwan on a path toward a sustainable, low-carbon future. Policies and programs that promote sustainability should therefore receive strong support from the government, demonstrating that what is good for the environment can also be good for business.

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