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Taiwan needs to boost public awareness on climate change: EU envoy

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The European Union's top envoy in Taiwan said Wednesday that Taiwan needs to boost public awareness on climate change and pass legislation sooner than later on reducing greenhouse gas emissions as part of a worldwide effort to mitigate global warming.

"Taiwan's public opinion may be aware of climate change but probably does not realize the gravity of the problem, ”Guy Ledoux, head of the Taipei-based European Economic and Trade Office (EETO), told the Central News Agency in an exclusive interview before opening a major exhibition on climate change at Taipei City Hall Wednesday.

According to Ledoux, a recent opinion poll conducted by the Taiwan Public Opinion Studies Association showed that the top three environmental issues of concern were landscape preservation, air quality improvement and water quality improvement.

A similar poll in the EU found that 87 percent of Europeans cited climate change as their top environmental concern, leading Ledoux to suggest that people in Taiwan have yet to link what's happening and the issue of climate change, Ledoux said.

That is why his office is co-organizing the exhibition on climate change with the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and the Taipei City government to raise local awareness of the urgency of the global warming problem, he added.

Taiwan is the world's 26th largest economy and produces around 1 percent of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions.

Also, 2009 is a very important year for the world in its fight against global warming, as the international community is to gather in Copenhagen in December to decide on the level of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Ledoux.

The EU has adopted legally-binding measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to an average of 20 percent below the 1990 level by the year 2020 and is prepared to further increase this effort if other partners take on comparable commitments in a new international agreement, he added.

“No one in the world is doing enough,”Ledoux acknowledged.

Hailing the Legislative Yuan's passage of a statute on the development of renewable energy June 12 as "a step in the right direction, " the top EU envoy to Taiwan said his office strongly encourages the legislature to pass the long pending Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, as it would spur more investment in new industries and could increase Taiwan's competitiveness.

"Taiwan in many areas tries to follow trends set by international agreements. I think in this field Taiwan will also try to do its part to contribute to international objectives,”Ledoux said.

In addition to ongoing EU-Taiwan cooperation on monitoring CO2 in the atmosphere and at sea, Ledoux suggested the two sides beef up synergies in the private sector on new technologies.

Moreover, the EU Commission has offered to exchange information with Taiwan on how its emission trading scheme can be applied in the country by inviting officials from the EPA to visit Brussels this year, he added.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition, EPA Minister Stephen Shu-hung Shen said sustainability is now the prime consideration in the formulation of national policies and that the EPA has already developed schemes on greenhouse gas auditing, registry, verification and voluntary reduction.

The EETO's climate change exhibition, which consists of 20 large panels and a globe showing that the earth's climate is changing due to human activity, will be presented in the atrium of Taipei City Hall June 17-19 and July 4-8.

It will then go on tour in October and November to National Taiwan University, National Chung Hsing University, National Sun Yat-sen University and National Dong Hwa University.

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