Gov't must work harder to develop a 'low-carbon' nation

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
The China Post news staff

Scientists have long warned that global warming is one of the most important environmental problems in the world today. They contend that the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere resulting from the burning of fossil fuels, as well as the extensive use of agricultural land and livestock breeding, have dramatically changed the composition of the atmosphere and triggered global warming.

Although they have predicted the phenomenon for decades, some major industrial powers have failed to acknowledge the adverse effects of global warming, including the incidences of droughts in some areas, floods in others or the rising temperatures of the oceans and the rising sea level.

The governments of Japan, France, Germany, the UK and Sweden, on the contrary, have devised a string of innovative measures for reducing energy consumption and have set up a reasonable timetable for cutting carbon emissions. In the wake of this year's Earth Day, it is time for Taiwanese authorities to set up a more ambitious plan and timetable for significantly lowering the island's carbon emissions with clear reduction targets set for 2016-2020, 2025 and 2050.

Since the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office on May 20, 2008, the Cabinet-level Environmental Protection Administration (EPA, 行政院環境保護署署) has pushed for the adoption of the Sustainable Energy Policy Guidelines (SEPG) and passed regulations aimed at reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions and implementing low interest loans to help households buy new equipment to reduce electricity consumption. But, the government should take more steps to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and build Taiwan into an “environmentally responsible country.”

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

Taiwan produces around 1 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions, a number that, experts agree, is far too high and is worrying. So, to help reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA should at least cut emissions to the 2008 level by 2020, to the 2000 level by 2025, and to half of the 2000 level by 2050.

Data from the EPA shows that 62 percent of Taiwan's carbon dioxide emissions result from methods of electricity generation by power companies including Taipower (台灣電力公司) and other independent power plants. At the same time, nearly 20 percent of emissions are the result of industrial processes, including processes and energy not used for the production of electricity. Another 14 percent is contributed by the transportation sector.

Based on the German experience, Taiwan authorities should further promote the use of renewable energies and encourage private investment into the R&D energy sector, in the short, mid and long-term.

In 2009, the government said it would be investing NT$25 billion (US$739.64 million) over the next five years in the development of renewable energy and would subsidize the general installation of energy-saving devices. The government also provided NT$20 billion for a research and development fund for green energy technologies, which were expected in turn to draw NT$200 billion in private investment in the industry.

Yet, it is still unclear whether the launch of a promised “low-carbon homeland program” last year that includes developing six low-carbon cities by 2014 and the establishing of four low-carbon residential areas in northern, central, southern and eastern parts of the island, will ever take place.

Without a doubt, EPA Minster Stephen Shu-Hung Shen (沈世宏) has already made great strides in making Taiwan greener, but there is still much to be accomplished for the country to become such “a low-carbon island.” To begin with, the EPA must continue to enact policies to keep Taiwan a globally responsible country, and to allow the country to stay on the forefront of reducing carbon emissions in the Asia-Pacific region.

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