By Stephen Shu-hung Shen
Mitigating climate change has a direct bearing on humankind’s survival and therefore poses a pressing challenge that the global community must face together.
Consequently, despite Taiwan’s special status in international politics and its exclusion from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the government has still endeavored to join the global movement to reduce carbon emissions. Efforts revolve around implementing various policies and encouraging the people to take concrete actions.
In response to the Copenhagen Accord, for instance, Taiwan voluntarily pledged to the UNFCCC secretariat and the international community in 2010, that it would cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 30 percent below business-as-usual (BAU) levels by 2020. It also pledged to implement Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and assume its share of responsibility. This is not only in line with the fundamental principles of the UNFCCC, but is also a clear declaration of Taiwan’s position and determination to reduce GHG emissions.
Two major approaches can be considered for mitigating climate change: carbon reduction and climate adaptation. The Committee for the Promotion of Energy Conservation and Carbon Reduction, established by Taiwan’s Executive Yuan in the end of 2009, has drawn up a master plan to fulfill its mandate. The plan calls for concrete actions in such areas as energy, industry, transportation, architecture and lifestyle.
In 2012, the Executive Yuan also approved national climate change adaptation guidelines covering eight major domains — disasters, essential infrastructure, water resources, land use, coastal areas, energy supply and the energy sector, agriculture and biodiversity, and health. The guidelines call for the impact and challenges brought by climate change to be studied, for adaptation strategies to be proposed by the relevant government agencies, and for an implementation and evaluation mechanism to be established.
In addition, Taiwan’s government is continuing to promote the passage of a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Bill. This bill, along with the Energy Tax Bill that is currently being studied, the Energy Management Act that has already been implemented, and the Renewable Energy Development Statute, constitutes the legal framework for GHG reduction in Taiwan. Meanwhile, to keep abreast of international development trends, the EPA has also laid the groundwork for a Measurable, Reportable, Verifiable (MRV) system for GHG mitigation actions and commitments. It was announced in May 2012 that, in accordance with the Air Pollution Prevention Act, six GHGs, including carbon dioxide, were being classified as air pollutants, and that institutionalizing the reporting of GHG emissions is a policy priority.
In his 2012 inaugural address, President Ma Ying-jeou explicitly stated that “developing an environment characterized by low carbon emissions and high reliance on green energy” is one of the five pillars of Taiwan’s national development. It is hoped that green industry will become a new economic bright spot that brings employment and growth, so that Taiwan can gradually become a “low-carbon, green-energy island.” Confronted with the daunting challenges that climate change presents, Taiwan’s public and private sectors are joining forces to promote a “low carbon and sustainable homeland.” This is having the added benefit of boosting both horizontal and vertical coordination in the central and local government. In addition, it will promote self-evaluation at the local level in terms of achieving various low-carbon and sustainability targets, and will encourage the public, communities, towns and cities to voluntarily participate in building a low-carbon and sustainable homeland.
Saving energy and reducing carbon are not just abstract concepts in Taiwan. Indeed, they have become very much a part of everyday life. Confronted as we all are with the severe challenges that climate change poses, I sincerely urge the international community to take Taiwan’s bid to meaningfully participate in the UNFCCC seriously, and to include Taiwan in its mutual assistance system. We are extremely willing to share the fruits of our hard work and experience in environmental protection with the international community, and particularly with those countries that need our help the most.
Stephen Shu-hung Shen is the Minister of Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) for the Republic of China (Taiwan).