Pro­tect­ing Our Planet through Cli­mate Ac­tion on Mul­ti­ple Fronts

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - Min­is­ter Lee Ying-yuan, En­vi­ron­men­tal Protection Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Repub­lic of China (Tai­wan)

Cli­mate change is a sci­en­tific fact, and its ef­fects are al­ready be­ing dis­tinctly felt around the world, threat­en­ing hu­man health, the places we in­habit, and the sus­tain­abil­ity of our so­cioe­co­nomic sys­tems.

This in­cludes Tai­wan, which this year alone has ex­pe­ri­enced sev­eral extreme weather events. In early June, Sanzhi District in New Taipei City, north­ern Tai­wan, re­ceived 615 mm of heavy rain in just nine hours, while the moun­tain­ous re­gions around Kaoh­si­ung in south­ern Tai­wan re­ceived a record 1,446 mm in to­tal. In late July, two typhoons (Ne­sat and Hai­tang) struck the is­land in close suc­ces­sion, a rarely seen event re­sult­ing in a record 690 mm of rain­fall in the south­ern coastal re­gion of Ping­tung's Ji­adong town­ship over a three-day pe­riod. This long-du­ra­tion high-in­ten­sity rain broke records and caused se­ri­ous prop­erty dam­age. Then, in Au­gust, north­ern Tai­wan suf­fered a heat wave with sus­tained tem­per­a­tures of above 37°C, sur­pass­ing all heat waves recorded over the last 100 years. In­ter­na­tional sci­en­tific re­ports have also con­firmed that av­er­age global tem­per­a­tures in 2016 were the hottest on record.

Th­ese ex­am­ples of­fer ir­refutable ev­i­dence that cli­mate change is real and al­ready hap­pen­ing, with dire con­se­quences. How­ever, we must not feel all is lost. Rather, we must rec­og­nize that the planet's well­be­ing is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to hu­man­ity's sur­vival, and seize the op­por­tu­nity to trans­form the way we live through di­rect ac­tions.

Tai­wan, an is­land na­tion, is heav­ily ex­posed to the worst ef­fects of cli­mate change. In re­sponse to global calls for cli­mate ac­tion, we have in­tro­duced the Green­house Gas Re­duc­tion and Man­age­ment Act, and for­mu­lated the Na­tional Cli­mate Change Ac­tion Guide­lines on how to con­trol and re­duce green­house gas emis­sions. Mean­while, the sub­se­quent Green­house Gas Re­duc­tion Ac­tion Plan tar­gets six ma­jor ar­eas: en­ergy, man­u­fac­tur­ing, trans­porta­tion, res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial prop­erty, agri­cul­ture, and the en­vi­ron­ment - with over 200 pol­icy ini­tia­tives, many of them cross-min­is­te­rial. The guide­lines also call for reg­u­lar five-year re­views to en­sure ef­fec­tive man­age­ment.

In or­der to build ca­pac­ity for clean en­ergy gen­er­a­tion in Tai­wan and im­prove air qual­ity, the gov­ern­ment has set an am­bi­tious tar­get of an over­all en­ergy mix of 20 per­cent re­new­ables and 50 per­cent nat­u­ral gas, with coal drop­ping to 30 per­cent, by 2025. Sim­i­larly, it has amended the Elec­tric­ity Act to spur the devel­op­ment of green en­ergy, adopted the En­ergy Devel­op­ment Guide­lines and, through public par­tic­i­pa­tion, de­vel­oped the En­ergy Trans­for­ma­tion White Pa­per to help ac­cel­er­ate the tran­si­tion. It also pro­vides in­cen­tives, such as those in­volv­ing fi­nanc­ing, in­vest­ment cap­i­tal, fund­ing chan­nels, and per­son­nel train­ing, to en­list the help of busi­ness and in­dus­try in devel­op­ing green en­ergy tech­nolo­gies.

In short, Tai­wan is do­ing all it can to com­bat cli­mate change in line with the Paris Agree­ment, and is striv­ing to cut car­bon emis­sions to 50 per­cent of 2005 lev­els by 2050.

In the end­less pur­suit of eco­nomic devel­op­ment, so­ci­eties the world over have made ex­ces­sive use of fos­sil fu­els and squan­dered Earth's nat­u­ral re­sources. We are pay­ing a heavy price to­day with not only cli­mate change, but also se­ri­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal de­struc­tion and pol­lu­tion. Tai­wan's ef­forts over the years to pro­mote re­cy­cling and waste re­duc­tion has caught the world's at­ten­tion. In May 2016, the Wall Street Jour­nal pub­lished an ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled “Tai­wan: The World's Ge­niuses of Garbage Dis­posal.” It points out that Tai­wan, once dubbed Garbage Is­land, has since be­come a re­cy­cling poster child, rank­ing among the top three coun­tries in the world for its ini­tia­tives to pro­mote a cir­cu­lar econ­omy. Th­ese in­clude cre­at­ing an in­dus­trial value chain, set­ting up spe­cial cir­cu­lar econ­omy zones, and ex­plor­ing busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties to make the nec­es­sary in­dus­trial trans­for­ma­tion. It is hoped that, by 2022, Tai­wan will have be­come a cir­cu­lar econ­omy hub in Asia, with a healthy re­gen­er­a­tive econ­omy that can con­tinue to grow while re­duc­ing waste, and help light the way to­wards a sus­tain­able world.

Lead­ers around the world, in­clud­ing the Pope, are in­creas­ingly call­ing for more to be done to com­bat the threats brought by cli­mate change. The leader of Tai­wan, Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen, has pledged that this coun­try will be an un­re­lent­ingly pos­i­tive force in pur­su­ing the so­lu­tions so des­per­ately needed to pre­serve our planet for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Through bi­lat­eral agree­ments and mul­ti­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion, Tai­wan has for a long time now qui­etly gone about ful­fill­ing its role as a re­spon­si­ble mem­ber of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. We want noth­ing more than to work with other coun­tries, and do all that can be done to tackle cli­mate change. We will hap­pily share our ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge in en­vi­ron­men­tal protection, par­tic­u­larly with those coun­tries that re­ally need help. Tai­wan wants to be a con­trib­u­tor to the green en­ergy poli­cies, green in­dus­tries, and green em­ploy­ment we must cre­ate to pro­tect our planet.

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