On Oct. 12, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that it was awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to former US vice president Al Gore and the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
They were given the award for their "efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."
The IPCC is a scientific intergovernmental body set up by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UN Environment Program (UNEP). It is responsible for assessing "the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic literature produced worldwide" with relevance to the problem of climate change.
Thanks to the efforts of the IPCC, the UN has been able to pay greater attention to the risks of global warming. In 1992, it passed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), building a fundamental framework through which the international community can address global warming.
To further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the UNFCCC member states passed the legally binding Kyoto Protocol on Dec. 11, 1997.
The Kyoto Protocol is a control agreement restricting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the impact of climate change on the environmental ecology.
Article 3 of the protocol states that the signatory 38 industrialized countries and the EU have to reduce their overall greenhouse gas emissions to at least 5 percent below 1990 levels during the five-year commitment period between next year and 2012.
According to Department of Health statistics, Taiwan in ranked 22nd in the world in terms of total carbon dioxide emissions in 2005. From the perspective of sustainable global development, Taiwan is also a member of the global village, and thus has the responsibility and obligation to participate in the global reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.
From the perspective of the relationship between rights and obligations, it is true that Taiwan is not a UN member state, nor is it a member state of the UNFCCC.
UN environmental protection agreements are thus not binding for Taiwan. But given Taiwan's economic strength, the UNFCCC member states will likely expect Taiwan to fulfill the relevant obligations.
As only a UNFCCC signatory, Taiwan is unable to participate in diplomatic negotiations and discussions about the flexibility mechanisms for the reduction of greenhouse gases and cannot make its voice heard on the international stage. However, after agreements are made, Taiwan is forced to accept the decisions.
This state of affairs makes it clear that it is necessary for Taiwan to gain UN membership. This is the only way that the international community will pay attention to the opinions and rights of Taiwanese.
Chen Lung-chu is the chairman of the Taiwan New Century Foundation.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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