Ever since coming into office, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has kept pushing energy conservation, carbon emission reduction and environmental conservation policies. At a conference on policies for combating climate change he presided over in May last year, Ma encouraged people to try harder to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions and he also announced that the government would be investing in developing the green energy technology industry. It is therefore hard to understand why on Jan. 28, just one day after the proposal for the green energy technology industry was being assessed, a news report appeared in the Chinese-language United Evening News saying the Industrial Development Bureau was promoting and advertising the Kuokuang Petrochemical development project.
It is hard to understand why the government on the one hand would encourage the public to conserve energy and cut down on carbon emissions, while on the other hand developing the petrochemical industry, which emits a lot of carbon. If we look at the information compiled by Taiwan Media Watch about the Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) main procurements, we see that the government is focusing its environmental protection education promotions on informing people about the environment and being greener, conserving energy and cutting down on carbon emissions. This promotion includes hosting a variety of events, while also purchasing news coverage and printing magazines and dedicated publications.
Based on a conservative estimate, the EPA’s overall costs for education on environmental protection and the promotion of conserving energy and cutting down carbon emissions totaled almost NT$84 million (US$2.8 million) last year. Of this, about NT$9.23 million was spent on the promotion of policies and decrees by purchasing news coverage and holding symposiums (for further details, refer to the following Web site: www.mediawatch.org.tw/sites/default/files/doc.pdf). On closer analysis, we discovered that only three of 16 promotional projects conducted by the EPA last year were aimed at educating people about saving energy and cutting down emissions. However, the implementation and promotion of these three projects accounted for NT$56.9 million, more than half the overall cost.
The largest category of promotional projects, the one aimed at environmental protection education, consisted of five projects and the EPA spent NT$1.7 million on advertising these five projects, including the purchasing of news coverage. In addition, there were two cases in which the EPA seems to have purchased news and embedded marketing by directly asking domestic publishing companies to hold forums and using magazine promotion. If we then include the NT$6 million spent on dedicated TV news reports and the production and airing of news flashes, we see that last year, the EPA spent almost NT$10 million on advertising and promotion, including the organization of events, recording and distributing DVDs and buying news for embedded marketing.
The EPA, of course, was not alone. The bureau also spent about NT$900,000, including embedded marketing in news, on promoting eco-friendly industries. If we view educating the public about environmental protection as a cross-departmental policy and add the sums spent by the EPA and the bureau together, the government spent NT$10.23 million last year on advertisements for environmental protection education. It also tells us that these advertising fees included embedded marketing by buying news coverage. Thus, while the government was telling everyone to conserve energy, reduce carbon emissions and lead more environmentally friendly lifestyles, they not only spent almost NT$100 million on policy implementation, the EPA and the bureau also spent almost NT$10.23 million on events, advertising and purchasing news coverage.
However, statistics show that after the Kuokuang Petrochemical project is completed, yearly carbon emissions will increase by anywhere from 10 million to 40 million tonnes. However, the government does not take the severe damage this project will have on Taiwan’s environment and ecology seriously.
Even more perplexing, the government has spent great amounts of money on purchasing news coverage to promote energy conservation and carbon emission reductions, while the bureau still provides support and assistance in promoting the Kuokuang Petrochemical project.
Actions like these not only deceive the public, they are also contradictory and make it hard for us to believe in the government’s determination to implement policies for energy conservation, carbon emission reductions and sustainable and environmentally friendly development.
We believe the government should implement energy conservation, carbon emission reduction and environmental protection ideals. The Kuokuang Petrochemical project may be in its fourth round of assessments, but we think the government should abandon the project. This is the only way spending NT$100 million on environmental promotion and advertising complements implementation of the government’s ideals.
In addition, in the spirit of open disclosure of government information, we believe the government should take the initiative in revealing how much money they have spent on past promotions and how many projects they have funded. At the same time, the EPA and the bureau should implement the recently amended Budget Act (預算法) and stop engaging in embedded marketing by buying news coverage. We hope that with the start of a new lunar year, the EPA can stop breaking the law and stop engaging in purchasing news coverage for embedded marketing.
Kuan Chung-hsiang is chairman of Taiwan Media Watch and Li Zi-wei is the executive secretary of Taiwan Media Watch.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON
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