Global warming is contributing to the increased incidence of extreme weather nationwide. There has been a steep rise in the number storms causing flooding throughout the country and the past few days of torrential rain have seen terrible floods in the south, and even in the north some streets were turned into rivers. It really is quite disturbing.
On June 5 and June 6, a Conference on Global Climate Change was held, something the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) had been planning since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) first promised it two years ago. It was a major conference, with Ma in attendance, listening to reports presented by civic groups and government departments.
The conference focused on nine issues, divided into four major categories; disasters, essential infrastructure, land use and coastal areas; agricultural production and biodiversity; water resources, energy supply and production; and education on health and the environment.
Confusingly, despite all this clamor, there was no mention of forestry management issues such as soil and water conservation or carbon credits. That is to say, the role of forestry in climate change was ignored. As a result, we are bound to ask whether a conference on climate change that fails to broach the forestry departments’ policies for reducing and managing greenhouse gases is worthy of the name.
Second, climate change is a global issue. All too often, Taiwanese people’s concept of environmental protection on issues such as the disposal of nuclear waste or the construction of a new plant by Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co extends only as far as objecting to pollution generated within their county.
Unfortunately, This view of environmental protection sits quite happily with the idea of polluting others.
We are already in the era of the Global Village. Take the forests, for example. Taiwan relies on imports for more than 99 percent of its forestry products and yet we have precious little idea whether these products comply with sustainability guidelines or contribute to the unlawful felling of trees in other mountainous regions worldwide.
These are important issues and yet they were entirely absent from the conference. Despite this, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) still took the time to blame environmental groups for not supporting the government’s policy of increasing oil and electricity prices, a criticism that was ill-considered and entirely missed the point.
We have to change the way we think about environmental issues. This is particularly true because, as global climate change shows, everything is interlinked. Humans are, by nature, selfish, and it is extremely difficult for us to think beyond merely protecting our immediate surroundings, and to think instead in terms of the Earth as a whole. However, there are those who do care and are willing to make the effort. The Taiwan Green Belt Movement initiated by the Environmental Quality Protection Foundation is just one example.
The Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development starts in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, today and runs until Friday. Hopefully, in the future there will be more sustainable and practical initiatives underway in Taiwan.
What we do not want to see is an increase in conferences that debate the issues back and forth, but never actually get anything done.