Mon, Jun 19, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Taiwan has role to play in climate diplomacy

By Joseph Tse-Hei Lee 李榭熙

Pursuing a respectable national image is as crucial as securing immediate national interests in global politics. This is particularly true for Taiwan and China in the latest international climate change negotiations.

At a time when the global balance of power appears to be shifting in China’s favor, Beijing is keen to soften its international image as a responsible actor, foster its soft power and limit the fear of a “China threat” in the worldwide media.

As the US withdrew from the Paris agreement, it immediately created a leadership vacuum in global climate diplomacy. The major challenge to the US is that China is now in a stronger position to shape the flourishing world of “green” energy.

In comparison to the US, China has launched an ambitious strategy of climate negotiations to advance its independent agenda and grow its clean energy industry.

Rhetorically, China frames the challenge of climate change as a global concern that affects everyone, demanding full cooperation between the developed and developing nations.

Global warming badly affects China. Many densely populated cities are situated in coastal regions vulnerable to weather-related risks. Therefore, Beijing perceives environmental protection as compatible with poverty relief and socioeconomic development.

China holds technological advancement as the key to the success of climate protection. By identifying itself as part of the developing world, China appeals to the US and Europe for sharing the latest “green” energy innovations, even though it has little in common with African and Latin American nations in need of foreign support.

Yet, the “developing world” or “Third World” rhetoric makes it morally indefensible for the West to deny the global south’s request for advanced technological assistance.

Most importantly, China considers its climate policy as part of its energy security.

Beijing used to be only concerned about energy supply and overlooked the need for energy sustainability.

However, the proportion of renewable energy is growing rapidly in the Chinese domestic energy market and energy conservation is thought to be of primary significance in the official thinking.

Embracing advanced hydropower and nuclear reactors to reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels, China is closing ineffective power plants in major cities. It is also intensifying its efforts to reduce pollution and promote the production of energy-efficient products.

These gestures indicate Beijing’s determination to enter the “green” energy game and develop a technologically driven economy.

Regrettably, China confuses climate protection with geopolitical rivalry and its environmental sensitivity does not extend to Taiwan. On many occasions, it denied Taiwan the opportunity to take part in the global climate change dialogue.

Compared with China, Taiwan, under President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), is far more determined to resolve energy insecurity and make the nation nuclear-free by 2025.

Although Taiwan demonstrates a remarkable record of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing its “green” industry, it is not allowed to make its voice heard and share its experience in global multilateral platforms.

Perhaps one feasible way out of the China-imposed isolation is to build scientific and business collaborations with clean energy sectors worldwide. Only by doing so will the nation be able to position itself as a cooperative player in dealing with the problem of climate change.

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