Sun, Feb 20, 2005 - Page 17 News List

Environmental index puts Taiwan at bottom of the heap

Despite imperfect data used in the analysis, experts agree that Taiwan ranks embarrassingly low

By Max Woodworth  /  STAFF REPORTER

Furthermore, only countries for which less than 46 reported variables were provided were dropped from the survey. Taiwan was well within the range for which the available data could produce a reliable result.

A detailed review of the index's sensitivity analysis, which might affect the volatility of a country's ranking, convinced legislator Dang that the results were, in fact, reliable, though he also expressed reservations about the quality of the data used in the report.

Imperfect but still alarming

Yet regardless of whether Taiwan's 2005 ESI ranking is fair or not, there was unanimous agreement among those interviewed that the report highlighted Taiwan's urgent need to engage the research team more proactively to provide more thorough and updated data and also to assist in fine-tuning the report.

"We should not reject the ESI simply because we don't like the result," Yeh said. "We need to become more involved in the survey so that it can become a useful tool to guage our performance."

The result of the current ESI -- and even Esty's more generous ranking near 120 -- was also viewed as a signal that there was little time to waste in improving Taiwan's environmental protection.

"Improving our performance will hinge upon compliance and enforcement of existing laws, which have long been weak points in Taiwan. This will require concerted efforts from the government, but also from social groups keeping pressure on government to maintain momentum in fixing environmental damage and choosing the correct course for sustainability," Dang said.

"Unfortunately, momentum from social groups appears to have waned in recent years. People seem bored. Reversing that trend will require more education," he said.

Though there is little likelihood that the ESI report will affect policy in the way that it did in South Korea, according to Tsao Shih-cheng, a consultant at the National Council for Sustainable Development, there are plans to invite representatives of the research team to Taiwan to exchange views on the index and to establish more channels of communication between the two sides.

"We need to recognize our limits and begin to work within them. In this respect, the ESI is helpful in considering how to improve," Yeh said.

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