Tue, Nov 23, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Protocol gives urgency to Taiwan emissions problem

TICKING CLOCK With the Kyoto Protocol entering into force in February, Taiwan -- though not a party to the treaty -- must nonetheless deal with its implications


The 90-day countdown to the Kyoto Protocol's entry into force began last week with the UN's formal receipt of Russia's ratification. Now, with the international treaty to become legally binding for its parties on February 16, Taiwan -- an outsider to the UN system -- believes it is time to rejuvenate its campaign to deal with the protocol's implications and seriously tackle the issue of local greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮), Minister of the Cabinet's Research, Development and Evaluation Commission, Taiwan is taking the reduction of greenhouse gases more seriously, as can be seen in recent developments. After Russia's ratification of the treaty earlier this month, Premier Yu Shyi-kun promptly upgraded an operating task force -- putting it under the Cabinet-level National Council for Sustainable Development -- and decided to convene it in person.

"Even if Taiwan is not obligated to be Kyoto Protocol compliant, we will still have our own targets set by national policies," Yeh told the Taipei Times.

Under the 1997 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), industrialized countries are to reduce their emissions of six major greenhouse gases during the five-year period from 2008 to 2012, to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels.

Taiwan, whose energy policies have not been heavily revised since the 1998 National Energy Conference, currently imports 97 percent of its total energy supply, and the situation makes its national security somewhat vulnerable.

Although international calls to reduce greenhouse gases emissions have been increasing, signs of a stabilization of emissions have not yet been seen in Taiwan because it has maintained old-fashioned industries with petrochemical plants and energy-inefficient power generation involving fossil fuels. Western studies predict that global warming will become pronounced if people continue to abuse fossil fuels.

According to the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), Taiwan's overall greenhouse gases emissions rose by 70 percent between 1990 and 2000 -- from 160 to 272 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Given its small size, Taiwan, the 14th largest exporting country in the world, produces more carbon dioxide than all but 21 nations.

Yeh said that the nation would inevitably adjust its energy policy soon in order to increase its dependence on renewable sources of energy, such as wind power.

"But Taiwan will never reconsider nuclear power generation as a solution to greenhouse gases emission," Yeh said.

Taiwan's Basic Environment Law, promulgated in December 2002, stipulates that the government formulate plans for turning Taiwan into a nuclear-free nation. The Cabinet's Nuclear-Free Homeland Project mainly aims to advocate renewable energy, adjust industrial structure and increase the nation's overall energy efficiency. Taiwan's current energy productivity is about half that of Japan's.

"Energy-demanding and water-demanding industries will be gradually phased out in Taiwan in the following decades to stabilize Taiwan's emissions, which will eventually decline," Yeh said.

Niven Huang (黃正忠), secretary-general of the Taiwan branch of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said the country needs workable action plans.

"Taiwan's master plan for emissions reduction and its action plans have to be available to both local firms and multinational companies as a reference for their long-term business strategies as soon as possible," Huang told the Taipei Times.

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