Fri, Feb 11, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan bucks the green trend

SHORT-SIGHTED Powerful industrial interests are to build more facilities requiring heavy use of water and power, which will only escalate greenhouse-gas emissions


With the Kyoto Protocol on climate change coming into force next week, Taiwanese environmentalists are urging the government to review major projects which would significantly increase emissions of greenhouse gases.

On Jan. 24, a number of investment proposals for the petrochemical and steel industries from the Ministry of Economic Affairs got the green light from the Executive Yuan. The projects, which will see increased petrochemical manufacturing and steel production in Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park, have irritated environmentalists, who said Taiwan is moving away from the global trend of cutting emissions of greenhouse gases.

In justifying the decision to approve the projects, the Executive Yuan said that petrochemical manufacturing and steel production are essential national industries that supply raw materials for downstream players. It said that the approvals would also boost the nation's competitiveness.

The Executive Yuan said it has ordered government agencies involved in the industrial park's development to follow appropriate procedures, such as conducting environmental impact assessments, building new ports and roads and providing a reliable water supply.

It is estimated that a steel company planned by the Formosa Plastics Group would emit 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, while a petrochemical project run by Chinese Petroleum Corp would also add 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year.

Environmentalists at the Environmental Quality Protection Foundation point out that the total of 23 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year would account for nearly 10 percent of the nation's total carbon dioxide emissions in 2000.

The Environmental Protection Administration said that Taiwan's total amount of greenhouse-gas emissions increased by 70 percent between 1990 and 2000 -- from 160 to 272 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

"What we see here is out-of-date thinking on industrial policy," Eric Liou (劉銘龍), secretary-general of the Environmental Quality Protection Foundation, told the Taipei Times.

`Plan B'

Liou said that Formosa Plastics' plan to set up steel production facilities in the park was actually a "plan B," because the original plan to set up shop in China had been hampered by significant problems, including an irregular power supply and unreliable transportation.

China's voracious economy, which grew 9.5 percent last year, is driving an ever higher demand for fossil fuels. Liou said that the rising price of steel in China could be attributed to the increasing demand for construction prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

But Liou said that short-sighted investment in the steel market would suffer in a buyer's market.

"If major Taiwanese industrial players don't take carbon dioxide emissions into account, and the government tolerates such an attitude, we don't see any possibility of Taiwan upgrading industry," Liou said.

Meanwhile, Cabinet approval of the projects has triggered opposition from environmentalists. Green Party Taiwan spokesperson Peng Yen-wen (彭渰雯) told the Taipei Times that some environmental groups plan to initiate an international petition pushing the government to reverse its decision.

Peng said a three-day meeting will be launched today in Kyoto, Japan, in a bid to form an Asia Pacific Green Network. Green Party representatives in more than 10 Asian countries, including Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Australia and Thailand, will discuss carbon dioxide emissions and regional security.

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