Wed, Feb 16, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Emissions should be reduced: Lee

TAKING PART Taiwan, a non signatory of the Kyoto Protocol, must participate in the trend of cutting back greenhouse gas emissions, the Nobel laureate argued

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh gestures during an interview with the Taipei Times yesterday.

PHOTO: LIAO CHEN-HUI, TAIPEI TIMES

The Kyoto Protocol, the first significant international accord created to curtail global warming, takes effect today. The legally-binding agreement requires the 36 signatory countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5 percent from their 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. As global attitudes toward global warming have changed, Academia Sinica President and 1986 Nobel laureate for chemistry, Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), stressed that Taiwan should be aware of its environmental responsibilities as a member of the global community.

"I question the course of development in human society. Since the industrial revolution in the 19th century, industrialized countries have consumed a great deal of natural resources," Lee said. "But now we can't argue over the fairness of development because we've reached a period where the survival of the species matters more. What we can do is stop our irresponsible way of life to mitigate environmental deterioration."

Citing pressure from environmentalists regarding the nation's recent decision to develop the petrochemical and steel industries, Lee said that the government lacks resolutions to effectively phase out energy and water-intensive industries.

"The products of the newly-planned steel plant will all be exported to developing countries, such as China. So I don't quite understand why the government feels it necessary to build a new steel plant, which will emit not only carbon dioxide and worsen global warming, but also suspended particles which seriously affect human health," Lee said.

Lee also said that development projects which would significantly increase emissions of greenhouse gases deserve to be carefully reviewed. At least, evaluating emission amounts precisely should be included during environmental impact assessments of those projects.

Criticism over Taiwan's latest development plans (which include increasing petrochemical and steel production at the Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park) was made primarily by the Green Party of Taiwan. Last week, the Green Party successfully organized its counterparts in 23 countries in the Asia Pacific region and formed the Asia Pacific Greens Network (APGN), which demands the cancellation of the nation's new industrial projects.

Pollution Levels Rising

Government statistics estimate that a total of 23 million tonnes of carbon dioxide will be produced every year as a result of new projects. That amount accounts for nearly 10 percent of the nation's total carbon dioxide emissions in 2000.

Lee said international pressure on Taiwan was understandable because the industrial projects show that the nation is moving away from the global trend of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Lee stressed that Taiwan is a country which for decades used up its natural resources at an alarming rate. He said there is no sign that this trend will decline in the near future. Official statistics indicate that Taiwan's total amount of greenhouse-gas emissions increased nearly 70 percent between 1990 and 2000 -- from 160 to 272 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Since world scientists and politicians drafted the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, local environmentalists have criticized Taiwan's reaction to the agreement, saying the government was too conservative.

Although the nation has made some advances on sustainable development issues, Lee said that Taiwan needs to take more concrete action.

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