Wed, Feb 01, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Government urged to focus on sustainability

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan was ranked 24th among 133 nations in a recent environmental study, but that does not mean that the nation is free from environmental damage caused by industrialization and economic development, officials and researchers said.

The World Economic Forum's (WEF) 2006 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) focuses on countries' environmental performance within the context of sustainability. The EPI provides a basis for examining the relationship between economic competitiveness and environmental protection, according to a research team from the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and Columbia University.

The result shows that the top-ranking EPI countries emerge as among the most productive and competitive in the world. Taiwan beat not only the US, but also countries such as South Korea.

For the just-reshuffled Cabinet, the EPI report could offer more practical policy guidelines than President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) New Year address, which touched on issues ranging from cross-strait relations to economic development, officials said.

According to Research, Development and Evaluation Committee Minister Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮), by closely examining indicators showing Taiwan's poor performance in certain core areas, the government could ensure not only economic competitiveness, but also environmental sustainability.

Yeh, who is also the executive-general of the National Council for Sustainable Development, said that the EPI report honestly reflects Taiwan's problems, such as overfishing, poorly-designed agricultural subsidies and low use of renewable energy.

"Based on the EPI report, the council will suggest to Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) that the government promote both economic development and environmental sustainability simultaneously, in a bid to ensure Taiwan's competitiveness," Yeh said.

The EPI identifies performance targets and measures how close each country comes to these goals. It ranks surveyed countries on 16 indicators tracked in six policy categories, including environmental health, air quality, water resources, biodiversity and habitat, productive natural resources and sustainable energy.

Yeh said that the evaluation system is more objective than the WEF's Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), which last year placed Taiwan at the very bottom of 146 surveyed nations.

This indicator put Taiwan only slightly ahead of North Korea, but behind such countries as Iraq and Turkmenistan.

Yeh explained that the EPI provides "peer group" rankings for each country showing how its performance stacks up against others facing similar environmental challenges and Taiwan participated in the process to ensure the accuracy of raw data requested by the research team.

Yeh said that the ESI research team used inappropriately collected raw data regarding Taiwan's environment, and then gained a distorted face of the country. He did not elaborate.

Yang Yu-ling (楊毓齡), a senior researcher for the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), who participated in the meetings at Yale University last October, said that foreign researchers had only a vague image of Taiwan and that raw data had often been left out by research organizations affiliated with the UN.

"Sometimes foreign researchers imagine that the environment management in Taiwan is similar to that in developing countries in East Europe," she said.

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