Tue, Feb 17, 2009 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW:Green Party unafraid of longshot in by-election

Although the Green Party Taiwan (GPT) had originally planned to nominate US-born naturalized-Taiwanese Robin Winkler to represent the party in the legislative by-election for Taipei City’s Da-an District next month, a clause in the Nationality Act forced the GPT to name former party secretary-general Calvin Wen instead. Wen sat down with ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Meggie Lu last Wednesday to speak about the party’s mission and its slim chance of winning

Taipei Times: The GPT has been a strong advocate of environmentally friendly policies. How are you going to balance environmental prosperity with economic gain?

Calvin Wen (溫炳原): What Taiwan needs most is a green economy and a sustainable homeland. The GPT proposes that the key to achieving a green economy is to shift the economic structure of the island by collecting carbon taxes and lowering income taxes. In Europe, [this approach] has successfully [discouraged] industries with high carbon emissions and helped maintain a balance between the economy and the environment.

I do not deny that this will at first have a negative impact on some industries, but these industries may have caused some of Taiwan’s problems to begin with.

For example, the government gives the Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) a lot of subsidies and tax breaks every year. But while all Taiwanese suffer from the environmental consequences caused by FPG, the group’s profits are not shared by all. This is economically unjust.

Industries are starting to weigh environmental costs against economic gains, but ultimately their direction is driven by government policy. Without clear policies, businesses are less likely to change.

With the imposition of carbon taxes, FPG may be pressured to develop renewable energy, because its profit will be maximized where economics meets the environment.

TT: Give an example of a green policy for Taipei.

Wen: The city’s mass transportation should be made more convenient, efficient and punctual. As private cars and scooters have been a main contributor to the city’s traffic congestion and bad air, we propose a total cap on the number of private vehicles. When this happens, the need for mass transportation will increase and pressure will exist for its improvement.

The MRT system has been good, but statistics show that it has not increased the number of people who take mass transportation. It has absorbed some of the bus takers and thus has been competing with other means of mass transportation.

Instead, we want bicycles to be used for transportation instead of just leisure.

We have no doubt that Taipei residents already love their bicycles, riding them every weekend along the riverside paths. The city has also employed a variation of Paris’ bicycle rental program that was proposed by the French city's deputy mayor, a Green Party member.

However, we hope that the government can make it feasible for people to ride bicycles to work and to shop, without having to worry about being hit by cars.

When cars decrease, bikers and drivers can share the roads. From Europe’s experience, we know that drivers can treat pedestrians and bikers with courtesy and respect. While this is cultural, it also needs to be supported by policy.

TT: GPT Secretary-General Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) has said the GPT has a slim chance of winning the election. Why are you running?

Wen: I admit that we are at a disadvantage, but we hope that voters can recognize our efforts.

At this time, small parties may provide a momentum for voters to change. From past experience, we know that without much baggage, small parties can propose aggressive and innovative policies that larger parties may adopt to secure votes.

We offer voters a different point of view, which is important for small parties. In turn, small parties are very important to large parties, because we keep them in check. In addition to the GPT, we call on other small parties, such as the New Party, to participate in this election.

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