Environmentalists and lawmakers criticized the government for failing to protect the environment yesterday on Earth Day, accusing it of empty promises and frivolous efforts that merely scratch the surface of the nation’s environmental problems.
“My hopes were high after last week’s National Energy Conference [NEC] when President Ma Ying-jeou [馬英九] called on legislators to pass the proposed statute governing the development of renewable energy [再生能源發展例],” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said.
However, in the past week, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wong Chung-chun (翁重鈞), head of the proposal committee, has failed to schedule meetings for lawmakers to discuss the proposed law, Tien said.
“The proposal has lain idle at the legislature for six years, finally moving to the negotiation stage in January. But if negotiations do not start soon, there is a risk of further delay as the current legislative session will be over soon,” Tien said.
Instead of making empty promises, the government should be taking real action on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, Tien said.
At a separate location, environmentalists and self-proclaimed “environmental refugees” — residents living near nuclear waste storage sites or high voltage power lines — swept the pavement in front of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) building.
“Since Ma’s inauguration, the government has only made shallow efforts to protect the environment — such as the EPA’s new mascots, a panda and a polar bear, and running a raffle for people who log onto the EPA’s Web site,” Taiwan Earth Charter Alliance chairwoman Yen Mei-chuan (顏美娟) said.
Yen said sweeping the pavement in front of the EPA’s offices to “protect the environment,” was intended to mock the EPA’s halfhearted efforts.
Listing a number of major environmental problems, Taiwan Environmental Protection Union chairwoman Gloria Hsu (徐光蓉) said: “When there are so many construction projects and other developments already harming the health of nearby residents, the EPA is still contemplating simplifying environmental impact assessments so that they would not stand in the way of economic development.”
“Why don’t we just eliminate the EPA altogether so that all economic developments can go ahead unhindered,” Hsu said sarcastically.
Taitung Anti-nuclear Waste Self Help Association chairwoman Hsu Hsiang-lan (徐香蘭), an organic farmer, said protecting the environment was not a difficult task, but one that required a conscience.
“Taitung residents are poorer than the national average, so the government comes and offers us subsidies to dump nuclear waste near our homes, saying that it would ‘improve the economy.’ But we should not be punished for being poor. The government should not try to fool us and think that we are stupid,” Hsu Hsiang-lan said.
In related news, another group of environmentalists protested in front of the Taipei City Hall yesterday, saying that French movie director Luc Besson’s recent decision to ask Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) to narrate the Chinese-language version of his environmental documentary Home was outrageous.
“This is confusing Earth Day with April Fool’s Day — we all know that Hau was the most environmentally unfriendly EPA minister to date,” Green Consumers’ Foundation chairman Jay Fang (方儉) said.