Tue, Dec 08, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Groups pan EPA's carbon plan

CARBON TRADING Activists said the government's proposal would only benefit speculators while diverting attention from proven methods such as emission taxes

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  STAFF REPORTER

Environmental organizations yesterday panned the Environmental Protection Administration's (EPA) proposed carbon trading system as flawed and detrimental to the environment.

The system, which officials said could be implemented as soon as next year, includes an elaborate set of limits, trading networks and emissions certificates that promises to increase the cost of producing carbon emissions and create incentives for companies that can lower their emissions.

However, environmental activists said that the EPA's proposal would mostly benefit investors and financial speculators and create a new “bubble economy” that would divert public attention away from proven methods such as strict emissions reduction targets and emissions taxes.

“The [carbon] trading system is essentially a flawed system right from the start ... It's another gimmick [companies] can use to increase their profits,” said Herlin Hsieh (謝和霖) of the Taiwan Watch Institute. “We urge the government to create a more comprehensive plan and institute strict limits that are set in law.”

In reference to statements made earlier by EPA officials that it hoped the domestic carbon trading system would eventually connect with regional and international networks, Hsieh said the local policy would instead divert much needed financial capital for green projects from Taiwan and send it overseas.

“If a forest is bulldozed Taiwan while saplings are planted in nearby countries, how does this help us?” Hsieh asked, adding that high emissions taxes would instead help spur lasting improvements in green infrastructure within the country.

Citing information from the short film "The Story of Cap and Trade" by US-based environmental activist Annie Leonard, Hsieh said that supporters of the trading system are notably energy traders and Wall Street financiers, including former executives from Enron and Goldman Sachs.

The Taiwan Green Party also said that the carbon trading system was “doomed to fail” in the absence of emissions taxes, adding that European countries such as Germany have already implemented the tax for a number of years.

Calling the trading system “the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) government's great sham,” party spokesman Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) said that the president had originally included emissions taxes as part of his election platform.

“Ma made a political promise to create emissions taxes ... Now suddenly, there's no mention of it anymore and instead the EPA is pushing for this trading scheme,” Pan said.

In response to questions about a possible public backlash over increased taxes, Pan said that emissions taxes would increase government revenue, which could allow it to lower personal income taxes.

EPA officials argue that the emissions trading system proposed under the greenhouse gas reduction act would help spur emissions reductions in heavy-polluting industries as the costs for emissions certificates rise.

They said that any trading system would also help Taiwan connect with the international community, as world leaders gathered in Copenhagen yesterday for the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference.

The act, which has been held up in legislature since 2006, would also include clauses differentiating emissions limits allowed between different industries and the quantities of manufactured goods, officials said.

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