Saying that global warming should be considered a national security concern, civic groups and academics yesterday suggested the government consider creating a Cabinet-level agency to coordinate environmental policy.
The move, if implemented, would consolidate departments divided among the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and the National Council for Sustainable Development, advocates of the proposal said.
They said the current arrangement — which divides energy and environmental jurisdictions between the MOEA and EPA — was “a recipe for failure,” because of conflicts of interest and an inability to agree on energy policy.
Energy generation is one of the largest emitters of carbon emissions nationwide. Statistics from state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) — the nation’s main power provider — show that the company released 83 million tonnes of carbon emissions last year, accounting for 30 percent of total emissions.
Academics said President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) should learn from the examples of the Australian and British governments, which have created Cabinet-level agencies to push comprehensive environmental policies in the last two years.
Ku Young (顧洋), a professor at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, said that any new agency should have jurisdiction over certain international affairs, renewable energy sources, sustainable development and industrial restructuring.
Eugene Chien (簡又新), a former minister of foreign affairs who now heads the Taiwan Institute for Sustainable Energy, said the nation needed to start treating climate change as “a threat to nation security” and restructure government agencies accordingly.
“Taiwan faces unique challenges in fighting [this] problem ... we are fragmented both domestically and internationally ... the current government needs to figure out what we need to do,” he said.
In response, officials form the Bureau of Energy and Taipower said their agencies and the EPA were all committed to targets set by Ma to reduce emissions to 2000 levels by 2025.
Taipower spokeswoman Tu Yueh-yuan (杜悅元) said the passage of the Renewable Energy Act (再生能源法) in June has allowed the company greater discretion in purchasing energy from sustainable alternatives by private industry, adding that she expects emissions from energy generation to peak at 123.7 million tonnes annually by 2020 and gradually fall as new nuclear reactors come online.
Critics including operators of wind plants had criticized the company for failing to purchase power from sustainable sources at “fair market prices,” meaning such endeavors were doomed to fail. Sustainable energy sources account for 2 percent of energy procured by the state utility.
Average prices for power are at NT$2.6 per kilowatt-hour, one of the lowest among industrialized nations.
Yesterday, in a rare lapse in speech, EPA Minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏) told reporters he thought Taipower should simply “disintegrate.” Shen later clarified the remarks and said he meant that the company needed fundamental, sweeping changes in organization if environmental targets were to be met.
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