Taiwan beats US in environmental report

NO. 24 WORLDWIDE: The nation scored 79.1 percent compliance, slightly ahead of the US, but was rapped for a lack of progress on overfishing and farm chemicals

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Wed, Jan 25, 2006 - Page 2

When it comes to environmental protection, Taiwan has a thing or two to teach the US, according to a report issued on Monday at Yale University.

Taiwan scores higher than the US in the pilot study, the 2006 Environmental Performance Index, which measures 133 countries' compliance with 16 internationally-recognized measures of contribution to the world's environmental well-being.

The study, by experts at the environmental school at Yale -- both US President George W. Bush's and former president Bill Clinton's alma mater -- and the Earth Institute at Columbia University, is to be presented at a major international developmental meeting, the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, tomorrow.

RANKING

The study found that Taiwan came in 24th among nations in the world, while the US came in only 28th.

In several areas, Taiwan exceeded or equaled the US' performance, and in areas where Taiwan did not do too well, the US was found wanting, too.

China scored way down in the rankings, standing at 94th place. However, in some areas, Beijing held its own against both Taipei and Washington.

Overall, Taiwan scored 79.1 percent in meeting the internationally accepted environmental targets, compared with 78.5 percent for the US. China scored 56.2 percent.

That means that Taiwan has gone nearly 80 percent of the way in achieving international environmental goals, better than both Washington and Beijing.

FIVE STARS

In five areas, Taiwan was found to fully comply with international standards. These were in reducing water consumption, a decline in the timber harvest rate and in meeting international goals for indoor air quality, clean drinking water and providing adequate sanitation for its people.

While the US matched Taiwan in four of these five categories, the US -- the land of unshaded suburban lawns and massive corporate farms -- was found to have gone less than two-thirds of the way toward cutting excess water consumption to meet international norms.

China scored poorly in all five areas.

In terms of air quality, both Taiwan and the US do almost equally as poorly.

Taiwan scores 47.4 in the category, not much above the US' score of 44.7. But while the US does well in fighting urban "particulates," dirt that contributes to soot, Taiwan does much worse.

By contrast, Taiwan beats Washington easily in fighting ozone, or asthma-causing smog, with the US registered as making barely a dent in facing the issue, according to the study.

Still, Taiwan's gains in this category were small, compared with other countries, achieving less than a third of global target levels.

BETTER THAN AVERAGE

Taiwan scores particularly high in protecting water resources, which registers the amount of nitrogen -- mainly from farm runoff -- entering the water system, and in dealing with water consumption.

The US falls well behind in that category.

Taiwan also beats the US, albeit only marginally, in its efforts to assure biodiversity and in generating sustainable energy.

The biodiversity index measures wilderness protection, protection of ecological regions and water consumption.

Sustainable energy pertains to the degree of energy efficiency and use of renewable energy in the economy, as well as emissions of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming.

POOR MARKS

However, although Taiwan has done well on the latter score, the report contains an implicit warning to the nation.

Between 1992 and 2000, the report shows, carbon dioxide emissions in Taiwan soared by 45 percent, making it one of the world's worst performers in this regard.

By contrast, the US' carbon dioxide emissions rose only 16 percent, and China's, despite its coal-burning plants that are a major source of the pollutants, rose only 5.6 percent.

Some of Taiwan's worst showings came in the area of overfishing, where it is blamed for making virtually no progress in fighting the problem. It also scores poorly in agricultural policy, in which it is seen as making only minor efforts to reduce the amount of farm chemicals polluting the water and inefficient farm practices contributing to waste.

By contrast, China handily beats out both Taiwan and the US in the natural resources indices, getting extremely high marks for managing timber harvests, agricultural pollution and overfishing.

Taiwan's contribution to renewable energy sources, the report indicates, are close to non-existent.

For the US, the score is not much better.