US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs Jane Nishida visited Taiwan last month to promote the International Environmental Partnership (IEP) established in 2014 with its Taiwanese counterpart.
As part of the initiative, the IEP program has set up a network of international experts working closely to enhance the capacity for cross-regional environmental management, with a strong focus on increasing environmental awareness and education, such as the “Eco-Campus Partnership Program” implemented by National Wildlife Federation, the EPA and Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration.
During her visit, Nishida visited the the Stella Matutina Girls’ High School in Taichung for the launch of the “Kids Making Sense” initiative. Through this initiative, students are able to apply US-made devices to check the level of fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) pollution in the air and understand the impacts of human activities on the environment.
Taiwan passed the Environmental Education Act (環境教育法) in 2010. This milestone legislation requires staff and students of public schools, government institutions and businesses to attend at least four hours per year of government-funded environmental education training courses.
Drawing from successful experiences worldwide, we can identify two crucial trends in implementing environmental education initiatives. First, multi-actor partnerships, such as business-non-governmental organization partnerships or government-business-societal collaborations, can harness resources more effectively and contribute significantly to program implementation.
Added to this, four new technological forces — social, mobile, cloud and “big data” — are already interacting with institutions and citizens to introduce a new dynamic digital culture that will shape the future of environmental education and governance in various aspects.
At the international level, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has its own unique approach to working with businesses and government institutions. An Environmental Educator’s Initiative was begun in 1997, managed by WWF China, British Petroleum and the Chinese Ministry of Education. This seven-year initiative was aimed at introducing student-based learning and embedding environmental education within China’s national curriculum.
WWF partnered with DU Group on “CPlan” this year to create awareness for nature and reduce global carbon emissions. Combining with a social media campaign, this program designs an online game and then invites participants to see the direct connection between their mobile phone’s battery and the electricity that powers it, and how carbon waste is generated as a result. Participants can gain a clear understanding that reducing app usage will actually contribute to real-world carbon emission reductions and energy savings.
The Jane Goodall Institute in Taiwan also collaborates with business partners such as Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp, Applied Materials Taiwan and Rotary International for its flagship “Roots & Shoots Program.” As of 2014, the program has set up more than 840 campaign groups and addressed priorities such as greening public space, protecting indigenous cultures and communicating ecology through arts.
Chapter 4 of the Environmental Education Act, especially articles 19 and 20, has provided regulatory space and policy incentives for future cross-sector collaborations in the environmental education field.
The Environmental Protection Administration runs an Environmental Education and Information Management System. With public support, this online platform has the potential to serve as a robust cluster for expertise sharing and future partnership seeking, both globally and locally.
Yang Chung-han is a doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge and a member of the Taipei Bar Association.
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