The COVID-19 pandemic is stimulating a growing trend of adopting environmental reforms as part of a green recovery. As businesses start to reopen from lockdowns, policymakers have been increasing subsidies for green energy and urban mobility to not only cut carbon emissions, but also reduce the risk of contagion.
Over the past few months, governments in major European cities, including Berlin, London, Milan and Paris, have boosted incentives for purchasing and using bicycles, as well as building temporary bicycle lanes for people to commute easily. France plans to invest 30 billion euros (US$35.45 billion) to build cycling infrastructure, while Italy has earmarked 50 billion euros to subsidize bicycle purchases.
With those incentives, Taiwanese bicycle maker Merida Industry said that the electric bicycle penetration rate in Western Europe would reach about 60 percent in 2025, compared with 33 percent last year.
In Taiwan, the government has backpedaled on its support for electric scooters, as the fallout of the pandemic has been less severe here. Starting in January, no more incentives are to be offered to purchase electric scooters, even as the industry remains in its infancy and leading start-up Gogoro is struggling to eke out a profit. Meanwhile, central and local governments are offering equal subsidies to replace old four-stroke scooters with electric or new gasoline-powered scooters.
That has led to a slump in electric scooter sales as the price gap widens significantly. In July, sales of electric scooters plummeted about 19 percent year-on-year to 10,146 vehicles. During the January-to-July period, aggregated sales of electric scooters dipped at an annual pace of 20 percent to 52,379 units. Overall sales of scooters rose 11.5 percent year-on-year in July, hitting the highest level this year as more urban commuters avoided public transportation due to concerns of catching COVID-19.
As a result, electric scooter manufacturers face a setback in the market share battle. Their market share fell to 10 percent in the first seven months of this year, from 15 percent at the end of last year, when Japan’s Yamaha Motor, Aeon Motor and Motive Power Industry joined the “Power by Gogoro Network.” Cumulatively, electric scooters only make up 2 percent of the nation’s total scooters.
The Cabinet is considering almost doubling its incentives this year for retiring older scooters for new ones to NT$651 million (US$22.52 million) from its original estimate of NT$355 million, as people are jumping on the opportunity to replace their vehicles. However, the policy is likely to have less effect on reducing toxic emissions, as most consumers are opting to buy gasoline-powered models over electric ones, given the sliding fuel costs due to cheaper global oil prices.
This development would sabotage the government’s plan to ban sales of gasoline-powered scooters by 2035, as part of its broader efforts by 2050 to cut carbon emissions to 50 percent of the amount produced in 2005. To hit that target, Taiwan needs to boost adoption of electric scooters to 5 million units by 2025, a study by National Taiwan University’s Risk Society and Policy Research Center showed.
The government should continue to support electric scooters with more subsidies, which are the major driver of their adoption, and promote public transportation and other greener methods of urban mobility. It should also develop measures to speed up the transformation of gasoline-powered scooter makers such as Kwang Yang Motor. Otherwise, Taiwan will lag far behind the rest of the world in pushing for a green recovery in the post-COVID-19 era.
Beijing’s imposition of the Hong Kong National Security Law and a number of other democratic and human rights issues continue to strain relations between the UK and China. The tense situation has significantly decreased the likelihood of British Royal Navy ships being able to continue their practice of docking in Hong Kong’s harbor for resupply — a not altogether unpredictable development. In a Nov. 19 online speech to parliament, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier would next year lead a British and allied task group to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and East Asia. Johnson
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Americans tend to think of Vietnam as a war that split the US rather than as a country in today’s world. Vietnamese are of course way past that. The country does not have any US Electoral College votes, but if it did, they would be cast enthusiastically for US President Donald Trump. When I told a group of university students at a park in Ho Chi Minh City that I was from the US, they asked: “Do you know why we love Trump?” “Uhhh, is it because he hates China?” I asked back. “Yeah,” the group responded in unison. With a 1,000-year history of
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office on Wednesday announced that Shih Cheng-ping (施正屏), a retired National Taiwan Normal University professor, who Beijing says is a spy, had been sentenced to four years in prison for espionage crimes. The news followed last week’s announcement by Beijing that it is compiling a “wanted list” of pro-independence “Taiwan secessionists” that would be used to “punish” those blacklisted under its national security laws. Taken together, the announcements show that Beijing’s Taiwan policy under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is becoming increasingly erratic, uncoordinated and poorly thought out, which raises serious questions about Xi’s leadership ability. Shih went missing