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.
There are few coincidences in the world of foreign diplomacy. Two days after a Japanese government donation of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Taiwan on Friday last week, a US delegation led by US senators Tammy Duckworth, Dan Sullivan and Chris Coons touched down at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) in a US military transport aircraft, which flew in from Osan Air Base in South Korea. The cross-party delegation of US senators announced that Washington would donate 750,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan in the first wave of the US Foreign Vaccine Sharing Program. Japan and the US’ vaccine donations are
Over the past year, scores of gargantuan Chinese sand dredgers have deployed themselves in territorial waters off the Taiwanese-administered Matsu Islands, where their activities erode beaches and ruin fishing shoals. These Chinese ships are mercenary; a small 5,000 ton ship could sell a load of sand for the equivalent of US$55,000 to Fujian construction firms — or to the People’s Liberation Army for use in building its artificial reefs in the South China Sea. They also frustrate Taiwan’s government, which tries unsuccessfully to cooperate with Beijing on environmental stewardship of their contiguous waters. Each day, Taiwanese Coast Guard vessels can
With Taiwan’s COVID-19 “ring of steel” breached, the public is demanding vaccines, and politicians are calling for vaccine imports to be expedited. However, the manner in which the debate is being conducted leaves much to be desired. Some people believe that companies and nonprofit groups should be allowed to import vaccines. This is not as simple as it sounds. The mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and BioNTech need to be stored at extremely low temperatures during their transportation from overseas manufacturing plants to the clinics that administer them. Regarding the BioNTech vaccine, its export from the EU requires complex paperwork and procedures.