With the eyes of the world on the COP26 summit, which ends on Friday in Glasgow, Scotland, Taipei on Oct. 31 rushed out its roadmap to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
However, details about the capital’s plan are a little thin on the ground.
The majority of it is plucked directly from existing targets and the supplementary material extended to an anemic two pages. The plan, which aspires to map out the next three decades of carbon reduction work, was more obscure than a scribbled treasure map from a cheap pirate’s tale. There was precious little evidence of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) supposed ambition when he said: “The work starts here.”
In its Taipei City Energy Policy white paper last year, the Taipei City Government said that approximately 70 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in its jurisdiction come from electricity use, meaning that the city’s development of sustainable clean electricity is crucial to achieving net-zero carbon emissions.
A glance at cities such as Tokyo and Seoul that are also striving to achieve zero emissions reveals that, without exception, they complement energy-saving initiatives with development of sources of sustainable energy to reduce carbon emissions from electricity use.
However, in Taipei’s plan, the three main departments and the four major strategies only provide a sparse few sentences on how to transform energy, with the exception of some references to hydrogen power.
If Taipei is to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the next 10 years is crucial. Unfortunately, it seems that Taipei’s 2030 goals are decidedly unambitious, and remain stuck at the 30 percent reduction compared with 2005 levels, goals that were announced at the beginning of the year, while the greater part of the work to cut emissions is kicked down the road to sometime over the next three decades.
Information on what the departments are to do in the interim to achieve the targets and how they are going to do this is severely lacking.
Compare this with the net-zero roadmap announced by Tokyo in 2019, which laid out in detail that its energy agency was required to introduce electricity savings of 38 percent by 2030, with renewable energy sources accounting for 30 percent of electricity.
Moreover, its transportation department was tasked with ensuring that 50 percent of new vehicles would be carbon-free by 2030.
The blueprint released by Taipei comes nowhere near the detail of the Tokyo plan, seeming to just pass on the burden of carbon reduction to the next generation.
This shows why the policy visions that are scattered across action plans and white papers must be published in the form of self-governance ordinances, and be accompanied by medium and long-term planning so they can be monitored by the city council and residents.
Ko himself last month said that carbon emissions reduction is not just about it being the right thing to do or protecting the environment, it is also an economic issue and a public safety one.
He quoted former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who said: “A problem that has not been solved for 40 years cannot be solved in four years, but if we don’t start doing things now, we will still face the same problems in another 40 years’ time.”
The same sentiment should be applied here. Ko must look at the extreme weather events such as high temperatures, water shortages and heavy rain that have hit Taipei in the past few years, and wake up and smell the coffee. The climate crisis is already happening, and he needs to propose a more substantial plan for the next decade.
Liu Yi-chun is a campaigner for Greenpeace East Asia.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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