Taiwan's Vision for International Climate Change Cooperation

People hold up clocks as they demonstrate on Sept. 21 in front of the Sacre-Coeur church in Paris as part of an international action to "wake up world leaders to the crisis of climate change," ahead of the Copenhagen summit to be held in Dec. under the UNFCCC. (Photo: Pierre Verdy/ AFP-Getty Images)

As the nations of the world face down the pressing issue of climate change, the political climate must change as well. Scientific research increasingly points to a human cause of global warming, and the danger of inaction affects us all. This global issue warrants a global response. In this spirit, Taiwan is currently seeking participation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The UNFCCC is the primary organ of the U.N. responsible for dealing with the issue of climate change, and it has an upcoming conference this December in Copenhagen, Denmark. There are currently 192 contracting parties in the UNFCCC, and though Taiwan is a developed, democratic nation and the world's 26th largest economy, its government does not currently participate.

This article by Minister Stephen Shu-hung Shen elaborates on the urgency of the issue at hand and the benefits of Taiwan's participation, while bringing forth proposals by which Taiwan intends to join the climate change dialogue and contribute to global efforts on this pressing challenge.

—Tony Ong, director, Press Division, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York

The Taiwan EPA's approach to climate change

Global Warming caused by human activity is one of the toughest challenges the world is facing. In the past two decades, Taiwan has been working in cooperation with the international community to implement advanced policies and technologies into its environmental protection infrastructure. As a result, Taiwan's environment has been significantly improved, the public's environmental awareness heightened, and in 2008 Taiwan's overall carbon dioxide emissions decreased for the first time. In 2008, Taiwan's total carbon dioxide emission from the energy sector was less than 257 million metric tons, which marked a 4.4 percent decrease compared to the previous year, while per-capita emissions dropped 4.8 percent to 11.2 metric tons.

Taiwan intends to share its environmental protection experience with the international community, working in multilateral collaboration to safeguard both environmental and human health at the national, regional and global levels. The Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration (Taiwan EPA) therefore intends to propose two international cooperation schemes on climate change mitigation, the Overseas Carbon Reduction Cooperation Program and Taiwan's Initiative: International Cooperation on Efficient Utilization of Global Fossil Fuels and Biomass Energy.

Overseas Carbon Reduction Cooperation Program

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou considers climate change mitigation a top priority of his administration. In 2008, the Taiwan government announced voluntary carbon dioxide reduction targets: a return to 2008 emission levels for the period between 2016 and 2020, and a return to 2000 emission levels by 2025. Keeping Taiwan's unique political situation in mind, the Taiwan EPA is actively seeking cooperation with Annex I nations of the UNFCCC to help Taiwan's emitting entities meet their reduction requirements and assist developing nations in cutting their carbon emissions with clean development. The Taiwan EPA will assist emitting entities in establishing corporations in Annex I nations, which will then contribute to clean development projects in developing nations that cut carbon emissions under the UNFCCC guidelines. The carbon credits thus acquired will then be used to offset emissions in Taiwan. By means of cooperation with Annex I and developing nations, Taiwan expects to reach its reduction targets and at the same time help reduce global emissions.

Taiwan's Initiative: International Cooperation on Efficient Utilization of Global Fossil Fuel and Biomass Energy

In order to effectively reduce global carbon emissions, Taiwan would like to propose an internationally cooperative method to most efficiently utilize fossil and biomass energy worldwide, a goal to be realized gradually in the coming 40 years. It is important to consider that pure electric vehicles are at least four times more energy efficient than conventional vehicles, and that using low-temperature torrefaction to convert bio-fuel to eco-coal for cogeneration is the most efficient way of harnessing biomass energy.

With this in mind, Taiwan's vision for international cooperation on this issue is as follows: Power plants should be located in those temperate and frigid zones that have high demand for heat, with tropical and subtropical zones supplied by transmitted electricity. Future fossil fuels and eco-coal produced in the tropical and subtropical zones would then be transported to the temperate and frigid zones for cogeneration to provide the world with electricity, which could then be used, for example, to power electric vehicles. This cooperative design has the potential to maximize global efficiency in energy utilization.

Future Prospects

In the future, Taiwan's international cooperation will focus on continually introducing advanced environmental management and technologies to improve local environmental quality and on sharing Taiwan's experience with other nations to cooperatively bolster the ability of all sides to solve environmental problems. This includes participating in international organizations and environmental guideline-making conferences to follow trends towards worldwide environmental protection, as well as promoting the Overseas Carbon Reduction Cooperation Program and Taiwan's Initiative: International Cooperation on Efficient Utilization of Global Fossil Fuel and Biomass Energy to mitigate climate change. Taiwan expects that multilateral cooperation will accelerate the local, regional and global environmental protections tasks of safeguarding environmental quality, human health and sustainable development.

Stephen Shu-hung Shen is the minister of the Environmental Protection Administration, ROC in Taiwan.