The 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP25) commenced on 2 December 2019 in Madrid, Spain and ended on 15 December with the last piece of the Paris Agreement Rulebook uncompleted. Key issues such as Article 4 (Response Measures), Article 6 (International Carbon Market Mechanisms), and Article 8 (the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage) remained unresolved. They will continue to be negotiated at the COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, UK, in November 2020. With efforts from the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Spain, the EPA’s 2019 delegation, led by Minister Tzi-Chin Chang, successfully promoted Taiwan’s endeavors in climate change and energy transformation. Delegates from relevant departments, regional governments, and civil organizations also actively took part in several side events. Keeping their feet on the ground and doing their part, everyone eagerly participated in the climate change battle and made contributions to the world by offering their expertise.
COP25 was originally set to be hosted by Chile in Santiago, but the organizer made a sudden decision to change the convention location to Madrid, Spain in November 2019. Nonetheless, over 20,000 people from around the globe attended and Taiwan governmental offices were also able to finish their preparation work on time. The representative Der-Li Liu and fellow colleagues from TECO in Spain launched a creative promotional campaign themed“Combating Climate Change, Taiwan Can Help”displaying trams and minibuses painted with Taiwan relevant images, such as wind turbines, tung tree blossoms, and paper mulberry around the convention venues. The campaign attracted attention and was positively responded to by all.
Nations with diplomatic ties offer encouragement and support Taiwan to participate in UNFCCC events
Thirteen nations with diplomatic ties with Taiwan– Belize, Eswatini, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Paraguay, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tuvalu – spoke up or issued statements during the convention, urging that Taiwan should not be excluded from the UNFCCC events. Moreover, legislators of 12 of these diplomatic allies expressed their support for Taiwan’s participation by issuing statements to the UNFCCC Secretariat, questioning the UNFCCC administration, or by posting opinions on social media.
During the event, Taiwan legislators Yi-Jin Yeh, Wen-Ju Yu, and Man-Li Chen attended relevant diplomatic activities on behalf of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan. The MOFA held more than 40 bilateral meetings with diplomatic allies and countries friendly with Taiwan, carrying out more intensive interactions with the international community. The Prime Ministers of Tuvalu and of Eswatini, as well as environmental ministers and legislators from many nations all took part as guests in these meetings. Several international media, such as Deutsche Welle and major Spanish newspapers ABC and La Razón, also exclusively interviewed EPA Minister Chang, who spoke about Taiwan’s efforts in energy transformation and specific carbon reduction strategies. He expressed that, although nota signatory to UNFCCC agreements, Taiwan is willing to contribute to the battle against climate change. When asked about how to reduce marine waste, Minister Chang gave a detailed response about sharing Taiwan’s experiences in global environmental issues with the international community.
At exhibition booths or side events at the venue, there were also experts in different fields from Taiwan who spoke about Taiwan’s climate efforts. These included representatives from the Industrial Technology Research Institute, the Taiwan Research Institute, the Taiwan Institute for Sustainable Energy, the Environmental Quality Protection Foundation, the Foundation of Taiwan Industry Service, the Taiwan Carbon Capture Storage and Utilization Association, Mom Loves Taiwan, the Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition, Delta Electronics Foundation, and the Taiwan Association of Sustainable Ecological Engineering Development. There were also representatives from New Taipei City, Taoyuan City, and Tainan City. All answered the UNFCCC’s call and strove together, combining efforts of the central government with those of the private and non-governmental sectors in response to climate change.
Energy transformation is making Taiwan a green energy country
Joining the global movement towards carbon reduction, Taiwan approved the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Promotion Program in 2018, specifying the reduction responsibilities shared by the energy, manufacturing, transportation, commercial and residential, agricultural, and environmental sectors. In September 2019, 22 municipalities, county and city governments submitted plans under the Greenhouse Gas Control Implementation Plan, which were adopted for their own districts. These actions were in line with the UNFCCC’s call to make clear and transparent national contributions.
Taiwan’s policy on energy transformation is based on the principle of developing green energy, increasing the use of natural gas and reducing reliance on coal. The first commercial-scale offshore wind farm, located off the coast of Miaoli, officially started operation on 12 November 2019 and is able to generate power for 128,000 households annually. It shows that Taiwan has progressed from planning to gradually reaching its goal of increasing the renewable energy share to 20% by 2025. Furthermore, Taiwan has already begun to map out the 10-year-10-gigawatts renewable energy development policy for the decade between 2026 and 2035, to ultimately become a green-energy country. Passed in 2015, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act, specifies the long-term national carbon reduction goal, which is to reduce emissions to at least 50% of the 2005 emission level by 2050. 2015 was also the year Taiwan declared its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which requires Taiwan to reduce its emission level to 20% below that of 2005 by 2030. In fact, Taiwan is one of very few nations in the world that have legislated long-term reduction goals.
Looking back at four years of implementing the Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act, it is apparent that more control mechanisms and incentive systems are needed. The EPA will therefore initiate reviews and revisions of the Act and focus on strengthening reduction management mechanisms for each sector, improving controls on large emission sources and reporting methods, putting the polluter-pays principle in practice, and reinforcing climate change adaptation actions. In the short term, reduction responsibilities for the second reduction stage (from 2021 to 2025) will be delegated to each sector, and public participation will be ensured throughout the process.
On the same trip, Minister Chang attended the EU-Taiwan Circular Economy Seminar, co-organized by the EPA and the EU, in Brussels, Belgium on 9 December 2019. Besides presiding over the opening with Mr. Timo Pesonen, EU Director-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Minister Chang also visited Ms. Joanna Drake, Deputy Director-General of the European Commission's Directorate-General for the Environment. Both exchanged experiences and results regarding plastic recycling, design and recycling of solar panels, and circular economy construction.
The EPA has planned to hold a series of events in 2020, such as EU Innovation Week and Circular Economy Week, and will invite top EU officials to Taiwan to participate. It will also promote cooperation between industries in Taiwan and the EU and work towards making Taiwan an island with a circular economy.
In the international community, Taiwan is a sincere and responsible friend that is eager to contribute. For years Taiwan has been providing needed assistance to and exchanging experiences with others on public health, medicine and healthcare, agricultural technology, and pollution control. In the future, Taiwan will continue to actively contribute and participate on global issues such as climate change and environmental governance to fulfill its responsibility as a member of the international community. In this way Taiwan will reach out towards the world while letting the world come to Taiwan.
Excerpt from Environmental Policy Monthly, 23 (1)