On 25 May 2016, EPA Minister Ying-Yuan Lee held a press conference where he stressed that environmental work should take public health as guiding principle. Attention will focus on prevention and alert mechanisms to build a sustainable, beautiful and healthy Taiwan. Minister Lee outlined ten main areas for future work and spoke on principles the EPA will follow to deal with environmental issues of the greatest public concern, namely fine particulate matters (PM2.5) pollution, environmental law enforcement and international cooperation.
President Tsai: Safeguard the Environment and Move toward a Circular Economy
On 25 May, EPA Minister Ying-Yuan Lee held a press conference at which he explained his perspective for EPA policies and priorities. At the press conference Minister Lee pointed out that President Tsai Ing-wen placed much emphasis on environmental protection during her inauguration speech. President Tsai called for tighter controls on pollution of every type, and to turn waste into renewable resources and take Taiwan into an era of a circular economy. She also called upon the public to pay serious attention to climate change. The EPA will do its utmost to put President Tsai’s environmental policies into action.
Minister Lee: Ten Main Areas to Improve Sustainability with Prevention a Priority
In line with President Tsai’s environmental policies, Minister Lee emphasized that safeguarding public health will be the guiding light for environmental work, placing a focus on prevention and alert mechanisms to build a sustainable, beautiful and healthy Taiwan. Minister Lee outlined ten main areas that the EPA will focus on:
1. Creating circular manufacturing and lifestyles based on better integration of energy and resources by recycling and reuse to build a zero waste, low energy consumption, and environmentally friendly society.
2. Implementing waste reduction at source and strengthening the management and tracking of waste clearance and disposal systems: This will be done by strengthening cooperation with law enforcement agencies and heavy penalties on illegal dumping. Management of waste cooking oils and expired food products will also be enhanced, such as by advising food enterprises on how to legally reuse food waste. The EPA will make every effort to prevent such waste or expired products from being consumed.
3. Encouraging and supervising regional cooperation between local governments to deal with household waste disposal problems: To make the general waste disposal resources able to be used more efficiently, the EPA is considering amending current regulations to give the central competent authority the power to allocate waste disposal equipment and facilities such as incinerators to local competent authorities or agencies as required.
4. Promoting a cap mechanism for air pollutant emissions to improve air quality: The EPA will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, and the Council of Agriculture to find ways to effectively reduce fine particulate matter pollution. Specific measures will include requiring power plants and factories to switch to cleaner fuels for their furnaces, getting particulate filters fitted onto trucks, and stopping farmers from open-air burning of agricultural waste.
5. Enhancing industrial wastewater management and reuse: The EPA will continue to promote the collection of water pollution control fees and assist livestock enterprises in turning animal wastes into an energy source. In addition, the clean-up and restoration operation following the T.S. Taipei container ship oil spill will be accelerated, and compensation will be sought from the owners.
6. Enhancing toxic substances management: The remediation of contaminated sites will be sped up; the management of toxic chemicals and environmental agents will be tightened to gain a clearer picture of how they are used and disposed of. The tidiness of residential areas will also be further improved to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds and prevent outbreaks of dengue fever.
7. Implementing the Paris Agreement: The EPA will intensify its efforts to formulate related regulations on greenhouse gas reductions to comply with the Paris Agreement. The EPA will also raise the visibilities of product carbon labelling and the Green Mark to promote green procurement and consumption.
8. Improving environmental impact assessment (EIA) mechanisms: The EPA will request developers to consider EIA factors and communicate with stakeholders during the investment evaluation stage rather than afterwards. The EPA will be requesting developers and the industry competent authority to fulfill their obligations conscientiously so as to improve the effectiveness of EIA reviews.
9. Enhancing environmental education and international cooperation: The EPA will enhance environmental education and establish more channels and mechanisms for public participation to facilitate the efforts of civil society to protect the environment. In addition, the EPA will put more effort into international cooperation and share with other nations Taiwan’s environmental technologies and experiences, as part of Taiwan’s responsibility as a member of the global village.
10. Preparing for the establishment of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources: The EPA will continue to strive toward the establishment of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources that will bring together environmental protection, natural resources conservation and ecosystem preservation tasks under one roof and enhance the efficiency of environmental work.
Responses to Issues of Public Concern
Minister Lee made statements on the environmental issues of greatest public concern:
1. Lowering PM2.5 to protect public health
The public is very concerned about PM2.5 air pollutants and Minister Lee indicated that having clean air for people to breathe would be the most urgent issue. Since the PM2.5 problem is particularly evident in central Taiwan, partly due to large amounts of coal burned by thermal power plants, the EPA will continue to work with the Ministry of Economic Affairs to reduce electricity generation from coal and to effect a transition to using cleaner natural gas. The EPA estimates that one coal-fired generator will be replaced every 2 years, with priority being given to the Taichung area to reduce sulfur and soot emissions. Minister Lee also called upon experts to assist in developing low-sulfur, high-energy coal so that PM2.5 concentrations can drop to 15 μg/m³ or less compared to the 22 μg/m³ at present.
2. Creating a strong triangle for environmental protection composed of environmental groups, judicial agencies, and government agencies
Taiwan has a fair number of environmental groups that contribute much to, and are often at the forefront of, environmental protection efforts. The EPA will work to strengthen cooperation among environmental groups, judicial agencies, and government departments to create a strong triangle of environmental protection, and so that complaints or reports filed by environmental groups lead to quicker action.
3. Work with other nations to protect the global environment together
As Minister Lee pointed out, many environmental problems – such as the smuggling of electronic waste and long-range transboundary air pollution – need international cooperation to be solved. The EPA will continue looking for opportunities to cooperate with other nations on protecting the global environment.
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)