Thursday, June 5, 2008

World Environment Day: The Government Must Do More

World Environment Day: The Government Must Do More
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
June 5, 2008

Today is World Environment Day. The theme is "Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy." In the hope of creating an energy saving and carbon reduction trend,
President Ma will officially announce large-scale energy saving and carbon reduction measures. Taiwan's energy saving and carbon reduction campaign is not progressing, and may even be regressing. If the government merely mouths slogans, but fails to engage in self-introspection and reform, then a single day of slogan shouting is probably all we will get.

In 1972, the United Nations held its first Conference on the Human Environment in Sweden. It issued a Declaration on the Human Environment and an action plan. It held that human beings are capable pursuing economic development and improving the quality of life without sacrificing the environment. It named June 5 World Environment Day and resolved to hold meetings every year on that day. Each year it would actively promote a different environmental theme. This year's theme is "Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy."

This year's United Nations World Environment Day theme involves the concept of "kicking," as in "kicking an addiction." It underscores the need to reduce carbon emissions by kicking wasteful energy habits. It also conveys the notion that all that is necessary for energy reform is the will. Or as former US first lady Nancy Reagan put it: "Just say no." The United Nations suggested switching from cars to public transportion, turning off electrical appliances when they are not in use, and switching to energy-saving light bulbs. These are things people can easily do but have been too lazy to do. It urged people to kick their carbon dependency today.

World Environment Day activities encouraged the kicking of "carbon habits." Chief offenders are residential and commercial sectors and the transportation sector. On Taiwan these two sectors are responsible for up to 32% of all greenhouse gas emissions, second only to industry at about 53% of all emissions. These two categories of carbon emissions have rapidly risen in recent years. The government however, has failed to adopt the necessary and appropriate energy saving and carbon reduction measures. Even media promotion has been limited. If the government is serious about signing on to the World Environment Day "Kick the carbon habit" campaign, it should actively implement such policies, and attempt to achieve tangible results.

In recent years the government has favored the economy over the environment. The result has been a carbon reduction report card worse than many developing countries. A two-year investigation conducted by international organizations found that Taiwan's carbon dioxide emissions numbers increased faster than any other region on earth. This is not the kind of success one hopes to achieve.

The Kyoto Protocol was passed in late 1997, and enacted in February 2005. Developed countries and even developing countries not bound by the protocol began reducing carbon. Even the United States, which refused to sign the protocol, actively began reducing carbon. Only Taiwan did nothing. It used the excuse that it had been "rejected by the UN and orphaned by the international community" to rationalize its failure to reduce carbon. Not being subject to international sanctions, Taiwan's carbon reduction efforts came to nothing.

The residential and commercial sectors and the transportation sector are sectors that can be tackled immediately. In addition to media promotion, the government should provide greater financial and tax incentives. It should encourage people to use emissions-free vehicles, or promote energy-saving green building materials and green buildings. The United States encourages electric hybrid vehicles by providing substantial excise tax relief. The EU provides incentives for people who drive low emissions vehicles. What about Taiwan? The Chen regime long touted itself as green. But any time money was involved, it fell silent. Suddenly fuel-efficient cars, green building materials, and green buildings no longer mattered.

The Chen regime's conspicuous lack of concrete incentives tells us its campaigns to promote energy saving and carbon reduction were empty talk.

The second theme of World Environment Day is the "promotion of a low-carbon economy." It is also one of the key issues the government was most reluctant to confront, involving as it did changes to the industrial structure. Taiwan is almost totally dependent upon energy imports. It is developing high energy-consumption industries, especially export-oriented high energy-consumption industries without restraint. It spends a great deal of money importing energy. This energy generates large amounts of pollution and carbon emissions, but very little profit. In terms of industrial policy, it is totally unjustifiable. The Chen regime says that those industries responsible for generating 53% of Taiwan's greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for Taiwan's economic growth. But Taiwan's economic performance over the past several years prove that Taiwan has completely disregarded the reality of energy shortages and damage to the environment.

The government has virtually nothing to show for 10 years of promoting energy savings and carbon reduction. Officials are stuck in the slogan shouting phase. Even today they have yet to establish carbon emissions standards. Businesses and government agencies keep no carbon emission records. A lack of records means nothing can be verified or compared. Anyone can cite impressive numbers. But have they actually reduced carbon? Carbon emissions have increased, not diminished. Is the source of the problem not clear for all to see?

The United Nations has defined World Environment Day as an environmental festival. But on Taiwan, it must be more than a festival. It must be the beginning of a New Life Movement.

2008.06.05 02:58 am


一 九七二年,聯合國在瑞典召開首屆人類環境會議,發表「人類環境宣言」及行動計畫,認為人類有足夠能力在不犧牲環境品質的前提下追求經濟發展與生活品質的改 善;並將會議召開日六月五日定為每年世界環境日,每年選定一個年度主題積極推動。今年世界環境日的主題是「踢開碳習慣,推動低碳經濟與生活」。

聯 合國今年世界環境日主題,很俏皮且貼切的選用了Kick(踢)這個字;一方面描述出減碳工作的急迫性,表達了對耗能的舊生活習慣的憎惡;另一方面也顯示, 若要改正,只不過是舉腳一踢般地簡單,關鍵端看要不要做。聯合國並列舉少開車改用大眾運輸工具、電器不用時要關機而不是待機、改用節能燈泡等隨手可做但一 直懶得動手的生活惡習,呼籲大家今天一腳踢開。

世界環境日活動要踢開的「碳習慣」,民生的「住商」及「運輸」應是主要的兩塊。台灣這兩塊 溫室氣體排放合計高達百分之三十二,僅次於「產業」百分之五十三左右的排放量。應強調的是,這兩塊的碳排放近年還在快速上升,但政府始終不曾發起節能減 碳,甚至連宣導也做得有限。若認真響應世界環境日「踢開碳習慣」,在政府帶頭下求其落實,應能拿出相當不錯的成績單。


自 一九九七年底京都議定書通過,及二○○五年二月該議定書生效;不止已開發國家,初期未被公約列管的開發中國家也開始做減碳努力;甚至拒簽議定書的美國亦積 極減碳,只有台灣幾乎沒有動作,拿「被聯合國拒絕的國際社會孤兒」來合理化沒有減碳的理由,卻也因暫無國際制裁壓力,致推動減碳毫無成績。

「住 商」及「運輸」是可立即著手的兩塊,政府除了要積極宣導,更要提供財稅誘因。不管是鼓勵民眾使用無碳燃料車輛,或推動節能的綠建材及綠建築,一定要有財稅 誘因。美國鼓勵油電混合車,給予減免高額貨物稅;歐盟獎勵民眾換開清潔汽車,也有強力財稅誘因;但台灣呢?標榜綠色的扁政府只要一談到錢,不管是省油車, 或是綠建材、綠建築,一概靜悄悄;然而,沒有誘因,顯示政府推動節能減碳全是空話一句罷了。

「推動低碳經濟」是世界環境日第二個重點,也 是政府最不願面對的產業結構調整的關鍵問題。台灣能源幾乎百分之百仰賴進口,全無條件發展高耗能產業;尤其是以外銷為目標的高耗能產業。花了一大堆運費進 口能源,留下可觀的汙染及碳排放卻沒有什麼利潤;就產業政策而言,這完全說不通。扁政府推稱產業百分之五十三的溫室氣體排放是維持台灣經濟成長的動力,以 這幾年台灣的經濟表現,證實台灣完全無視能源短缺、環境破壞的事實。

十年來,在推動節能減碳上,政府幾乎沒有任何實質投入,官方一直停留 在呼口號階段,甚至迄今未建立關鍵的碳排放登錄制度,各企業、機構的碳排放完全沒有紀錄;沒有紀錄等於無從驗證、比較,徒有漂亮數字任人喊,未能有效減碳 幾乎是必然。碳排放不減反增,問題出在哪裡,難道不是一目了然?


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