Can President Ma Deliver on Carbon Reduction?
China Times News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 15, 2009
Nearly one hundred national leaders gathered in the Danish capital of Copenhagen to discuss new greenhouse gas emissions standards. President Ma Ying-jeou made public his latest entry in his "weekly journal." His theme was "carbon reduction, creating an environmentalist paradise." He called on people to do their utmost to conserve energy and reduce carbon, thereby transforming Taiwan into an "environmentalist paradise." But at such a critical juncture, President Ma's weekly journal utterly failed to mention his own most important environmental policy, an energy tax. Premier Wu Den-yih recently said the administration had "no timetable" for the implementation of an energy tax. This cast doubt on the government's determination to promote an energy tax. In the absence of any specific policy, the Republic of China is a long way from its ideal of an environmentalist paradise.
Global warming is a clear and present danger. It is threatening the survival of more than just polar bears. Island nations in the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean are in danger of being inundated. Melting permafrost has forced Eskimos in Alaska to relocate villages. Residents in the Himalayas live in fear as a result of melting mountain glaciers. Barrier lakes may burst through their containment walls at any time. Time magazine pointed out that over the past five decades, the total area of glaciers in the Himalayas has diminished by one fifth, far more than in other areas. Glaciers in the Himalayas constitute the third most important glacial region outside the Arctic and Antarctic. It is the water source of the most important river system on earth. It affects the safety of the drinking water of half the world's population. If the situation cannot be reversed, it may lead to regional conflicts and wars.
Developed and developing nations have bickered endlessly over the past few days at the Copenhagen summit on climate change, over who bears the greatest responsibility for increased carbon emissions. The harsh reality is that wealthy, developed nations have long been largest emitters of carbon. The biggest victims meanwhile, have been poor, developing nations. Scientists estimate that it will cost about one per cent of the global GDP to slow global warming. Compare this to the financial tsunami. Governments have earmarked five per cent of their GDP to bail out banks. It costs less to fight global warming than one might imagine. Therefore, developed nations have a responsibility to provide financial aid to developing nations fighting climate change.
Poor and wealthy nations have bickered endlessly at the Copenhagen summit. The Republic of China is not a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Even if the Copenhagen summit reaches a new consensus on carbon reduction, the ROC has no obligation to comply. But global warming has already precipitated disasters on Taiwan. A few months ago the 8/8 Floods included the heaviest rainfall in a century. It caused serious landslides, and buried Hsiaolin Village under a mountain of mud. Haven't we learned our lesson? After such a massive disaster, can we still ignore international trends? Can we continue to engage in unbridled development of more high-pollution, high energy-consumption industries? Can we continue to emit even more carbon dioxide?
Carbon dioxide emissions on Taiwan over the past few years are an embarrassment. Carbon dioxide emmissions on Taiwan have grown at a rate among the fastest in the world. They have accelerated since 1999. Our carbon dioxide growth rate is higher than our economic growth rate. Not only have we failed to grow our economy, we have also failed to protect our environment. According to the Academia Sinica, we use energy less efficiently than the European Union and Japan, because our government has kept energy prices below international standards and has fostered high energy-consumption industries. If we refuse to change our development model, our exports are bound to face trade sanctions from the EU and other industrialized nations. High carbon emissions have become a hidden risk to our economic future.
The Ma administration trumpets its dedication to energy conservation and carbon reduction. Since taking office more than a year ago, just what has it done? Take the Executive Yuan's "Sustainable Energy Policy" for example. It set carbon reduction targets for 2008 to 2020, and 2000 to 2025. Internationally the base year is 1990. By contrast, we have used 2008 as our benchmark, a comparatively loose standard. Furthermore, the long-debated greenhouse gas emissions law remains stalled in the Legislative Yuan. As for the Tax Reform Commission's "energy tax" program, it has been sidelined by the administration without even undergoing debate.
In recent years, more and more international companies have come to realize that low-carbon, green energy policies offer commercial opportunities. Microsoft, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard have taken the lead in carbon reduction. TSMC, ASUS, Taiwan Delta Electronics, Chi Mei and other companies have aggressively sought low carbon footprint certification. In the face of this new trend toward green energy and reduced carbon emissions, we cling to our model of ultra-low energy prices and high energy-consumption industries. Presidential office and executive branch officials cling to the old fossil fuel model. They assume that energy conservation and reduced carbon emissions must harm economic development. In fact, energy conservation and reduced carbon emissions may pose new challenges, but they also offer new business opportunities. These await a joint initiative by the government and business. Since President Ma took office, he has assumed complete control of both the party and the government. If he fails to honor even his commitment to an "energy tax," can the Republic of China really talk about making itself into an environmentalist paradise?
標榜節能減碳的馬政府，上任一年多以來，究竟做了那些努力？以行政院通過的「永續能源政策綱領」為例，減碳目標是二○二 ○年達到二○○八年的標準，二○ 二五年回到二千年的標準。先看看這項目標，國際上是以一九九○年為基準，相形之下，台灣則是以二○○八年為基準，相對非常寬鬆。其次，研議已久的溫室氣體減量法仍躺在立法院，至於賦改會提出的「能源稅」方案，尚未經過政策辯論就被府院打入冷宮。