As Pope Francis reminds us, “We are one single human family,” and “we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world.”
In 2015, smog originated from Indonesia and Malaysia slash and burn agriculture practice seriously polluted the air quality of Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam and affected more than 28 million people’s daily life, and caused uncountable economic damages.
In 2013, NASA’s Terra satellite captured the image of smog lingering over China, and spread to Korea and Taiwan. The smog was the result of sunlight reacting with nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that were emitted from fossil fuel burning sourcing from cars, power plants and factories, and agricultural burning. The smog pollution can be hazardous to human health.
Protecting ‘One World’
Moreover, the impacts of climate change, such as higher air temperatures, decreased rainfall or changes to rainfall patterns, sea level rise, higher sea surface temperatures, ocean acidification, ocean circulation wave patterns and vector-borne diseases, have the potential to alter the distribution of species, including humankind.
We have only one world, therefore, the protection of the earth environment shall know no boundaries.
One of the most important, or maybe even only, opportunities for the countries in the world to reach a substantial consensus dealing with the global climate change for the next few decades is the meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP) 21, which is scheduled to be held in Paris between November 30 and December 11, 2015.
According to the COP 20’s Lima Call for Climate Action in 2014, every country shall submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) of the greenhouse gas reduction before the COP21.
With the INDCs, the COP21 will possibly reach a binding agreement to inquire every country in the world to take necessary steps to reduce greenhouse gas which is critical to control the rise of global temperature within 2 degrees centigrade. In order to reach the goal, it is necessary to include every country in the scheme.
The Republic of China (Taiwan) is a democratic and peace-loving country, with a population of 23 million, the world’s 22nd biggest economy and the No 9 trading partner of New Zealand. Nevertheless, Taiwan also ranked as the world’s 24th largest emitter of carbon dioxide in 2012, accounting for 0.81% of the total.
This makes Taiwan the 20th largest emitter of carbon dioxide per capita, at 10.95 tonnes, which is even higher than other OECD countries. As a part of the world, Taiwan has the responsibility to share the global climate control work.
In 2015, Taiwan promulgated the Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act, and targeted to cut carbon emissions to 50% of 2005 levels by 2050. The law makes Taiwan one of the few countries to write its target into domestic law.
Taiwan has also announced its INDC, committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from the business-as-usual level (from 428 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent to 214) by 2030.
Above Taiwan’s efforts in dealing with greenhouse emission has demonstrated that the country has strong and decisive intention to fulfill its international responsibilities, and has taken effective approaches to protect the global environment.
Taiwan’s experience is worthy of imitation for other countries.
However, Taiwan currently can only participate in the UNFCCC as an NGO observer under the name Industrial Technology Research Institute. This is neither appropriate nor effective.
Considering climate change is a cross-border issue that requires across the board cooperation, New Zealand with the national image of pure and clean environment shall support Taiwan’s participation in COP21 as an observer under an official name, such as the Environmental Protection Administration; and recognise Taiwan’s achievements in voluntarily announcing its high criteria INDC and promulgating Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act.
Only supporting all the countries in the world and cooperate with each other to strengthen environmental protection can save our single human family.
Dr Chung-hsing Chou, Director General, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Auckland