Climate change is yet to receive a prominent position in political discourse in Taiwan. However, this may be set to change in the near future.
The Taiwan News today reports that the EPA has demanded action on CO2 emmissions. Currently Taiwan produces about 12 tons of CO2 per capita. This compares with the global average of 4 tons.
The Taiwan News quotes Yeh Fan-lu, a senior engineer with the EPA's Air Quality Protection and Noise Control Bureau, as saying
Yeh said that in addition to seeking renewable or alternative energies and cutting back on energy consumption, the most urgent task that Taiwan needs to carry out is to readjust its industrial structures – transforming existing core industries from high-energy-consuming and high-polluting modes to industries that use clean energies or consume low levels of energies.
All this is easier said than done. It really demands nothing less than reconfiguring the entire economy. Many Taiwanese still have trouble adjusting to the transition from an old style manufacturing based economy to a modern information and service based economy. The shift to a low carbon economy is an even bigger step.
The article also cites data from the Central Weather Bureau showing that Taiwan's weather has changed for the warmer in recent years.
Citing Taipei City as an example, the CWB said days of high-temperature exceeding 35 Celsius degree increased to 40 days during the past five years. The figure is much higher compared with the average 19.7 days for the past one hundred years, the CWB said. It also said that relative humidity has dropped by 5 percent during the past 20 years.
The Taipei Times also has an article detailing the EPA's plan for a public education campaign about global warming. The EPA will cooperate with National Geographic Channel in Taiwan holding events on Earth Day (22 April).
There are really two key things needed to solve the problems related to climate change: good policy and education. Taiwan still has a long way to go on both counts, but at least it is making a start.
It is unfortunate that Taiwan's geographical isolation as an island and political isolation from the international community mean there is a lack of impetus or incentive to seriously tackle the issue of climate change. However, water shortages and droughts in Taiwan combined with changes to the international economy may leave Taiwan with no choice but to take action sooner rather than later.
Update: The Taipei Times has an editorial about global warming and the need for government action today (11 April 2007).