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Taiwan has a huge problem

Last night I gave a presentation on "CO2 emissions and economic growth in Taiwan" in my Economic Development of Taiwan class at NCCU. The purpose of the presentation was to introduce our final paper. My presentation can be read in full in this pdf file: CO2 emissions and economic growth in Taiwan. In the paper I briefly discuss why Taiwan has had such a high growth rate in emissions and suggest some policies that might be adopted to help reduce some emissions.

There are two graphs similar to the one above in the paper. What they show is that Taiwan is on a quite frightening projectory. The growth in Taiwan's CO2 emissions has outstripped the world average more than four-fold. Furthermore, the increasing emissions are strongly linked to economic growth.

The graph was created using the Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) by the World Resources Institute. It can be accessed on the internet at (registration required). Unfortunately Taiwan is excluded from the data compiled by the UNFCCC as Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations.


Comment from Joe Gray
Time 23 April 2008 at 11:45 pm

Your dedication to the environment is admirable and an inspiration to all. Thank you for bringing this alarming report to our attention.

Comment from A-gu
Time 24 April 2008 at 8:53 am

Fascinating! I didn’t realize just how quickly emissions have been growing here.

Comment from Ashish
Time 24 April 2008 at 2:55 pm

I read your post couple of days ago and y’day night I happened to saw “AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH” the Al gore movie. That movie clearly opened my eyes what serious ramifications these CO2 emission is having on our environment. Your efforts for spreading environmental awareness is greatly appreciated. Thanks for a fine report on this alarming situation.

Comment from Fili
Time 24 April 2008 at 3:15 pm

That’s very interesting. David – where do they publish the numbers regarding different regions and cities in Taiwan? is there detailed data comparing different parts, or is it that way all over Taiwan.

I’m also curious regarding economics growth, I would imagine that at some point the society comes to focus more about environment, like it happened in Japan. Pollution increases with growth, till the people become more green aware.

Comment from David Reid
Time 24 April 2008 at 4:25 pm

FiLi, I haven’t found the exact data for each city and county of Taiwan. However, I know that Kaohsiung City’s emissions are three times higher than Taiwan’s average. In fact Kaohsiung is amongst the top three cities in the world for greenhouse gas emissions. It is mostly related to industry, so any area which has a high concentration of industry would have much higher emissions.

The linkage between economic growth and emissions in Taiwan is very strong. It has a lot to do with the type of industries Taiwan has developed and the use of coal for electricity generation. The new KMT seems determined to continue along the same path of economic development which means the graph will only keep going up. The problem can only be solved by changing Taiwan’s mix of industries and electricity generation along with greater efficiencies.

The political will to do this simply doesn’t exist at present. Even as the rest of the world shifts on this issue, particularly with the election a new US President taking office next year, Taiwan still lacks incentives to change. This is a clear example of why “UN for Taiwan” is so important.

Comment from Fili
Time 26 April 2008 at 12:44 am

I heard that about Kaoshiung, I’ve heard similar things about Chia-Yi, and so I assume being in the middle in Tainan has its effect, but I want to see the raw data, and I can’t find it in English anywhere. If you come across it – I’m really interested. I’m also interested regarding the so called change people claim Taipei went through in the Mayor Chen times, what change are we talking about and how was that accomplished?

I think you mentioned before something about green movements in Taiwan. Could you write a bit more about that, and especially what foreigners in Taiwan can join or do in order to help out a little. I think international students’ councils around Taiwan might be interested in that.


Comment from David Reid
Time 26 April 2008 at 9:03 am

FiLi, I will work on finding the data. I will also think about a future post on green movements in Taiwan and how foreigners can get involved. It is a good idea.

Comment from Richard
Time 27 April 2008 at 2:16 pm

Sorry, don’t know much about the U.N. and perhaps what requirements it imposes on countries that are in it… but I’m assuming joining the U.N. would require Taiwan to have some type of emissions cap or have to set environmental goals or something? I’d really like to know, thanks!

Comment from David Reid
Time 27 April 2008 at 4:54 pm

Richard, joining the UN mainly requires China overcoming its belligerent attitude and the international community fully recognising Taiwan’s status as an independent sovereign state. CO2 emissions don’t have much to do with it. However, if Taiwan was a member of the UN it would be able to fully participate in international negotiations on a new global agreement on limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

Pingback from Time to cut CO2 – World Environment Day 2008 – David on Formosa
Time 5 June 2008 at 9:52 am

[...] Taiwan has a huge problem – Taiwan's rising CO2 emissions closely linked to economic growth [...]

Comment from Alana
Time 14 September 2008 at 7:59 am

I live in Taiwan, and people are really working to save the environment. My school even has a recycling house! (And I have to take out the recycling. A gross job, but i still do it!)