A coal fired electric generation plant in China. Photo: iStock/Getty Images
A coal-fired electric generation plant in China. Photo: iStock / Getty Images

Perhaps the most pressing and important crisis facing the international community today is climate change. Leaders from more than 200 countries have gathered in Madrid for the Conference of the Parties (COP25) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that runs from December 2-13. However, at this watershed moment, Taiwan is absent.

The year 2019 is crucial in the global effort to tackle climate change. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (ICPP) has reported that global warming contributes to climate-related threats such as rising sea levels, more frequent extreme weather events, and species loss and extinction. Authoritative studies indicate that such environmental degradation and climate change are likely to lead to catastrophic flooding, increased resource competition, and instability in all forms.

In the Indo-Pacific region, climate change presents an urgent and growing challenge with profound implications, and how are the region countries preparing for these challenges? Nations big and small in the Indo-Pacific region must work collaboratively to prevent and mitigate its impacts. Despite its track record, Taiwan remains excluded from meaningful participation in the upcoming COP25 session. The global effort to curb emissions will be missing a crucial component so long as Taiwan is left out.

Although Taiwan has been excluded from the UNFCCC and its related mechanisms, it remains keen to join international efforts aimed at saving energy and reducing carbon emissions. As a responsible member of the international community, Taiwan actively cooperates with other countries. It is not only willing to share its own knowledge and experience, but also eager to learn more about new technologies and ideas regarding reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions, adaptation, and mitigation. Taiwan is committed to contributing to the fight against climate change, and is one of the few countries to have voluntarily announced reduction targets for carbon-dioxide emissions.

Taiwan has for many years worked to sign bilateral agreements and engage in multilateral cooperation in an effort to respond to the policies advocated by the UNFCCC

The citizens of the world deserve every hand on deck as the effort to combat climate change assumes ever-increasing importance. Taiwan has for many years worked to sign bilateral agreements and engage in multilateral cooperation in an effort to respond to the policies advocated by the UNFCCC. Known for disaster response, innovation, and entrepreneurship, Taiwan has helped such countries as Belize and Honduras strengthen nationwide environmental monitoring and disaster-prevention systems through the reporting of land-use changes, the emergency monitoring of earthquakes and landslides, and the provision of associated training courses.

This global problem demands a truly global solution. No country is immune to the effects of global warming, so it is of extreme importance that we address these challenges in a global manner to ensure our planet’s sustainable development. The challenge presented by climate change will require all of us to do more with less. Taiwan has a great deal to offer the international community in a vast number of areas. Its prolonged exclusion from the UNFCCC serves neither its interests nor those of the global community. The new UNFCCC agreement will not be complete without Taiwan’s participation.

The Taiwan Institute for Sustainable Energy has published the “2017 Survey on Taiwanese People’s Attitudes towards Climate Change and Energy.” Overall, 93.1% of the public expressed agreement that climate change is indeed under way, with 73.1% indicating that they are concerned about climate change issues. The citizenry felt that they appreciated the potential adverse affects that climate change could pose, with 60.1% thinking that climate change impacts were already threatening Taiwan, while the polling results indicated 63.7% thought the nation’s efficacy in reducing greenhouse gas emissions was ineffective, and that they were rightly being subjected to international pressure.

The island’s 23 million people view climate change as a crucial issue that needs to be urgently addressed. Taiwan has been striving to join the annual talks on climate change. Unfortunately, China blocks Taiwan’s membership because it claims Taiwan as its own. However, Taiwan has never been ruled by the People’s Republic of China, which certainly has no control over Taiwan’s environmental policy and enforcement.

In the international context, it is important that the United States show more convincing support for Taiwan’s participation in certain international organizations like the UNFCCC. After all, anthropogenic climate change has become a major threat to countries around the world. A long-term commitment is therefore required to deal with the challenges posed by climate change.

We have an opportunity for a real breakthrough on global climate policy that has important implications for the all of us. The global effort to curb emissions will be missing a crucial component so long as Taiwan is left out. The inclusion of Taiwan in events like COP25 would offer a great boost to the global fight against climate change.

Kent Wang

Kent Wang is a research fellow at the Institute for Taiwan-America Studies (ITAS), a conservative Washington-based think-tank focusing on aspects of US-Taiwan relations, and is broadly interested in the United States-Taiwan-China trilateral equation, as well as in East Asian security architecture.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *