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INTERVIEW: Taiwan well positioned to build 'smart' cities

INTERVIEW: Taiwan well positioned to build 'smart' cities

Taipei, Nov. 6 (CNA) An organization dedicated to turning environmental problems into business opportunities has urged Taiwan to take advantage of its talent and relatively small size to build up so-called smart cities -- urban areas that are environmentally friendly, with minimal energy use and low carbon emissions. John D. Wiebe, the president and CEO of the Globe Foundation, a non-profit Canadian group, was recently chosen one of the top 16 individuals in Canada who have contributed the most to advancing the cause of sustainability. He told CNA during his recent visit here that an innovative economy in line with rising environmental awareness will suit Taiwan perfectly. "At the end of the day, instead of scooters, Taiwan should strive for exporting the knowledge of producing fuel cell scooters," Wiebe said, giving an example of an industry upgrade that is both good for the environment and industry. As Taiwan has a large population in a small amount of land, Wiebe said, it would be ideal for the government to start with the establishment of a smart energy distribution system, in which a mixture of energy sources could be used efficiently. Because Taiwan is also advanced in cutting-edge green technology, he added, the sources of energy could include solar, wind, wave energy, biomass and nuclear power. With the hardware in-hand, Wiebe continued, what follows is a platform operated on "feed-in tariff" -- a policy mechanism designed to provide incentives for investment in renewable energy. Specifically, he said, companies willing to invest in research and development on green energy should be subsidized and assisted by the government through acquiring long-term contracts for its energy production. In addition, he said, the government could facilitate the process of building a sustainable city by launching green procurement -- purchasing products and services in large scale that reduce adverse environmental impacts -- because the public sector usually creates the biggest amount of waste. Wiebe cited Taipei City's government as an example. He noted that its operation of more than 100 hybrid buses in the city is a smart move since it cuts down energy demand and creates a culture of innovation. "First is the renewable energy, then the renewable industry," he said. "It's a double initiative." The whole concept has tremendous business potential, Wiebe said, since it creates job opportunities and eventually becomes a "valuable commodity" that can be exported. Wiebe further explained that becoming energy independent and minimizing nuclear threats will be the most desired asset in the future. However, the biggest challenge during the process of transforming ordinary cities into smart cities, Wiebe said, is that despite efforts from the government and private sectors, the public needs proper education to be smart citizens who are willing to join hands in maintaining an environmentally-friendly city. "By proper education, I mean the public needs to know that they do have a choice," Wiebe said. According to Wiebe, 70 percent of the public tends to be on the defense when it comes to innovative ideas, if the ideas are not thoroughly introduced and demonstrated. It is therefore vital that the public should be pushed to play an active role in resolving environmental problems and to think longer term, he said. "The future economy is working smarter, not producing more," he said. (By Lee Hsin-Yin)


Updated : 2021-04-11 11:17 GMT+08:00