German envoy advises Taiwan to engage more in renewable energy

Taipei, Feb. 19 (CNA) Germany's envoy to Taiwan has advised the government to engage more strongly in renewable energy development and said his office will launch more low-carbon city forums in Taiwan to facilitate interaction between experts from both sides. Michael Zickerick, director-general of the German Institute Taipei, told CNA in an interview Monday that there is no shortage of knowledge or lack of interest in renewable energy in Taiwan, but said that action on the city level is not always speedy. "Engagement in Taiwan could be stronger," he said, referring to efforts to improve the development of green technologies. He also pointed out examples of energy wastage in the country, such as Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport's overuse of air conditioning. "It's such a waste of energy," Zickerick said, adding that the question is not how to modernize the air conditioning technology but how to construct green buildings that autonomously manage temperatures. Zickerick, 64, said the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster caused by a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunamis in Japan nearly two years ago has prompted Germany to move away from nuclear power. It makes him "uneasy" to think that Taiwan also has nuclear reactors and faces possible threats from tsunamis, he added. To facilitate exchanges between Taiwan and Germany on renewable energy, the envoy said his institute will launch a second round of low-carbon city forums with the Taiwan Institute for Sustainable Energy March 12 and 14 in Taipei and Tainan, focusing on green buildings. Up to 500 experts attended the first round of forums, which were held over four days last November in Tainan, Taichung, Yilan and New Taipei, Zickerick noted. Developing and applying green technologies could save Taiwan a "tremendous amount of money," he said. He added that Germany once thought that such developments, in addition to wasting time and money, would contribute to unemployment, but in fact they helped to create over 1 million jobs. Meanwhile, he said, many European companies have lamented to his institute about the difficulty in trade procedures and procurement in Taiwan. He said that if Taiwan hopes to seal a free trade agreement with the European Union, it is important for it to be less protectionist. "The question here is it takes political leadership. I think the politicians must explain to (the) people why it is important to be less protectionist," he said. Asked how a proposed free trade agreement between the United States and the EU might affect Taiwan-Germany trade, Zickerick said only that the pact "can be a good sign that things are moving." Zickerick also said that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) -- a proposed free trade group made up of Pacific-Rim countries -- might bring more benefits to Taiwan than bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks with the United States, because the TPP offers a longer-term perspective involving more countries. (By Christie Chen and Elaine Hou)