KAOHSIUNG (Taiwan News) — The COP26 Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, has focused the thoughts of the world once more on the issue of climate change.
These U.N. climate change conferences often take place but rarely result in meaningful agreements to address the issues under discussion.
Hosted this time by the U.K., which is striving to reposition itself as a global leader after Brexit, COP26 is a seminal moment that was hoped to rank alongside COP3 (Kyoto), COP17 (Durban), and COP21 (Paris) as a moment when the world came together to agree on meaningful climate change targets.
The focus of COP26 is net zero. This means reducing net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 and preventing a global temperature rise of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Ambition is the keyword here, especially when you look at who the primary emitter of carbon is: China.
China creates around 30% of the world’s CO2 emissions. To put that in context, the next worst offender is the U.S. at 13%. If that wasn’t bad enough, a look at trends shows the U.S. is now reducing emissions from its peak output, while China’s emissions continue to grow at a rate of knots.
Top 10 emitters
Other countries in the top 10 include India, Russia, Japan, and Germany, but all of their emission data pales in comparison to China. All this means that if delivering net zero by 2050 is going to have any meaningful impact, China has got to be on board.
In this regard, COP26 is already a spectacular failure. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping (習近平) has not joined other world leaders in what is a huge snub to both the U.N. and the host of COP26.
Xi’s China frequently breaches its international commitments (such as the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong), so this hardly inspires much confidence. Meanwhile, China’s recent decision to mine an extra 220 million metric tons of coal a year, a 6% rise, sends a far clearer message of China’s true intentions than any trip to Glasgow would have done.
What of Taiwan in all this? We are responsible for just 0.75% of global CO2 emissions, yet President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has made it abundantly clear the nation will attempt to hit the global target of net zero by 2050.
Plans to deliver this goal are already well underway, and ahead of COP26, Environmental Protection Administration Minister Chang Tzi-chin (張子敬) outlined in the Diplomat some of the steps that have already been undertaken.
Taiwan’s net zero pledge
Sadly, while China has declined to attend COP26, Taiwan’s efforts to secure an invite fell on deaf ears. This is a U.N. conference, and despite the fact that Taiwan is cooperating with global governments while China brushes them off, CCP influence ensures the door remains firmly closed on Taiwan’s democratically elected government.
Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) highlighted the ridiculousness of the situation earlier this week. He asked a perfectly reasonable question: if the CCP leader doesn’t bother to attend, why is he allowed to determine which other governments can?
Sadly, even though the U.S. has stepped up calls for Taiwan to be allowed to participate meaningfully in the U.N., we are not there yet. And while there will be a Taiwanese presence in Glasgow at COP26, it will not officially participate in the conference.
Most reasonable people would agree with Legislator Wang that Taiwan should have a seat at the table.
Even so, Taiwan’s efforts to address climate change have been noted in the U.K. The British-Taiwanese APPG (a cross-party group of MPs) recently published a report that highlighted Taiwan’s achievements in offshore wind development, as part of our commitment to net zero.
The message that Taiwan is participating in global efforts to address climate change is getting through every bit as much as China’s empty promises are seen for what they are.
As China’s standing on the climate change issue erodes ever further, Taiwan must remain on the right track. If we do, the international recognition that Taiwan deserves must surely follow.