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UN climate conference excludes Taiwan again

Environment minister calls Taiwan’s exclusion from COP28 extremely ‘unfair’

UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, UK. (REUTERS photo)

UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, UK. (REUTERS photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's exclusion from the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) this month is extremely unfair, Environment Minister Hsueh Fu-sheng (薛富盛) said in a recent interview with Nikkei Asia.

As the leading manufacturer of semiconductors, Taiwan is one of the top economies in the world, so “we think this is very unfair to Taiwan," Hsueh said, per CNA. Noting Taiwan’s contributions to economic development, science and technology, and public health, he expressed hope that Taiwan can share its experience with the world at this year’s COP28.

Due to pressure from China, the U.N. climate conference, like many other international mechanisms, will again exclude Taiwan. This comes as Taiwan is set to push ahead with ambitious climate reforms in the new year, including introducing carbon fees and strengthening net-zero policies in the private sector.

Starting Jan. 1, 2024, power generation and manufacturing companies that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon per year will be required to pay carbon fees. There are currently 512 companies that fall under this category, according to Hsueh.

The reforms were implemented after the Environmental Protection Agency was upgraded to a Cabinet-level ministry, the Ministry of Environment (MOE). The "Climate Change Response Act" was also passed this year, which sets a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 and a carbon fee system.

Hsueh emphasized, "Our goal is not to collect money. We want to see real emission reductions.” Under the Climate Change Response Act, carbon fee revenue will be allocated to the Greenhouse Gas Management Fund to support investments in emission reduction technologies, and to local governments for climate policy expenses.

This is a different approach from some countries, where carbon taxes go to the central government for other purposes, Hsueh added.

If companies lower carbon emissions beyond the policy threshold, they will be able to sell carbon credits on the Taiwan Carbon Solution Exchange, launched in August 2022. Companies may also offset the carbon fee by offering public incentives to cut emissions through subsidies for electric cars and other means, Hsueh said.

In regard to power generation, "Taiwan has set an ambitious goal of 60% to 70% of its energy from renewables by 2050,” said the environment minister. Renewables in Taiwan are mostly wind power or solar power, he added.

However, Taiwan faces several challenges, as coal still makes up 43.6% of the energy mix, and natural gas accounts for 38.9%. Renewable energy and nuclear energy account for 8.7% and 6.4%, respectively, per government data.

The Taiwan government wanted to abolish nuclear power after Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, but reliance on imported natural gas has raised energy security concerns, especially as China's military has expanded operations in the waters surrounding Taiwan.