Nov 13, 2013

Taiwan: Bid For Observer Status At UNFCCC

On Monday 11 November 2013, representatives of 195 countries discussed global warming at a meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Taiwan was not present but aims at obtaining observer status at Conferences of the Parties sessions in the near future.

Below is an article published by the Whittier Daily News:               

Although Taiwan has sought observer status in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for years, its governmental representatives were absent from the meeting in Poland on Monday [11 november 2013].          

Nearly all of the world’s nations have membership in the UNFCCC. Dignitaries from 195 member countries began meeting Monday [11 November 2013] until Nov. 22 to discuss how the international world could limit average global temperature increases.

Because of Taiwan’s unique political status, its Industrial Technology Research Institute, as a nongovernmental observer, is its only access to UNFCCC conferences. But Taiwan hopes to one day gain observer status at Conferences of the Parties sessions.

“We Taiwan and China have achieved some cooperation in aviation, culture and technology exchange, especially in the last few years,” said Perry Pei-hwang Shen, Taiwan’s director-general of the Department of Treaty and Legal Affairs. “But China is still very rigid in its one China policy and blocked our bid to join the UNFCCC. It’s very unfortunate. Taiwan has the willingness and capacity to make this world better.”

Natural disasters endanger the lives of about 23 million Taiwanese people. Taiwan is on an earthquake belt and has about three typhoons every year, its Environmental Protection Administration reported. So it has a vested interest in decreasing the threat of climate change.

In 2009 Typhoon Morakot dropped about 60 inches of rain in 24 hours. Floods and landslides resulted in the death or missing persons report of nearly 700 people, Taiwan’s EPA said.

The official death toll from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, some 750 miles away, rose to 1,774 on Tuesday [12 november 2013], though authorities have said they expect that to rise markedly, according to The Associated Press.

Officials and academics in the 18th-largest economy in the world said the international community would benefit if Taiwan received observer status.

The problem is “the real green the world cares about is money,” a fact especially plain now that the United States is in the Great Recession, said Chip Jacobs, co-author of an upcoming book about the ecological crisis in China. It will be the 2014 sequel to “Smogtown: the Lung-burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles.”

“China is the leading producer of carbon dioxide gases as well as a whole range of pollutants such as mercury and arsenic,” said Jacobs, from Pasadena. “It spent $1 million a day to clean up the air during the (2008) Olympics. It is one of the dirtiest countries and one of the most committed to being green.”

For its part, Taiwan voluntarily pledged to the international community that it would bring carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion back to 2000 levels by 2025. It also promised to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30 percent relative to business-as-usual numbers by 2020.

Its officials and academics also tout their technological advances. Taiwan is the world’s largest LED manufacturer and the second-largest solar cell producer. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Limited is the third-largest semiconductor company in the world, coming in behind Intel (United States) and Samsung (South Korea).

Officials said Taiwan has been granted “Chinese Taipei” observer status at least twice before. In May 2009, the United Nations began allowing Taiwan to participate in the World Health Assembly as an observer. Last month its Civil Aeronautics Administration was invited to attend the 38th Session of the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

“Something like climate change is not a political goal,” Shen said. “It’s a contribution for all people.”

Part of the reason is China — which claims 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world — is infuriated that “Taiwan, by being independent, just sticks the finger right into its eye,” Jacobs said.

After all, China is “the bully on the block” that is closely allied with North Korea and uses intimidation tactics with Japan in the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands dispute. So even though more than a million of China’s citizens die prematurely every year because of pollution — which translates “more than a 9/11 every day” — the world is not “as uptight about China’s pollution as it is uptight about China’s military regional aggressiveness,” Jacobs said.

Thus while the president of places such as the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Republic of Kiribati support Taiwan’s bid to join the UNFCCC as an observer, Taiwan has yet to be admitted.

“The impacts of climate change know no boundaries,” said Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou in a Ministry of Foreign Affairs DVD. “We sincerely hope those nations that are truly concerned about climate change will give Taiwan the dignity of being included in the world’s efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through the UNFCCC conferences and activities.”