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The EPA's vision and plans

On 1 October 2015 the ECCT hosted a Premium Event lunch featuring guest speaker Dr Wei Kuo-yen, Minister of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) on the subject "The EPA's vision and plans to confront challenges facing Taiwan's industry and society". Minister Wei gave an overview of the current status of Taiwan's efforts to address climate change, particularly following the passage of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction and Management Act. The EPA is now in the process of drafting a national action plan for climate change and implementation measures for cutting greenhouse gases to half of 2005 levels by 2050 (as specified in the act).

According to statistics quoted by the minister, Taiwan's total GHG emissions were responsible for about 0.55% of global emissions in 2012. While this is quite high on a per capita basis, the fact that Taiwan is an export-driven economy and a large amount of production activity goes into producing goods for export and not consumed in Taiwan, this should be factored into calculations of Taiwan's overall emissions.

Wei also made the point that Taiwan's overall emissions have more or less levelled off over the past seven years, despite an increase in GDP. According to statistics quoted by Wei, Taiwan's CO2 emission intensity has fallen from 0.0197 kilograms (kgs) per Taiwan dollar in 2007 to 0.0163 kgs per dollar in 2013 (about 2-3% per year). He said that this demonstrates a decoupling between economic growth and GHG emissions in over this period, mainly as a result of an improvement in energy efficiency.

Ahead of the COP21 meeting in Paris to be held in November this year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has requested parties to submit their own Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). As of 30 September 2015, the EU (28 member countries) and 106 countries have submitted their INDCs. Although Taiwan is not a member of the UN, it has submitted an INDC with the pledge to cut emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Wei pointed out that Taiwan already had legislation in place to address emissions, such as the Air Pollution Act but the GHG Act goes further to integrate the elements of mitigation, adaptation and green growth. In addition, the act emphasizes assisting traditional industries in carbon reduction and restructuring, the creation of the green economy and the promotion of low-carbon green growthprogrammes.

In consultation with industry, authorities and stakeholders, the EPA will develop and implement the National Climate Change Framework and GHG Reduction Implementation programme to set periodic five-year reduction targets. In accordance with the programme, the relevant authorities, especially the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Transportation and Communication and the Council of Agriculture, will develop sectoral GHG emissions control action plans, which will include sectoral emission reduction targets and incentives. Authorities will be required to complete annual reports of emissions reduction results and provide improvements plans if the targets are not met. Moreover, local authorities are to prepare implementation plans.

Implementation of the GHG Act will proceed in three phases. The first phase will involve mandatory inventory, reporting, and verification. In the second phase, the EPA is planning to set performance standards and provide rewards to encourage new and existing emitters to cut their emissions. Eventually, taking international developments and industry competitiveness into consideration, the EPA will establish a cap and trade scheme.

Prior to the GHG Act, businesses could apply for voluntary reduction credits via the "Early Action & Offset Projects" programme. While the early action crediting programme will end following the GHG Act, businesses will still be able to acquire credits through offset projects. Once the carbon market is set up, businesses will be able to receive emissions credits by trading.

Wei encouraged companies to organize working groups in the areas of accounting, registration, verification, voluntary reductions and cap and trade and set up standard operating procedures for various fields as a way to manage their carbon assets.

Wei said that the government is committed to increasing international cooperation on climate change and expressed appreciation to ECCT members and European member states that have provided advice and support. He noted that Taiwan could learn a lot from European governments and companies in terms of creating policy tools. In particular he said that he welcomed collaboration with European companies in developing performance standards and promoting low carbon technology development.