News / Asia

Taiwan Starts Cutting Emissions at the Village Level

Chientan borough chief Bi Wu-liang shows an outdoor dog toilet as part of an eco-friendly park in his part of Taipei.
Chientan borough chief Bi Wu-liang shows an outdoor dog toilet as part of an eco-friendly park in his part of Taipei.
Ralph Jennings

In Taiwan, heavy industry fouls the water and air to make electronics for export. Citizens typically run the air-conditioning all year, throw out plastic utensils with daily boxed lunches and leave their cars idling at the curbside. But Taiwan’s government wants to make a better environmental name for itself by cutting its carbon dioxide emissions.

Chientan Borough, a cul-de-sac neighborhood of crowded Taipei, looks like a giant tropical garden. Unlike most of the densely populated Taiwanese capital of 2.6 million people, Chientan has planted trees instead of allowing new construction. Rainfall is collected for volunteer-run gardens growing ferns, palmettos and bananas. The neighborhood of 4,000 residents also gather fallen leaves for compost, and 40 children walk to school instead of getting rides.

This whole effort started with a decision to landscape the roof of a defunct kindergarten instead of kicking up dust to build a new one.

He says that, from here onward, the borough will become a village for birds and flowers, with walking promoted as the main means of transportation. Bi adds that the borough’s activities and ideas have inspired leaders in other Taiwanese cities and counties.

Chientan borough chief Bi Wu-liang stands on a roof of a former kindergarten set to be razed and now supporting a garden watered by captured rain.
Chientan borough chief Bi Wu-liang stands on a roof of a former kindergarten set to be razed and now supporting a garden watered by captured rain.

Chientan belongs to an elite group of 52 small residential pockets around Taiwan that were declared last year low-carbon villages after applying to the government. Officials picked them to lead the way in cutting emissions across the island. Each village has its own priorities, with some cutting back on electricity use or finding new ways to recycle.

The island, plagued by pollution from decades of manufacturing and dense urban development, aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 to 2005 levels of 257 million metric tons, a 30 percent cut from projected business-as-usual levels by that year. Leu Horng-guang, superintendent of the low-carbon village program with Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Agency, worries about a lack of public support.

He says the low-carbon effort’s penetration rate is too low and that ordinary people generally do not care. He says borough leaders have led much of the effort so far, showing a passion and concern for their public image, but average citizens are indifferent as long as new measures do not cost them anything.

The EPA official concedes that every village-level cleanup measure is voluntary, making full compliance difficult. He says Taiwan’s electricity rates also remain low, giving consumers little practical incentive to cut back. The villages add up to only 0.64 percent of Taiwan’s population of 23 million.

Without a better environmental record, government officials fear that multinational companies will bypass Taiwan. Those firms may face pressure from eco-conscious consumers or their own corporate social responsibility statements to choose greener parts of Asia for factory sites. Taiwan’s rivals Japan and South Korea, which are also driven by manufacturing for export, have set carbon emissions targets similar to Taiwan’s.

Robin Winkler, co-convener of the Green Party Taiwan, says the low-carbon village effort stands out against similar programs, such as those in Europe, because of a strong government role in the process. But the American-born lawyer warns that Taiwan’s per-capita carbon footprint remains one of the world’s largest and that the village efforts may just create a false sense of progress.

"Unfortunately, at the same time the government is promoting these eco-villages or other measures, they continue to promote high-carbon, high-water, high-polluting industries [and] expansion of petrochemical plants," Winkler said. "They’re giving more permits for cement mines, all kinds of so-called science parks, and a high-polluting, high-carbon impact."

The EPA plans to expand low-carbon coverage to other parts of the island through 2020 in part by appealing to the corporate images of polluting manufacturers and, if needed, forcing polluters by law to make some hard changes. They hope that over the next eight years, the island will establish four massive low-carbon living areas encompassing the major cities.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid