Climate change is the most significant global challenge of our time. The implications of our rapidly warming world are as grave as they are far-reaching. Already, climate change is affecting every corner of the planet and threatening to displace millions of people in the years to come. In light of this threat, the international community must take action to offset the worst effects of global warming.
Taiwan is stepping up to the plate. Earlier this year, President Tsai Ing-wen signed the sweeping Climate Change Response Act, enshrining our commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 into law. As of Jan. 1, 2024, Taiwanese businesses that emit over 25,000 tons of carbon a year will be subject to carbon fees, incentivizing carbon emission reduction among over 500 companies.
The carbon fees will drive climate action, with revenues going to a Greenhouse Gas Management Fund to boost development in carbon reduction and capture technologies. Revenues will also be redirected to municipalities to help cover costs associated with energy transition. The law is in keeping with the first phase of Taiwan’s net-zero science and technology program, which fosters net-zero technology research, development, and applications.
This August, Taiwan’s government restructured its environmental agency into the cabinet-level Ministry of Environment to prioritize action on climate policy. Meanwhile, the ministry’s new Climate Change Administration has been tasked with managing responses to climate change and curbing emissions. These reforms are only the latest Taiwan has long taken to address climate issues.
Our efforts have already resulted in considerable achievements. Last year, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Taiwan’s energy efficiency eighth in the world and second in Asia. Taiwan’s renewable energy installations have grown 21.9 percent annually for the last five years, doubly exceeding global standards. Taiwan has also ramped up its wind and solar power capacity, with renewable energy set to produce 10 percent of Taiwan’s electricity in 2023.
The reason that Taiwan takes climate change so seriously is that we are vulnerable to its most severe repercussions. As an island nation, rising sea levels and extreme weather events like typhoons will particularly affect it. With 2023 set to be the world’s hottest year on record, the Taiwanese people know it is imperative to act now.
Yet, no country can solve climate change alone. Despite its exemplary leadership on climate change and the urgent need for international cooperation, Taiwan has been barred from meaningful participation in multilateral platforms such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The UNFCCC’s governing body meets annually to discuss the best methods for addressing climate change, but any proposed solution that excludes Taiwan’s contributions is incomplete.
There is one primary reason for Taiwan’s exclusion: the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Having sought control over our homeland for decades, the PRC continuously seeks to isolate Taiwan on the world stage and pressures other countries to avoid engaging with us. At the United Nations, in particular, Beijing intentionally misrepresents the meaning of General Assembly Resolution 2758, falsely presenting the resolution as evidence for its claims of sovereignty over Taiwan.
But the truth is that the PRC has never controlled Taiwan and thus has no right to speak on behalf of the Taiwanese people at the United Nations. As a leading emitter of greenhouse gases, the PRC also has no right to prevent Taiwan from working with the United Nations to alleviate the worst effects of climate change. Future generations will not forgive us should we continue to let international politics get in the way of addressing global warming.
Unable to be a formal party to the UNFCCC, we have nonetheless persevered, updating our policies and goals in step with the international community and the latest research. We collaborate on climate policy with like-minded partners when and where possible, such as in Taiwan’s own Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF) sessions and other multilateral forums.
As a key player in the next-generation technologies crucial to combatting climate change, Taiwan must have a voice in the global debates and efforts surrounding global warming. Looking forward to the years ahead, Taiwan will continue to prioritize climate action both domestically and on the international stage. Taiwan is ready and willing to help solve climate change—and we must act before it’s too late.
Robin Cheng is the Taiwan government’s deputy representative to the United States.