Global warming has emerged as one of the major threats to human development in today’s world. In Taiwan, as in Maine, the people care deeply about the environment, and we know that we all share the same planet. As inhabitants of a densely populated island situated in one of the most geologically and meteorologically sensitive regions of the world, we are keenly aware of our particular vulnerability to the many threats of the global environmental change.
Over the past decade, the challenges posed by climate change have only continued to grow. In Taiwan we know the all too real impact of the world’s changing environment. In 2009, Taiwan suffered through typhoon Morakot, which dumped close to 10 feet of rainfall in some locations over just three days and brought unprecedented devastation, causing death and destruction. Unfortunately, many feel this is just a prelude for what is to come. As the world warms, storms are sure to increase in intensity, and we will face the threats of rising sea levels, severe heat waves, water shortages and more.
The threat posed by global warming clearly affects Maine as well. In a 2009 report conducted by the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine, for instance, it stated that climate change poses a great risk to the Gulf of Maine and the many marine species that inhabit its waters. Also, as Maine is a coastal state, rising sea levels can create storms more dangerous and frequent, a phenomenon with which Taiwan is all too familiar.
As no country will be immune to the impact of global warming, it is of paramount importance that the international community address these challenges together to ensure our planet’s sustainable development.
While the Republic of China (Taiwan) government has been excluded from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its related mechanisms, it remains eager to join international efforts aimed at saving energy, reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change. Under the leadership of President Ma Ying-jeou and his administration, Taiwan has made great strides toward reducing its own carbon footprint and has worked arduously to transform itself into a “low-carbon, green energy island.”
Direct and regular access to meetings and activities of the UNFCCC will enable Taiwan to better deal with the impact of climate change. However, in light of the realities of Taiwan’s unique political status, until now Taiwan has been represented only by the Industrial Technology Research Institute, a nonprofit research institution in Taiwan, as an observer in sessions of the Conference of the Parties, the convention’s decision-making body.
As a nongovernment observer, the ITRI delegation from Taiwan is allowed only limited access to COP events. It has been holding side events at COP sessions since 2010, so as to demonstrate Taiwan’s commitment to join the global effort to combat climate change.
As a responsible member of the international community, Taiwan has been committed to contributing to the fight against climate change and is one of a few countries to have voluntarily announced reduction targets for carbon dioxide emissions. Moreover, Taiwan can only enhance its contributions if it is able to participate in COP and the UNFCCC in a more comprehensive manner.
Since May 2009, Taiwan’s ministry of health and welfare has been invited to attend the World Health Assembly — the decision-making body of the World Health Organization — as an observer under the designation “Chinese Taipei.” Meanwhile, on Sept. 11 this year, the president of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization officially invited the ROC’s Civil Aeronautics Administration to attend the 38th session of the Assembly of ICAO under the name “Chinese Taipei.”
We hope that this sets a useful precedent for the international community to include Taiwan as a more active participant in major international organizations that affect positive change. We believe that Taiwan, like Maine, can play an important role in achieving the common goal of protecting against climate change if given the opportunity.
Anne Hung is director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston.