Taiwan ranks low in climate change performance; EPA disputes findings

Taiwan ranked 60th out of 63 countries and the European Union in the latest annual Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) released Tuesday, but Taiwan's government has taken issue with the findings.

The CCPI, compiled by Germany-based groups Germanwatch, NewClimate Institute and Climate Action Network International, ranked the climate performance of the countries and the EU based on four categories: greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, energy use, and climate policy.

Taiwan finished 62nd in emissions, 58th in renewable energy, 57th in energy use and 42nd in climate policy for a combined ranking of 60th, three notches lower than in the 2020 report, and was one of 15 countries that earned a "very low" performance rating.

No country in the survey earned a "very high" rating.

Taiwan has announced a net zero emissions goal for 2050 and will likely announce a goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2050, the CCPI report said, and the climate experts consulted in compiling the report welcomed the climate ambition represented by those targets, it indicated.

"The experts, however, note that the development of renewable energy should be more ambitious and that the expansion should not cause ecological damage (e.g., destruction of algae reefs, forests, and wetlands through natural gas)," the report said.

"Overall, the experts demand a fossil fuel phase-out, announcement of emissions peak, and long-term strategies for renewable energy and emissions targets."

Taiwan's government disputed the findings, primarily on two counts. It said Taiwan's population was undercounted by 3 million people, skewing the index's results because half of its indicators are based on per capita calculations.

Tsai Lin-yi (???), the head of the Environmental Protection Administration's (EPA) Department of Sanitation & Toxic Substance Management, accused Germanwatch of not only getting the population wrong but also of showing an increase in Taiwan's total greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 when they actually went down.

"The data announced today has harmed Taiwan. [The report] failed to show fairness and has caused difficulties for Taiwan's carbon reduction efforts," Tsai said Wednesday.

Tsai and the EPA also argued that carbon intensity (CO2 emissions per U.S. dollar of gross domestic product) better reflected the performance of each country in lowering emissions, rather than per capita emissions.

Based on that measure, the EPA said, Taiwan's carbon intensity was 0.227 kg CO2/US$ of GDP, slightly below Japan (0.221) but better than South Korea (0.296) and China (0.512).

In the Germanwatch survey, China was ranked 37th, Japan was ranked 45th, and South Korea ranked 59th.

Taiwanese representatives have protested previous CCPI results to Germanwatch on numerous occasions and provided information on emissions, policies and renewable energy development, Tsai said, but to no avail.

Asked by CNA about the population and emission data issues raised by Tsai, a Germanwatch spokesperson said experts have pointed out discrepancies in the data and that it is checking its calculations.

"But regardless of which data source we choose, we do not expect any significant change in our CCPI outcome," the spokesperson said.

The preference for the per capita emissions metric rather than emissions per unit of GDP is because it better reflects the need for a quick reduction of total global emissions to limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as agreed in Paris in 2015, according to Germanwatch.

"Countries 'reducing' their emissions for a unit of GDP does not automatically mean total emissions are declining as well. Economic growth can still cause higher total emissions," and can be used by governments to justify "not reducing (or reducing slowly) absolute emissions," the spokesperson said,

According to the World Meteorological Organization, global temperatures in the first 10 months of 2020 were 1.2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, raising the alarm.

"Only if emissions are halved by 2030 there is a chance to keep 1.5°C within reach. Every 0.1°C increases the probability of irretrievable climate tipping points with runaway tendencies and far more dangerous climate change. We are now at a crossroads with little time left for decision-making," the CCPI report said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel