Monday, November 22, 2010

To be good, be green. Good.

Article in Reuters on the priority of environmental thinking in Taiwan, where it's really recognized as a key advantage in order to compete in the global marketplace. The dynamic is heartening:
Environmental awareness among the public + Social organizing + Enlightened
corporate self-interest -->

 Government responds to the pressure and updates/evolves environmental regulations.
Or as the article summarizes:
* New energy assessments, laws, emission targets proposed
* Top firms expected to save money, raise profiles long term
* Strong environmental rules could draw new investment
Taiwan is setting an good example across the Strait, where these environmentally conscious decisions will pay future dividends: better health, greater social cohesion (or harmony, as it were), enhanced competitiveness, and greater attraction for foreign investment, especially in a carbon-constrained world.

It is by no means perfect, but it's definitely making progress by recognizing the economic basis for making environmentalism a priority (in addition to many other reasons), and pushing the envelope for Asia.


Taiwan speeds up green laws to compete in Asia
Thu Nov 18, 2010 9:08am GMT

* New energy assessments, laws, emission targets proposed
* Top firms expected to save money, raise profiles long term
* Strong environmental rules could draw new investment

By Ralph Jennings

TAIPEI, Nov 18 (Reuters) - A wave of environmental protests in Taiwan, sometimes pitting demonstrators against police, has pushed the government to speed up new green rules to protect the environment without harming economic growth.

Economists say the stricter rules will ultimately raise the competitiveness of the $416-billion economy against greener Asian rivals and boost its corporate image among eco-conscious Western consumers.

"People realise the short-term interests from economic development, but worry long term about environmental protection, so we need to attain a balance," Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration chief Stephen Shen told Reuters.

The island industrialised in the 1980s with little public protest to become one of Asia's four economic dragons. Now, it is working on more transparent environmental reviews for new projects and tougher energy laws, including a tax regime and carbon reduction targets for 2020, 2025 and possibly 2050.

Officials also want to phase out traditional polluting industries and join international carbon trading schemes.

Government action follows a spate of protests, including an 8,000-strong rally over the weekend denouncing a planned 300,000 barrels-per-day oil refinery complex on Taiwan's west coast that could foul the air and hurt local dolphins.

Earlier outcries had already extended an environmental impact review of the $36-billion, CPC Corp-led Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co refinery project [ID:nTOE66D03J].

"The government hasn't told citizens why we absolutely need this plant," said Kan Chen-yi, secretary of a conservation group behind the protest. "It could spread pollution all over Taiwan, hurt dolphins and pollute the water."

Three fires in six months earlier in the year at a giant refinery run by Formosa Petrochemicals [ID:nTOE66P054] led to calls for its closure. Some protests sparked clashes with police.

In another case, farmers and environmentalists filed a lawsuit to block expansion of a science park in central Taiwan. The park was asked to reevaluate the environmental impacts and resubmit plans, the Government Information Office said.

The new measures will oblige the densely populated island's high-tech, petrochemical and textile companies to invest in upgrading factories.


But officials also hope for a latent dividend -- boosted corporate images and reduced energy bills.

"In the short term, in terms of costs, companies may look at the laws unfavourably, but these measures will be looked at very favourably by consumers in the United States," said Liu Li-gang, head of China economic research with ANZ in Hong Kong.

Stronger environmental laws are also expected to induce new investment as local startups or foreign firms want to see specifics on rules before making a commitment. Taiwan has long been criticised for murky or cumbersome business procedures.

The president of the American Chamber of Commerce says the 900-member body has questioned the transparency of Taiwan's environmental impact assessment methods.

"Firms don't want to put money into a plant and then find themselves responding to unclear or inconsistently applied rules," said Mark Williams, senior China economist with Capital Economics in London.

Taiwan is wary of its competition.

South Korea, heavily reliant on exports, has proposed legislation to launch a carbon emissions trading scheme [ID:nTOE6AG05W] this year, while Japan aims to pass a climate bill setting rigorous emissions targets.

Many Taiwan companies are not waiting to be told. They have cut emissions or recycled wastewater on their own, industry associations say, and expect to do more over the next five years.

The world's biggest contract chipmaker TSMC says it voluntarily cut perfluorocarbon emissions, a major greenhouse gas often used in medical applications, in 2001 and slashed its carbon emissions output in 2005.

"We have seen that consumers increasingly want to buy green products," TSMC's top publicist, Michael Kramer, said in a statement. "And naturally, conserving electricity and water as well as recycling materials reduces our costs."

(Additional reporting by Lin Miao-jung; Editing by Sugita Katyal and Ron Popeski)

FACTBOX: Taiwan's new rules to clean its environment
Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:23am GMT

TAIPEI Nov 18 (Reuters) - Taiwan is speeding up its environmental laws after a sudden surge in disputes this year to make the export-led $416-billion economy more competitive against its greener Asian rivals [ID:nTOE67A02M].

Here are details of major laws, goals and procedures Taiwan is are putting in place:

* An environmental impact assessment process that went into force in 2009 will get final touches to beef up transparency, officials say. After project details go online for public review, applicants, environmental groups and officials will form expert review committees to determine likely impacts and how they can be mitigated. The government has final authority over whether a project proceeds.

* Taiwan's legislature is considering rules that would authorise the Environmental Protection Administration to check the greenhouse gas output of major island polluters, about 270 of which have voluntarily offered data. Pressure from industry groups has kept parliament from scrapping the plan, which if approved would allow the government to set up a local carbon offset trading scheme.

* Air and water pollution standards are constantly becoming more strict.

* Taiwan has set goals to cut carbon dioxide emissions island-wide by 2020 to 2005 levels of about 257 million metric tonnes and knock them back to 2000 levels by 2025 [ID:nTOE62F04M].

Separately, President Ma Ying-jeou has said he wants annual emissions to fall to 107 million tonnes by 2050. Officials will create 50 low-carbon villages by next year and six low-carbon cities by 2014 would help reach those emissions goals, island officials have said [ID:nTOE63M05I].

* Taiwan is looking for a back-door route to international carbon trading schemes, possibly via African nations, to get past its political rival China, which would use its diplomatic clout to bar the island from formal entry [ID:nTOE62G05D].

* Officials hope gradually to replace Taiwan's traditional heavy manufacturing, such as textiles and petrochemials with lower-pollution sectors, including green energy, tourism and high-end agriculture [ID:nTOE67A06S].

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