September 5, 2016
Background Information No. 048
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is holding the 2016 UNFCCC NGO Forum at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs on September 5 as a way of forging closer ties between environmental NGOs in Taiwan and NGO observers accredited to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It also reflects the spirit of climate diplomacy espoused by President Tsai Ing-wen, who in her inauguration speech stated: “We will also not be absent on the prevention of global warming and climate change.”
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Javier Ching-shan Hou is making the opening remarks at the forum, which has “Adapting to the Challenges—Living with Climate Change and Advancing toward the Future” as its theme. Invited to also give speeches are: Deputy Minister of the ROC Environmental Protection Administration, Thomas Shun-Kuei Chan; Marshallese Ambassador to the ROC, Frederick Muller; Deputy Mayor of New Taipei City, Yeh Huey-Ching; Deputy Mayor of Taoyuan City, Dr. Wang Ming-Teh; Deputy Mayor of Taichung City, Lin Yi-Ying; and Deputy Mayor of Tainan City, Yen Chun-Tso. Other attendees include: Tuvaluan Ambassador to the ROC Minute Alapati Taupo; Kiribati Ambassador to the ROC Teekoa Iuta; Nauran Ambassador to the ROC Chitra Jeremiah; the secretary general of the internationally renowned ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability, Gino Van Begin; the former deputy director-general of the World Wide Fund for Nature and international climate specialist, Dr. Jørgen Randers; the executive director of Climate Action Network, Kenro Taura; and representative of environmental organizations in the Marshall Islands, Milan Loeak. Also taking part are local representatives from industry, government, academia, and the media, bringing the number of participants to over 100.
Climate change is as much a regional issue as it is a global one, and the legally binding Paris Agreement reached at the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP21) underscores that coping with global climate change has already become a strategic priority for local governments. To better understand the latest thinking and various viewpoints on the matter, NGO representatives and experts from Germany, Norway, Japan, and the Marshall Islands, as well as their counterparts in Taiwan, have been invited to the forum as panelists. Deputy Minister Hou will point out in his opening remarks that the time to act on climate change is now, and that Taiwan and its diplomatic allies the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Tuvalu, and Kiribati, who are all represented at the forum, are island nations that are suffering severely at the hands of climate change. He will stress that the ROC government plans to engage in more international cooperation to tackle the issue and, based on the spirit of mutual assistance embodied in the Steadfast Diplomacy policy, will continue to work with its allies and strive to contribute more to the international community, including through meaningful participation in the UNFCCC.
Since climate change at the regional level is even more complex, local governments play a vital role in implementing measures to reduce carbon emissions, adding urgency to the notion of thinking globally, acting locally. In addition to towns and cities, greater participation by non-governmental organizations and the public in general are also needed to strengthen the public-private partnership. Climate change specialist Mr. Van Begin, and Dr. Jørgen Randers, author of the book 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, have been especially invited to give keynote speeches.
On the subject of local government leaders sharing their administrative experiences, Mr. Van Begin will also hold dialogues with the four deputy mayors, as well as the deputy commissioner of the Taipei City Department of Environmental Protection. All share the belief that cities face growing challenges and risks as a result of climate change and, as such, cities in Taiwan have been active in establishing collaborative partnerships with their counterparts in other countries through global city networks. Representatives of Taiwan’s cities formed a Chinese Taipei delegation that went to COP21 in Paris last year to take part in events held by global city networks, and give voice to Taiwan’s experiences in sustainable city management.
The Paris Agreement, which has been signed by 177 parties—176 countries and the European Union—calls on signatories to jointly face climate change challenges by drawing on the collective desire, determination, and efforts of governments, public-private partners, and civil society. Taiwan’s UNFCCC NGO observers also hold side meetings and booth exhibitions at the yearly COP sessions, raising the nation’s profile. Taiwan’s local governments are also active in various global city networks, allowing them to keep abreast of international trends, share sustainable management practices, and show their willingness to cooperate internationally.
The 2016 UNFCCC NGO Forum is divided into three main sessions covering issues that are all important in the wake of the Paris Agreement: (1) local governance and leadership in response to climate change and rising sea levels; (2) adaptation and civic participation in small island states; and (3) public-private partnerships. Taiwan hopes the international community recognizes the considerable effort it has put into drawing up policies to cope with climate change, and will therefore take concrete steps to back the ROC Environmental Protection Administration’s attendance at future COP events as an observer in a governmental capacity. This will enable Taiwan to contribute more effectively to the international community in such areas as climate change mitigation and carbon reduction. (E)