The phenomenon that Taiwan has the worst drought in a 100-year period and subsequent torrential rains in 2021 proves that climate change is happening and human beings need to respond actively. Net-zero carbon emissions has become a global trend and Taiwan has set this as a national goal. To this end, Taiwan already established the Net-Zero Emissions Office in 2021 and announced an investment of US$35.2 million in 2022. The net-zero carbon emissions policy impacts Taiwan’s agriculture significantly, considering agriculture is an important part of our economy. Therefore, this study investigates Taiwan's net-zero emission action plan and strategies for the agriculture sector.
Keywords: Net-zero carbon emissions, Agriculture, Carbon stock, Circular agriculture
Taiwan's agricultural losses have expanded to US$45.8 million a year in recent years under climate change. Therefore, the Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan of Taiwan established the Net-Zero Emissions Office to address this critical issue in September, 2021. The annual carbon emissions of Taiwan's agriculture are nearly 5-6 million tons, accounting for 2.22% of the country’s 260 million tons. According to Taiwan’s National Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report released in 2021, the agricultural sector’s greenhouse gas emissions account for about 2.22% of Taiwan’s emissions (including fuel combustion and non-fuel combustion), of which agricultural soils accounted for 35.9% of the non-fuel combustion, followed by livestock and poultry urine treatment with 27.2%, rice cultivation accounted for 18.5%, and livestock and poultry gastrointestinal fermentation accounted for 17.4%.
It is expected that agriculture will achieve net-zero emissions by 2040. NT$10 billion budget was announced to invest in February, 2022 to achieve the carbon neutrality goal. By 2040, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by 50%, from organic friendly farmlands up to 45,000 hectares, 100% of electrified agricultural machinery, 1,000 high-bed pig houses, and 50% of chemical fertilizers being replaced by organic fertilizers. On an annual basis, 66,000 hectares of public and private lands will be newly planted, 80,000 hectares of old bamboo forests will be renewed, 5,000 tons of fuel rods will be produced, and 1,080 hectares of seagrass habitat will be built for carbon sink. In addition, a circular farm area has been established, and more than 5 million tons of agricultural surplus materials will be recycled.
Developing green energy agriculture requires 100% green energy power generation to provide agricultural electricity. Other strategies include building citizen power plants in rural villages to provide more than 40% of the country's green electricity, establishing an effective carbon pricing and carbon rights trading system, and labelling carbon footprint for major agricultural products. In the past 1 to 2 years, the carbon footprints of agricultural products have been labelled to encourage consumers to support domestic products. This increases the food self-sufficiency rate to over 40%.
STRATEGIES AND MEASURES
In February, 2022, the Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan hosted the Strategy Conference Towards Net-Zero Emissions in Agriculture. Nearly 200 experts in related fields attended the conference. The Minister of the Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan, Dr. Chi-Chung Chen, announced that the Taiwan agricultural sector will achieve the net-zero emission target by 2040. The four major goals include carbon reduction, carbon stock improvement, agriculture circulation, and green trend. The goal will be implemented by associated strategies and measures. Through cross-unit and inter-country cooperation, the incentives are formed and the carbon credits trading system will be established. In accordance with the national agricultural conference, reviews and discussions with the industry, government, and academic will be held regularly. The strategies are listed as follows:
- Taiwan will establish a comprehensive database of carbon emissions in agricultural production and establish a low-carbon production system, so as to achieve the goal of reduction and effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Taiwan will increase the area of forest carbon sinks, strengthen forest management, increase the utilization of domestic timber, and strengthen the management of carbon sinks in oceans and wetlands, so as to construct carbon-negative farming schemes and strengthen carbon sink benefits.
- Taiwan will enhance agricultural surplus resources, promote agricultural recycling demonstration sites, strengthen agricultural recycling technology R&D, and create agricultural value-added reuse.
- Taiwan will build energy-independent villages, promote effective carbon pricing and carbon credits trading systems, so as to achieve self-sufficiency in electricity consumption in rural areas. Also, specific practices will be set to achieve net-zero emissions in agriculture by 2040.
- Taiwan will establish an information system on carbon emissions from agricultural production, so as to reasonably estimate reductions. Additionally, a low-carbon production model will be set for agricultural productions, such as endowment friendly farming and precision fertilization technology.
Not only relying on forests, bamboo has also carbon sequestration ability
According to the data in Taiwan over the years, the carbon storage from the agricultural sector has an annual carbon storage of approximately 21 million tons of CO2. The annual emission of the entire agricultural sector is about 5 million tons of CO2. Therefore, agriculture has achieved zero carbon emissions. The agricultural sector is also able to be carbon neutral after deducting the carbon sequestration in forestry.
When it comes to increasing carbon sequestration, a direct way is to increase the forest area. The challenge is to keep increasing the forest carbon density given the constraint of Taiwan's land area. Bamboo is the fastest growing, highly regenerative, and versatile carbon sequestering material. It is an important material to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals set by United Nations. The area of bamboo forests exceeds 30 million hectares globally, 85% of which are distributed in Asia and Taiwan accounts for 7%, with a total of 183,000 hectares. In the future, Taiwan could promote the regeneration of bamboo forests to further increase the carbon storage.
Moving from linear to circular economy to achieve sustainability
Agriculture should be a circular economy because agricultural products can be reused from “farm to fork” without any waste. There have been relevant studies and practices in converting agricultural wastes into renewable resources. For example, animal manure can be recycled and biogas slurry can be used to irrigate farmland. Biogas residue can be made into organic compost and returned to farmland. The biological substances can be reused and the agriculture sector is the best field to implement in such an environment. In addition, Taiwan should create a new economic model to increase farmers' incentives through carbon pricing and carbon credits acquisition. This could guide farmers to reduce carbon emissions at the production end through formulation of policies and regulations.
President Ing-wen Tsai of Taiwan announced in 2021 that the country will achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Since agriculture is one of the most affected industries, Taiwan has been developing various technologies to combat potential dangers caused by climate change. Many countries have also proposed strategies. For example, the raw materials products should be completely from regenerative agriculture since 2025 in France. Healthy soils are also an important carbon sink for the earth. Carbon is captured and stored in the soils through plant photosynthesis. However, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization pointed out that one-third of the world's land is moderately or highly degraded. In the future, Taiwan should set guidelines on increasing soil coverage and organic farming to improve soil health, which can effectively sequester carbon and slow down global warming. Taiwan should also work on strategies to increase the carbon sequestration capacity of oceans, in addition to forests and soils.
The Council of Agriculture Executive Yuan of Taiwan, 2022a. https://ccpo.coa.gov.tw/index.php
The Council of Agriculture Executive Yuan of Taiwan, 2022b. https://www.coa.gov.tw/theme_data.php?theme=news&sub_theme=agri&id=8482
The Council of Agriculture Executive Yuan of Taiwan, 2022c. https://law.coa.gov.tw/GLRSnewsout/LawContent.aspx?id=GL001377