A Brief Introduction on Net-zero Emission Policy in the Agriculture Sector: Taiwan’s Experience

A Brief Introduction on Net-zero Emission Policy in the Agriculture Sector: Taiwan’s Experience

Published: 2022.05.23
Accepted: 2022.05.19
11
Professor
Department of Financial and Economic Law; Dean, Office of International Affairs, National University of Kaohsiung, Taiwan

ABSTRACT

In response to extreme weather events caused by climate change, world leaders are called upon to adopt more aggressive and sustained greenhouse gas emission reduction measures to stabilize global temperature rise not exceeding 1.5°C by 2041. There are currently 137 countries that have committed to carbon neutrality. Most of these commitments aim at reaching the carbon neutrality goal by 2050. In response to global trends to achieve the carbon neutrality goal, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen announced on April 22, 2021, that Taiwan will achieve the carbon neutrality goal by 2050. This article will first explore Taiwan’s overall policy framework for achieving net-zero emission targets. The main features and policy measures for achieving net-zero emissions in Taiwan’s agriculture sector will be discussed. Suggestions and observations of Taiwan’s carbon neutral policy in the agriculture sector will also be provided.

Keywords: net-zero emission, climate change, agriculture carbon policy, climate change mitigation, Paris Agreement

INTRODUCTION

The recent report of the Sixth Assessment Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was issued in August 2021, stated that the human-induced greenhouse gas emission is responsible for an approximately 1.1°C increase compared to the pre-industrial level, and the global temperature increase is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C by 2041. In response to extreme weather events caused by climate change, world leaders are called upon to adopt more aggressive and sustained GHGs reduction measures to stabilize the global temperature rise (IPPC, 2021). The COP26 held in November 2021 has established the Glasgow Climate Pact, the first international climate agreement that explicitly sets the goal of phasing down coal usage within the next decade. More than 40 states have developed ambitious plans for phasing out coal usage at the COP26. The Glasgow Climate Pact urges contracting parties to reduce the global carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030. This concerns the 2010 emission level and net-zero emission targeted by mid-century to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

The EU and the U.S. have pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. China, the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter and India, with a high dependency on coal, has also pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 and 2070. Some other industrial economies, such as Japan and Korea, are also following the pace of 2050 net-zero emissions. Governments and industries worldwide have begun to focus on planning carbon reduction measures for the next decade to meet the mid-2030 emission reduction target as required by the Paris Agreement. The European Union, U.S, Japan, Korea, China, and India have proposed specific timetables for net-zero carbon emissions and carbon neutrality before or at the COP26. There are four major emission sectors in the context of global GHG emissions. They are energy, agriculture, industry, and transportation. A recent survey reveals that 73% of global GHGs emissions come from energy consumption. This article will first explore Taiwan’s overall policy framework for achieving net-zero emission targets. The main features and policy measures for achieving net-zero emissions in Taiwan’s agriculture sector will be explored. Suggestions and observations of Taiwan’s carbon neutral policy in the agriculture sector will also be provided.

OVERVIEW OF TAIWAN’S NET-ZERO EMISSION LAW AND POLICY

In response to global trends to achieve the carbon neutrality goal, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen announced on April 22, 2021, that the government aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Taiwan’s government is taking a two-pronged approach: pushing for energy transition and reducing GHG emissions from the manufacturing, transportation, residential construction, and agriculture sectors. The Net-zero Pathway Task Force has thus been established to achieve the net-zero emissions goal by 2050. The Task Force is mainly conducted by the National Development Council, overseeing four Divisions: Decarbonization of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Industry, Green Transportation, and Carbon Sink. Taiwan’s Congress passed the law called the “Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act” in July 2015. The Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act sets the national GHGs long-term reduction target to reduce GHG emissions to more than 50% of 2005 GHG emissions by 2050. The Executive Yuan also proposed the “Climate Change Action Act” as the revised legislation for the existing “Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act” in 2021 that expresses and incorporates the net-zero emission goal as a legally binding obligation to the government. The Act also refines the GHGs emission reduction mechanisms, such as institutional rearrangement in overseeing the implementation of net-zero emission policy, carbon fees collection, climate mitigation fund, and clear mid-term and long-term GHGs emission reduction goals.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs is responsible for policy initiatives for Renewable Energy Development. The Energy Management Act requires the government to initiate an Energy Basic Plan that aims to increase the share of electricity production from renewable sources to 20% by 2025. Notably, President Tsai Ing-wen and the ruling party of the Democratic Progress Party (DPP) under her leadership have pledged for non-nuclear homeland policy since President Tsai took office in 2016. The DPP government thus has promulgated the Energy Basic Plan, which aims to remove nuclear power and shift to LPG (50%), Coal (30%), and renewable energy (20%) for gross electricity production by 2025.

Because the percentage of electricity from renewable sources accounts for only 5.47% in 2021, there is a great necessity to establish a comprehensive and sound regulatory framework to increase energy efficiencies and renewable energy. Taiwan has established a comprehensive legal framework for promoting the development of renewable energy through the revision of the “Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act,” the “Renewable Energy Development Act,” and the amendments to the “Energy Management Law” since 2009. The "Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act" requires the government to develop medium and long-term strategies to reduce fossil fuel dependence and set a medium, gradually- and long-term goal for renewable energy development.

In achieving the National Determined Contributions (NDCs) set by states by 2030 or even the net-zero emission commitments by 2050, Taiwan’s government has initiated long-term planning and intensive policy to improve renewable energy ratio in the energy mix, energy efficiency, green transportation, and carbon capture and storage technology development in the manufacturing sector. There are, however, limitations in carbon reduction technology for specific countries or regions due to their technology and economic feasibility and capacities. The enhancement of carbon sink thus plays a vital role in offsetting remaining GHGs emissions even though utmost efforts have been made in terms of carbon reduction and energy transition. Forests, soils, and oceans have diverse ecological service values and have great potential to absorb or store a significant amount of carbon dioxide. It is thus critical and beneficial to protect the ecosystems by enhancing forest management, wetland and marine conservation, and incorporating environmental considerations in land planning and usage.

Recognizing the potential for enhancing carbon sinks as a practical pathway to achieving the carbon neutrality goal by the mid-century, the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forest and Land Use were initiated in the COP26 to end deforestation and land loss by 2030. In addition, the EU adopts the “Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forest Conservation Act” (LULUCF), requiring all member states to enhance forest and land management, restorative forest lands, and prohibition of deforestation. LULUCF, if effectively implemented, is expected to reduce 310 million tons of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. EU LULUCF also targets to plant more than three billion trees in Europe by 2030. Learning from the lesson of global trends in promoting natural-based carbon sinks through the conservation of ecosystems, sustainable land management and agriculture farming practices, the enhancement of natural-based carbon sinks has been included as one of the 12 critical strategies in the latest National Roadmap for achieving carbon neutrality declared by Taiwan’s National Development Committee on March 30, 2022. Notably, the Council of Agriculture has taken the lead among various government agencies in formulating a net-zero emission roadmap and related policies in the agriculture sector before the official release of the National Roadmap for Achieving Net-zero Emission. Part three of the article will provide a more in-depth discussion of the carbon neutrality policy framework.  

OVERVIEW OF TAIWAN’S NET-ZERO EMISSION POLICY IN THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR

In September 2021, the Council of Agriculture first established the Office of Net-Zero Emission in response to climate impacts on agriculture and seeking enhancement. In February 2022, it published the first comprehensive and clear net-zero emission pathway and roadmap in the agriculture sector by 2040. However, compared to Taiwan's overall carbon emissions of 287 million tons, agricultural carbon emissions only account for 2.22%. However, the territory of Taiwan is covered by approximately 61% forest and thus presents an excellent potential for its carbon sink. Under Taiwan’s GHGs emission inventory report released in 2019, the forest carbon sink per hectare was 9.76 metric tons, with 21.44 million tons. The carbon sink of the forest alone could easily offset total carbon emissions in the agriculture sector. Moreover, Taiwan is an island state with a coastal line of approximately 1,200 km. It thus presents an excellent potential to enhance carbon sink by improving the conservation of coastal wetlands and promoting the afforestation of mangrove trees. Agricultural soils also provide great potential for carbon sequestration. The agriculture policy aims to sustain farming practices and improve grass covering of marginal areas of land, which may enhance the carbon storage capacity of agricultural lands.  

The Minister of the Council of Agriculture, Dr. Chi-Chung Chen, officially announced the roadmap for net-zero emission in the agriculture sector and committed to a net-zero emission goal by 2040 in February 2022. There are four main features and related measures of the net-zero emissions roadmap in the agriculture sector.

  1. Carbon Reduction: The roadmap requires the establishment of a carbon emission inventory for various farming practices. Establish a low-carbon, sustainable, and organic production model for agriculture, fisheries, and livestock farming to achieve the GHGs emission reduction targets.
  2. Carbon Sink Enhancement: Enhancing carbon sink through afforestation and reforestation, forest management, and improving the utilization of domestic wooden materials. The roadmap also calls for establishing soil carbon stock estimation and MRV (measurement, reporting, and verification) schemes. It also entails improving the research and development of carbon-negative plants and farming practices, strengthening the ocean and wetland management to enhance carbon sink, and establishing an MRV scheme for fisheries and aquaculture carbon sink.
  3. Circular Economy: The roadmap calls for promoting agricultural cross-domain recycling demonstration sites and encouraging and investing in research and development regarding agricultural waste recycling technology and value-added reuse of farming wastes.
  4. Carbon Trading: The roadmap calls for establishing carbon pricing and carbon rights trading systems in the agricultural sector. The promotion of green financing mechanisms and green consumption have also been highlighted. The roadmap calls for the promotion of public-private partnership in building self-energy sufficiency and 100% electricity consumption from renewables such as solar PV and wind-power farms, and waste-for-energy that serves farming and fishing activities.

In short, once the challenges of net-zero carbon emission goals have been achieved through various means, it is critical to seek carbon offset by a natural-based carbon sink. The Council of Agriculture has estimated that the forest carbon sink in Taiwan will be 21.4 million metric tons (Mt) in 2019 and expects to increase the forest carbon sink to 22.5 Mt in 2050. In this regard, the net-zero emission policy in the agriculture sector will play a strategic role in reaching the carbon neutrality goal by 2050. 

CONCLUSION

In the face of the global climate crisis, world leaders have finally taken actual actions to mitigate the GHGs emissions and are even committed to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century. Taiwan's agriculture net-zero emission experience first provides a lesson for policymakers to establish a coordinated institutional framework comprising government officials, experts, industry, and NGOs to establish a strong linkage between existing environmental conservation laws and carbon neutrality goals. However, enhancing carbon sink from natural resources plays a vital role in providing carbon offset solutions for the industrial sector in meeting legally binding GHGs emission reduction goals. Second, the roadmap and practical policy measures shall also be developed to enhance government-private enterprises-academia partnerships regarding carbon evaluation, carbon pricing, and carbon credits transfer and trading efforts. In addition to the government-led net-zero emission efforts to establish a comprehensive legal and policy framework and implementation measures, the voluntary programs conducted by private parties, especially major CO2 emitters, could contribute to the net-zero emission target achievement. Finally, Taiwan’s experience has faced challenges in carbon footprint assessment. It requires further refinement and in-depth discussion concerning two types of assessment: from production sites to delivery or from production sites to consumers’ tables.

REFERENCES

Chang Tzi-chin (2021, October 28) Taiwan: Cooperating with the World to Achieve a Net-Zero Future, Diplomat, available at, https://thediplomat.com/2021/10/taiwan-cooperating-with-the-world-to-achieve-a-net-zero-future/

EU Commission (2021), Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, The Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, 'Fit for 55': delivering the E.U.'s 2030 Climate Target on the way to climate neutrality https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52021DC0550&from=EN.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2021), The Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis-Summary for Policymakers (2021), (pp5-9). available at, https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_SPM_fin...

Guardian (Nov. 14. 2021), What are the critical points of the Glasgow climate pact? Available at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/14/what-are-the-key-poi... (last visited on Nov. 17, 2021).

Glasgow Climate Pact (2021), available at,  https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/cop26_auv_2f_cover_decision.pdf  

Legislators call for climate law to set emissions targets, Taipei Times (Mar 01, 2021) available.

The Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan, Taiwan (2022) available at, https://ccpo.coa.gov.tw/index.ph

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