On Monday last week, the Taipei Times published an opinion piece by National Tsing Hua University senior vice president Chen Sinn-wen (陳信文) titled “Creating a future with zero waste.”
In the op-ed, Chen quoted President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) from her Earth Day speech on April 22 last year, in which she said: “Most countries around the world are talking about achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and Taiwan is actively preparing to take steps toward this goal.”
Bringing up concepts like sustainability and a circular economy, Chen wrote that National Tsing Hua University had since 2014 promoted research and innovation on green technologies needed to achieve net-zero emissions.
Chen’s insightful article has inspired me to discuss the trend of net-zero emissions and the “original sin” of cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, decentralize the transaction validation process, relying instead on users to cross-validate each other’s data. The validated user then adds the transaction to a new “block,” which is called “mining.”
The process of validation relies on deploying computers to solve complex mathematical problems based on a cryptographic hash algorithm.
“Miners” compete with their peers to zero in on a hash value generated by a crypto coin transaction, and the first miner to crack the code gets to add the block to the ledger and receive coins as a reward.
However, given the power-intensive nature of mining coin transactions — cryptocurrency’s “original sin” — it was not a surprise when Tesla CEO Elon Musk went back on his decision to accept bitcoin as payment. Musk said the electric vehicle maker would not accept bitcoin until concerns over the energy-intensive requirements of mining and its contribution to climate change could be solved.
Tesla, a brand famous for being eco-friendly, needed to consider the net-zero trend spreading worldwide. At the COP26 climate summit, nearly 200 countries signed the Glasgow Climate Pact, an agreement to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
To regulate carbon-intensive imports to the EU and prevent the risk of carbon leakage, the EU is launching a “carbon border adjustment mechanism” next year, and is to levy a carbon border tariff on certain industries from 2026.
After Tsai announced that Taiwan would also be working to achieve net-zero carbon emissions, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said that it would amend the Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act (溫室氣體減量及管理法). The amendments cover the following:
First, the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 has been added.
Second, in Article 2 of the act, the level of climate governance has been enhanced. Different sectors are to be responsible for more concrete goals and task delegation: For example, the reduction of industrial greenhouse gas emissions would be overseen by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, building emissions by the Ministry of the Interior, transportation emissions by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and agricultural emissions by the Council of Agriculture.
Third, the government can impose carbon levies on domestic sources of emissions.
The Financial Supervisory Commission has amended the Regulations Governing Information to Be Published in Annual Reports of Public Companies (公開發行公司年報應行記載事項準則) to include an environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosure.
As part of ESG reporting, companies would be required to disclose key performance indicators on the environment, such as the amount of gas emissions, water consumption and waste disposal.
As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at COP26: “It’s one minute to midnight on that doomsday clock and we need to act now. If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow.”
Whether following a global trend, amending local policies or facing the inconvenient truth that “we only have one planet,” cutting greenhouse gas emissions and achieving net-zero emissions should be a responsibility shared by all humanity.
Chen Wan-yu is a Chiayi district court judge.
Translated by Rita Wang
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