EPA minister urges China not to block Taiwan from UNFCCC

EPA Minister Lee Ying-yuan reacts during a press event in Taipei on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. The head of Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration called on the Chinese government not to hinder Taiwan's efforts to join the global fight against climate change. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) – The head of Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) on Monday called on the Chinese government not to hinder Taiwan’s efforts to join the global fight against climate change.

“Such a world power (China) should have more confidence in itself,” Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) said at a press event in Taipei. “The climate change issue is a humanitarian one. We should all work together.” Lee made the appeal after he was blocked from attending the recent session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) due to objections from China.

Lee was barred from entering the conference venue at the UNFCCC Secretariat headquarters in Bonn, Germany, but managed to hold private discussions with delegates from Taiwan’s diplomatic allies and other friendly countries on the sidelines of the Nov. 6-17 conference.

Following his return to Taiwan, he told reporters Monday that his delegation held 31 rounds of bilateral meetings with the delegations from Taiwan’s diplomatic allies.

Lee said he took part in 19 of those meetings and met with representatives of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies and other countries friendly toward Taiwan.

The list included the presidents of the Marshall Islands and Nauru; the prime ministers of Tuvalu, Swaziland and St. Lucia; and the environmental ministers from Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Belize, Burkina Faso, Haiti, the Solomon Islands, and Jordan, according to Lee.

Representatives of 12 of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies spoke in support of Taiwan at this year’s COP 23, while 14 allies sent letters to the UNFCCC calling for Taiwan’s inclusion, he said.

Lee said Taiwan only wants meaningful participation in the UNFCCC to share its knowledge of environmental issues with all the countries affected by climate change.

Climate change is a global issue and requires cross-border cooperation, he said.

“Our absence from the UNFCCC undermines this simple fact and weakens the world’s ability to act as one,” Lee said.

Taiwan’s government earlier this month set a target of reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to a level 2 percent lower than in 2005.

The UNFCCC is an international treaty aimed at stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations and preventing their interference with the global climate system.

Since 2009, Taiwan has been lobbying to participate in the UNFCCC.

Although Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, it was allowed to attend one previous climate change meeting in the past.

In 2015, Wei Kuo-yen (魏國彥) attended the COP 21 meeting as environmental minister, when the Kuomintang was in power in Taiwan, although he was not allowed to participate in any capacity.

Since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party assumed office in May, 2016, Taiwan’s EPA minister has been blocked from attending COP 22 and COP 23.

By Joseph Yeh