環品時論:Forests and methane key to net-zero 氣候變遷
英國格拉斯哥氣候大會(UNFCCC COP26)已落幕,台北時報(Taipei Times)特翻譯本會文章論述,供國內外友人參考。
2021/11/23 2747
英國格拉斯哥氣候大會(UNFCCC COP26)已於11月13日晚間落幕。

除「格拉斯哥氣候協定」(Glasgow Climate Pact, GCP)外,另外受到矚目的重要決議還包括:『森林與土地利用』宣言,提供資金以確保至少75%的森林供應鏈得以永續;以及『甲烷宣言』,致力於在2030年以前降低30%的甲烷排放。兩項均有戰略縱深,殊值台灣注意。

作為長期關注台灣與國際脈動的英文報紙,台北時報(Taipei Times)特翻譯本會文章論述,以供國內外友人參考,專題全文如下。

【Forests and methane key to net-zero】

By Hsieh Ying-shih and Cheng I-chan 謝英士、鄭佾展,Translated by Lin Lee-kai

The two highlights of the first week of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, were the world leaders’ announcement of the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration of Forest and Land Use, and the Global Methane Pledge. Both have strategic importance and deserve special attention.

The documents were signed by 124 and 105 countries respectively as of Tuesday last week, representing 85 percent of the world’s forested area, and nearly half of global methane emissions. These countries comprise 70 percent of the world’s GDP.

The signatory countries commit to providing funding to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030 to achieve a reduction of global methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030 compared with last year.

This can be seen as a response to the Emissions Gap Report published by the UN Environment Programme prior to the conference, which said that the plans to reach the net-zero emissions proposed by the global community are not specific enough to be reached before 2050.

Forests are being prioritized as they are one of the few carbon sinks that can absorb or store carbon dioxide. They are manageable, measurable, declarable and verifiable.

Moreover, compared with wetlands, oceans, strata, or carbon capture-and-storage facilities, forests are less demanding in terms of technology and more flexible in operational scale.

Governments might still stretch the truth about how to halt fossil fuel use and set carbon prices, but they are bound to embrace forests. These carbon sinks are manageable within a country’s sovereignty over natural resources, and can empower local communities and benefit indigenous people.

A carbon reduction plan involving forests is the most likely to inspire people, and is conducive to the just transition of decarbonization to tackle climate change.

Methane is also of crucial importance. Carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas that contributes the warming effect. To achieve true net zero emissions — not only net carbon emissions, but also net zero greenhouse gas emissions — the world must take action to reduce methane emissions as soon as possible. Methane absorbs more thermal energy than carbon dioxide — about 86 times more over 20 years — and decomposes faster in the atmosphere. Methane has a half-life of about 10 years, compared with 50 years for carbon dioxide. At the moment, when the global community appears to be frustrated by the slow progress in cutting emissions, it is essential to produce results as quickly.

There are strategic political reasons behind the US’ decision to prioritize methane reduction, the main component of natural gas, and enthusiastically invite the EU to join the pledge. This move could reduce the influence of OPEC, whose members combined produce most of the world’s natural gas.

The grand agenda of carbon reduction has given US President Joe Biden a perfect agenda for the climate summit, allowing the EU to partner with the US to contain China, so that Washington can reclaim a leading role in climate negotiations. This is the main reason that the US initiated the Global Methane Pledge. In the US, the battlefield of methane emissions reduction is relatively focused. The US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed emissions guidelines and new performance standards in accordance with the US Clean Air Act.

Administrative orders such as the Gas Gathering Pipeline Safety Rule, Automatic Shut-off Valve Rule and Gas Transmission Pipelines Safety Rule could be imposed immediately to regulate the oil and gas industry, abandoned oil mines, landfills and agricultural waste.

A pragmatic and strategically considered emissions reduction policy such as this is what Taiwan fails to consider when struggling to catch up with international trends of net-zero emissions.

The Declaration of Forest and Land Use, led by the UK — the chair of the Glasgow Climate Change Conference — and the Global Methane Pledge, led by the US and Europe, have their significance in tackling climate change.

However, these important strategic axes are missing in the draft Climate Change Response Act proposed by Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration last month. Their inclusion in the act is urgently needed.

Taiwan does not have external political pressure from countries attending the climate conference, and it has not yet realized the true meaning of National Determined Contributions — the “self-determined” carbon sovereignty that must take into account domestic carbon sinks and social justice.

This is what Taiwan lacks in the rule of law on climate change. Only by building up awareness and establishing a value system can political decisionmakers be influenced to take positive action to tackle climate change.

Hsieh Ying-shih is the chairman of the Environmental Quality Protection Foundation. Cheng I-chan is deputy secretary-general of the foundation.

* 本文刊登於110年11月13日台北時報(Taipei Times):
https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2021/11/13/2003767784。

* 中文原文請見110年11月4日自由時報自由廣場,或本會最新消息及地球觀點:
http://www.eqpf.org/news.aspx?dsn=1125&nowPage=1
http://earthopinions.org/articleDetail.aspx?categoryId=2&dsn=784

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