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Taiwan: Action Plan to Reduce Air Pollution, Shift to Electric Vehicles

(Dec. 29, 2017) On December 21, 2017, Taiwan’s Executive Yuan (Cabinet) publicly announced an action plan to cut air pollution and foster renewable energy. One component of the plan will be a ban on the sale of nonelectric two- and four-wheel vehicles that burn fossil fuels. (Cabinet Proposes to Ban Sale of Nonelectric Vehicles, TAIWAN TODAY (Dec. 22, 2017).) The action plan, which was drafted by the Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), aims to halve the number of red alert (bad air quality) days by 2019 and will “consolidate air quality improvement efforts across all government agencies.” (Central, Local Governments Join Forces for New Action Plan on Air Pollution, Executive Yuan website (Dec. 21, 2017).)

The plan is the offshoot of a government-wide Clear Air Action strategy that the Cabinet unveiled on April 13, 2017. (Id.; Air Pollution Prevention Strategy—Work Hard Together for Good Air, Executive Yuan website (Apr. 24, 2017) (in Chinese).) Although the strategy reportedly showed results in reducing air pollution, experts, civic groups and the general public have recently been urging the government to combat air pollution more effectively. (Id.) The action plan, in addition to the passage of draft amendments to the Air Pollution Control Act on December 14 and the government’s consultations with lawmakers and local governments for feedback, is part of the Cabinet’s response to such public pressure. (Id.; Air Pollution Control Plan of Action (Battle to Halve Red Alerts), Executive Yuan website (Dec. 21, 2017) (in Chinese).)

Among the additional targeted policy objectives of the new action plan are to:

  • replace all new government vehicles and public buses with electric-powered versions by 2030;
  • ban all sales of nonelectric motorcycles and sell only fully electric ones by 2035; and
  • ban all sales of nonelectric four-wheel vehicles and sell only fully electric ones by 2040. (Air Pollution Control Plan of Action (Battle to Halve Red Alerts), supra.)

The three-year plan, with a budget of NT$36.5 billion (about US$1.2 billion) will focus on entities that contribute more to the creation of fine suspended particulates, with the aim of reducing “the density of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in Taiwan from 22 to 18 micrograms per cubic meter by 2019.” (Cabinet Proposes to Ban Sale of Nonelectric Vehicles, supra.) To that end, the government will require state-owned enterprises to achieve ultra-low emissions through the adoption of the most stringent international standards; completely ban from roadways vehicles that emit thick smoke (“squids”); and strengthen management of pollution from cooking fuels, construction, engineering projects, river silt, and so on. (Air Pollution Control Plan of Action (Battle to Halve Red Alerts), supra.) Other proposed measures include providing preferential loans to delivery and passenger bus companies to replace aging, heavy-pollution vehicles. (Cabinet Proposes to Ban Sale of Nonelectric Vehicles, supra.)

Proposed Amendments to the Air Pollution Control Act

Among the proposed amendments to the Air Pollution Control Act is the reduction in the density of airborne particulate matter measuring smaller than 2.5 micrometers by the end of 2019. The EPA has stated “PM2.5 originating outside Taiwan accounts for 34-40 percent of total pollutants, while domestic pollution makes up 60-66 percent.” (Air Pollution Control Amendment Introduces Enhanced Measures: Official, FOCUS TAIWAN (Dec. 14, 2017); Air Pollution Control Act (May 23, 1975, as last amended Dec. 19, 2012), Laws & Regulations Database of the Republic of China.) According to the EPA, 30-37% of the domestic pollution comes from motor vehicles, 27-30% from fixed emitters, and 32-43% from “catering, burning of paddy stubble, construction sites and other sources.” (Air Pollution Control Amendment Introduces Enhanced Measures: Official, supra.)

The draft amendment gives the EPA the mandate to establish strict emissions standards that all ten-year-old vehicles would have to meet, in order to accelerate the retirement of the older vehicles that are highly polluting. Under the proposal, the EPA would first impose stricter standards on motorcycles powered by two-stroke engines and older diesel-powered trucks. (Id.) According to Tsai Hung-teh, director-general of the EPA’s Department of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control, of the estimated 13 million motorcycles in Taiwan, 1.2 million have two-stroke engines that are over 14 years old, and some 81,000 diesel trucks still being used are 19 years or older. He stated, “[w]e hope that all such vehicles will be scrapped by July 2020.” (Id.)

Other proposed changes include:

  • requiring vessels in ports to replace onboard power auxiliary engines that run on heavy fuels with electricity generated onshore in order to power cargo handling equipment and other ship services (id.);
  • authorizing the EPA to regulate “hazardous air pollutant” emissions believed to cause serious adverse health effects in addition to the air pollutants already covered by law and to “establish emissions standards for another 72 types of compounds based on an assessment of their impact on health,” with emitters to be charged higher fees for pollutant discharge as of July if the amendment takes effect in January 2018 (id.);
  • setting rules on the use of fuel additives and the fuel composition for fixed emitters of air pollutants like raw coal and petroleum coke and prescribing limits on the use of volatile organic compounds “in products such as paints, organic solvents, and aromatics” (id.); and
  • as a deterrent to offenders, imposing increased fines and stiffer penalties for offenses and recovering profits earned from company operations that violate the law (id.)