More and more people are choosing cycling not only as a leisure activity, but also as a green form of transportation.
The Air Pollution Control Act empowers various levels of government to set air quality standards and establish monitoring stations. Air quality is monitored by the Taiwan Area Air Quality Monitoring Network, which comprises 76 stationary and two mobile monitoring stations and one air-quality assurance laboratory. Eight photochemical monitoring stations monitor ozone precursors in metropolitan areas across the country, playing an important role in atmospheric research and health risk assessments. According to data from the EPA, the rate of “poor-air-quality” days (when the pollutant standards index recorded by monitoring stations exceeds 100) for 2008 was 2.87 percent—the lowest in five years. Current air quality in Taiwan and next-day forecasts are issued daily on the EPA’s Web site.
The EPA’s Clean Air Zone program greens urban spaces while improving air quality and carbon sequestration. From 1996 to the end of 2008, trees were planted on 1,635 hectares and a total of 266 kilometers of bicycle paths were laid out. It is estimated that these efforts have removed an average of 17,680 tonnes of ozone, 884 tonnes of airborne particulate pollutants and 40,664 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year. The EPA will continue to create green urban spaces by planting 30 hectares of trees and laying down 10 kilometers of new bicycle paths annually.
Reducing Vehicular Emissions
A number of measures are being used to reduce air pollution caused by motor vehicles with excessive emissions, including routine exhaust inspections and spot checks of motorcycles and diesel vehicles. To gain the assistance of the public in identifying high-polluting vehicles, since January 2009, the EPA has been rewarding anyone who submits photographs showing such a vehicle’s license plate and thick emissions.
Government agencies also provide incentives for buying vehicles that minimize pollution. Purchasers of hybrid electric vehicles, for example, qualify for substantial cuts in commodity taxes. Meanwhile, cars that run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are becoming increasingly popular, and those buying such cars or converting a car to LPG receive a subsidy of US$635. By July 2009, 30 LPG stations had been set up around Taiwan, with this number set to increase by 130 over the next five years.
RoboScooters and the C-bike System
An entirely new mode of urban transport emerged in April 2008—the RoboScooter. The fruit of collaboration between ITRI Creativity Lab and Sanyang Industry Co., Ltd. in Taiwan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, this bike is powered by an environment-friendly lithium battery. Moreover, the RoboScooter is foldable, making it easy to store, take onboard a train or stow in a car with a large trunk. The bike is expected to roll onto roads in the second half of 2009.
In a move to persuade the people of Kaohsiung City to switch from carbon-emitting forms of transport to bicycles, the city government introduced the C-bike System in March 2009. Tourists and citizens of Kaohsiung now have access to a citywide network of bike rental stations that are conveniently located near tourist sites, subway stations, commuting routes and bike paths. A total of 50 such stations were renting out 4,500 bicycles as of May 2009.
Pollution Control Fees
Since its implementation in 1995, the Air Pollution Control (APC) fee system has led to marked improvements in Taiwan’s air quality. The EPA levies APC fees on both stationary sources of pollution, such as factories and construction sites, as well as mobile sources, such as motor vehicles. Fees are charged for the release of a variety of pollutants, including suspended particulates, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxide (NOX) and sulfur dioxide.
A measure was introduced in October 2008 to reduce fees by 40 percent for enterprises that install catalytic filtration equipment and keep NOX emissions below 40 parts per million. The measure is expected to reduce NOX emissions by over 16,000 tonnes per year.
TFT-LCD Industry Goes Green
Taiwan is one of the world’s largest producers of thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal displays (TFT-LCD) alongside South Korea and Japan. Now it is leading the way in reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the production of display panels. In August 2004, the Taiwan TFT LCD Association (TTLA) signed a memorandum with the EPA, agreeing to cooperate on reducing emissions of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). Recent research has shown that PFCs have a 7,400- to 12,200-times more powerful greenhouse effect than CO2.
Following the signing of the memorandum, the EPA worked with the TTLA for four years, during which the industry spent over US$63 million on end-of-pipe treatment equipment and on improving energy efficiency, with the result that PFC-emission levels have fallen by 70 percent. PFC removal systems have been installed on 80 percent of the industry’s emission sources, compared with 70 percent in Japan and 10 percent in South Korea. This is estimated to have prevented the release of PFC emissions equivalent to 1.9 million tonnes of CO2 in 2008.
Monitoring the Long-range Transport of Air Pollutants
In order to gain a deeper understanding of the long-range transport of CO2 and other air pollutants, the EPA established the Lulin Atmospheric Background Station (LABS) in 2006 at an altitude of 2,862 meters on Lulin Mountain in Central Taiwan. The only high-altitude background station in Southeast Asia, LABS plays an important role given that the long-range transport of air pollutants may affect regions far away from where the pollutants originated.
In recent years, the EPA has collaborated on international air-monitoring efforts with the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It has also joined NASA’s Aerosol Robotic Network and Micro-Pulse Lidar Network.
Indoor Air Quality
Pollution from outdoor sources can easily enter buildings, and there are many forms of pollution that originate indoors. Inadequate air circulation in closed spaces can, therefore, pose significant threats to human health. Given that most people in Taiwan spend an estimated 90 percent of their time indoors, the Executive Yuan approved the draft Indoor Air Quality Management Act in October 2008. Once passed by the Legislative Yuan, the act will allow environmental agencies to conduct unscheduled inspections of buildings designated by the EPA and request improvements where indoor air quality standards are not met.