Taiwan Challenges UN Exclusion on Sidelines of COP26 Summit

(Bloomberg) — As the world’s powers wrestle over the future of the planet in Glasgow, another politically fractious issue will play out on the sidelines of the COP26 summit — Taiwan’s exclusion from international organizations.

Two weeks after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for Taiwan to have a greater role at the United Nations, a delegation from Taipei, led by Deputy Environment Minister Shen Chih-hsiu, is set to test whether countries are willing to engage with them on the sidelines of the summit and risk igniting the ire of Beijing. 

Shen pointed to the changing atmosphere in the U.S. and Europe’s relations with China and said there’s an increasing likelihood Taiwan will be allowed to attend future COP summits as an observer.  

“The climate convention emphasizes that every country should shoulder responsibility” for cutting emissions, Shen said in a telephone interview from Glasgow Friday. “If any country is left out, it’s incomplete.”

“This isn’t fair to Taiwan, which is willing to shoulder the responsibility,” he said. The United Nations climate conference runs until Nov. 12.

Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations and is therefore unable to join other states at the summit. Instead, Shen and his team will hold events and meetings on the sidelines in an effort to highlight what the island is doing to combat climate change and engage with attendees. 

“Meaningful Participation”

Blinken’s comments last month were the latest U.S. appeal for Taiwan to have “meaningful participation” in the UN system, such as the World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization. China hit back at Blinken, saying U.S. support for Taiwan violated the “one China” understanding between Beijing and Washington and could bring “huge risks.”

The Republic of China, which once ruled the mainland before leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan during the civil war, was a founding member of the UN before it lost its seat to the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing in 1971. Since then, China has blocked Taiwan’s efforts to participate in the body, except for a brief interlude of warmer ties between the two sides from 2009-2016. During that time, Beijing allowed Taiwanese representatives to take part in meetings of UN-affiliated bodies such as the WHO as observers under the name “Chinese Taipei.”

Taiwan had previously sent delegations to global climate change conventions as non-governmental organization observers under the name of the Taipei-based Industrial Technology Research Institute.

There are no plans to strongly protest the island’s exclusion in Glasgow, Shen said. 

“We want to be contributors, not trouble-makers,” he said.

While it is unable to sign up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, President Tsai Ing-wen announced the government is planning ways to reach the Paris Agreement goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. In October, Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration proposed revisions to enshrine the goal into law. 

Supply Chain Shift

Taiwan’s technology manufacturers, often at the behest of their international customers, have taken a leading role in pushing the island’s industries to adopt more environmentally friendly methods. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s largest chipmaker, became the first company in its industry to sign up to the RE100 renewable energy initiative last year, pledging to use 100% renewable energy and producing zero indirect carbon emissions from electricity consumption by 2050. 

Demand for clean energy from TSMC and other major Taiwanese companies is likely to surge over the coming years, driving a rapid expansion in capacity. TSMC consumed 16,900 GWh of energy in 2020, according to the company’s corporate social responsibility report, while Taiwan as a whole only generated 15,000 GWh in green energy. 

The energy deficit is only likely to get worse. TSMC’s electricity consumption is likely to at least double by 2024, according to a report by Bloomberg Intelligence technology analyst Charles Shum.

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