Taiwan’s new air pollution policy aims to reduce PM2.5 levels by 18 percent by 2019 with public and private sectors planning to jointly spend NT$200 billion (US$6.6 billion), announced Premier Lin Chuan (林全) on April 13 at a press conference.

To reduce emissions from transport, the government will phase out more than 1 million two-stroke scooters and 80,000 aging diesel trucks, while refitting 38,000 diesel trucks with diesel particulate filters. It also plans to subsidize the replacement of 6,000 inefficient steam boilers nationwide and implement stricter emissions controls for industrial areas.

“The new policies are very disappointing,” said representatives of the Taiwan Healthy Air Action Alliance (台灣健康空氣行動聯盟) at a press conference on April 14. “It merely focuses on lowering emission levels from transportation sectors but ignores the larger polluters, namely coal-fired power plants.”

The new policy does not say how the most energy-intensive and polluting industries can be transformed and nor does it say how it will lower energy consumption, the group said.

According to the Taiwan Environmental Information Center, 50 percent of Taiwan’s air pollution originates from industrial activities and 20 percent are from transportation.

Professor Zhan Zhang-quan (詹長權) of National Taiwan University College of Public Health told Storm Media that the government should implement a complete ban on gasoline cars and permit only electric motorcycles on the roads. “That will be a policy worth promoting and a better way to control the source of air pollution.”

The government also appears to be on its way to renew Formosa Plastic Group’s operating license for the heavy industrial area for the company's naphtha cracker (六輕) in Yunlin County (雲林), central Taiwan. The license needs to be renewed every five years and is due to expire on April 16.

“By permitting bituminous coal plants to continue to operate, this is a policy doomed to fail,” said Zhan, who is also the author of many academic reports linking air pollution to the declining health of residents in Yunlin County.

Taiwan Healthy Air Action Alliance has been protesting the extension of the company’s license and is requesting a public hearing for the environmental assessment process of sixth naphtha cracker. It is also calling for a countrywide ban on the use of bituminous coal and petroleum coke.

China faces similar, if not more pressing, challenges in combating air pollution. Shanghai reportedly failed to implement government orders to shut down some 800 polluting companies by 2016, and was singled out by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. “The city's fines for polluters were too small to act as a deterrent, and environmental law enforcement was inadequate across the board,” said the ministry said in a report.

Sun Yuanzhao of the Asia-Pacific Law Center in Maryland said, "The local governments [in China] always allow economic growth and commercial opportunity to trump environmental concerns and won't invest the capital," Radio Free Asia reports.

Editor: Olivia Yang