This piece was written with contributions from Next Urban Idea Ltd. and ICLEI KCC, and edited by Matteo Bizzotto and Sajili Oberoi, ICLEI World Secretariat. Photo credit: New Taipei City Government
How can the most populated city in Asia be a pioneer of sustainability and climate resilience?
Climate crisis is hitting us all on an unprecedented scale. Cities, as a key cause of climate change where urban infrastructure and activities are the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, are walking on a tightrope to transform the society. Cities are torn between being resilient cities with climate adaptation, or deserted cities where resource consumption and human footprint exceed the environment’s carrying capacity (overpopulation). In New Taipei City, the most populated city in the island of Taiwan with 4 million citizens, the government is accelerating its climate actions, for both mitigation and adaptation.
“No One Left Behind”: A Reality or a Fantasy for City Governance
Ensuring and protecting people’s rights in policy decision-making has always been essential, while sustaining their lives during greener industrial transition and extreme weather disasters.
In fact, the island of Taiwan, located in the monsoon region, is facing critical climate threats such as floods, typhoons, droughts, and inadequate food and energy self-sufficiency. New Taipei City is at the forefront of multiple climate issues and has committed itself to being the leading city in “leaving no one behind”. The City is tackling climate change and just transitioning simultaneously. In 2019, the City released Taiwan’s first and the world’s 10th SDGs Voluntary Local Review Report. In the same year, the City joined in the “Powering Past Coal Alliance, PPCA” and committed itself to be a coal-free city and to reduce carbon emission by 30% in 2030. In 2021, the City pledged itself to be a net zero city by 2050, before the central administration had introduced the 2050 net zero emission goals in 2022.
The New Taipei City Mayor Hou, Yu-Ih said, “We have to ensure that our climate actions can benefit every citizen in our territory. Together we move towards a healthier, lower-carbon, and more inclusive society.”
Boost dialogues with citizens for a fair and resilient city
Three groups are specifically focused on New Taipei City’s just transition policies, which include vulnerable groups in remote areas, women, and young generations.
Green inflation and increased energy bills could be a potential reality in the future. In this case, disadvantaged groups will become more vulnerable to afford their living. Moreover, extreme weather has particularly impacted people in mountainous areas and lowlands. In order to mitigate the weather risks, New Taipei City has built 19 flooding prevention communities with medical rescue teams, flood control monitoring systems, and green hydrogen fuel cells electricity backup systems. The City subsidizes not only for the low-income and energy poverty households to improve their energy quality, but also encourages renewable power companies to rent the rooftops to some charity organizations for solar panel installation. Most of the cost is subsidized by New Taipei City’s Climate Fund pool, which is accumulated from the City’s carbon fees and carbon offset projects from its industries.
The Mechanism of New Taipei City Climate Fund
According to a 2017 United Nations Development Program’s Gender and Climate Change report, 80% of victims displaced by climate disasters are women. To address this inequality, New Taipei City actively integrates gender, youth, and ageing perspectives into its sustainable city policy. The City has collaborated with local NGOs to set up 4 start-up incubator centres and 12 co-working spaces. The facilities are to provide resources and green financing schemes to empower underprivileged women and young groups to promote green transition businesses, start their own companies, and become green collar working professionals. Since the ageing society is also a critical factor, the City also supports young-old entrepreneurship to foster a more inclusive and more productive community.
Younger generations are gradually becoming more concerned about climate issues and hence, choose jobs that contribute to environmental sustainability, such as renewable energy companies or low-carbon business. 9 universities in New Taipei City had worked with the City Government to develop their 19 USR programs in 2019, with which their students can explore their future green careers and come up with result-oriented sustainable actions. Furthermore, the City established the youth committee inside its municipal structure in 2022, to motivate the younger generations to propose their innovative ideas and be involved in the municipal policy making processes.
O.Design Young and Ageing Incubator in New Taipei City, open since 2018. Credit: TaiwanHot News
The Key is Collective Action
All these actions are just the beginning of a city’s just transition. There are many challenges for the City to conquer at the moment. The City must communicate closely with its people, and inspire them to collectively participate in climate actions. For a city, sustainability is a never-ending journey of continuous and dynamic adjustments. What the City of New Taipei can do is just pave the way day by day and act pragmatically towards its sustainability goals.