After a forty hour round trip, I recently returned home from the launch of Taiwan’s 2050 calculator. A big moment for the island, they became the 5th country to join the 2050 calculator family.
So why did I trek half way round the globe to take part in this occasion?
I’m part of the communication team in DECC and Taiwan plan to use the calculator to help shape an evidence-based conversation – amongst key organisations and the wider public – about the energy options facing the island.
This ambition mirrors a programme of work I am helping to develop back here in the UK. Over the course of 2013 we have achieved some encouraging results when using the British version of the calculator to build understanding about both the energy challenges and opportunities we face. So I was asked to use the launch event to share some of our experiences.
In the context of the global effort to cut emissions and combat manmade climate change, Taiwan isn’t the first place that comes to mind. But despite being a relatively small island that sits in between Japan, China and the Philippines, its impact is significant. A population of 23 million and a large manufacturing sector mean that Taiwan is the planet’s twentieth biggest greenhouse gas emitter.
On the morning of the launch I travelled to the venue in Taipei with Andrew, a colleague from the Foreign Office. The scale of the event quickly became clear, with senior political involvement and widespread media interest. Energy is a big issue for the island, with 99% of its energy imported and a commitment to become nuclear free.
Presented by a well-known Taiwanese TV presenter, the event included a pre-recorded congratulatory video message from DECC Minister Greg Barker and a speech from Taiwan’s Deputy Prime Minister. He explained that he hoped the calculator would help the public to consider the long-term consequences of different energy sources.
Then it was my turn. Addressing the audience of 150 people via an interpreter was a new experience, but hopefully my examples of ‘British Energy Challenge’ events in Liverpool, Bristol and the Hay Festival were not too confusing.
After my speech I met with the team who built the calculator and took part in a series of media interviews. I’ve been told the level of coverage was impressive, with the launch featuring in 21 media outlets, including the Commercial Times (equivalent to the Financial Times) and the Commonwealth Magazine (similar to The Economist).
The story of Taiwan’s 2050 calculator began early in 2013, when the 2050 team in DECC met with their Taiwanese equivalents. DECC’s involvement has been one of advice and encouragement, with the calculator project fully funded by Taiwan’s Bureau of Energy. They in turn contracted a team of more than 70 people at the Industrial Technology and Research Institute (ITRI, a well known local think-tank) who consulted with more than 100 external experts (such as NGOs and academics).
Completed with impressive speed and attention to detail, the Taiwanese calculator has been produced more quickly than any other and provides an extensive assessment of the energy technology and policy options available to Taiwan. ITRI have also introduced programming innovations that we hope to use to improve the original UK calculator.
So, back in the London office, what would I remember most about my whirlwind trip? Without doubt it was the passion for the calculator project, the level of interest in energy issues and the hospitality of everyone I met.