Taoyuan City Demonstrates the Importance of Resilient Cities in Meeting Global Challenges

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Taiwan today finds itself facing a number of tough challenges, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, increased U.S.-China competition, and, most recently, the war in Ukraine. For Taiwan’s central and local governments, industries, civil society, and the general public, meeting these challenges will require working together to increase Taiwan’s resiliency on several fronts. These groups can look no further than Taoyuan City for a model and framework for making Taiwan and its cities more resilient.

According to Taoyuan City Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan, of key importance in this process is adopting principles such as good governance, sustainable economy, and international cooperation, all of which allow cities to absorb, recover from, and prepare for future shocks. “Importantly, in order for cities to be resilient, they must set sustainable development as their target,” he adds.

Cheng speaks from experience; since entering office in 2014, he has led the Taoyuan City Government (TCG) to implement strategies to enhance Taoyuan’s ability to withstand the challenges of the day. The city has dedicated significant time, manpower, and resources to carbon reduction, pollution mitigation, green transportation, and renewable energy development, among many other areas.

A significant part of Taoyuan’s efforts involves managing the city’s large but finite water resources. Those efforts were put to the test during the severe monthslong drought in 2020. “During that time, TCG made use of reclaimed and underground water resources to address shortages,” Cheng says. “By doing so we were able to supply sufficient water to the residential, agricultural, and industrial sectors throughout the drought.”

Given Taiwan’s ambitions to achieve energy transformation and carbon neutrality, it is increasingly important for cities with significant industrial and manufacturing operations to step up. Taoyuan has seized on this opportunity, initiating numerous renewable energy projects over the past several years. While the city has long been a major hub for onshore wind generation in Taiwan, under Cheng’s leadership, solar power generation capacity has increased 87.5-fold.

In addition, Taoyuan has explored alternative forms of renewable energy, such as the establishment of power plants fueled by solid recovered fuels (SRF) and biomass, and has just this year received 18 investment applications to build energy storage solutions. Not only do these projects help fulfill Taiwan’s green energy goals, but they also contribute to developing a viable circular economy in Taiwan.

To ensure that Taoyuan’s residents can enjoy clean air, the government has worked with the Datan Power Plant to build facilities that have cut the plant’s emissions of air pollutants by half. The city has also invested heavily in promoting clean transportation and boasts the highest ratio of electric scooters in Taiwan. Thanks to these efforts, Taoyuan has seen a 40% reduction in PM2.5 concentrations and 13.74% reduction in its carbon emissions over the past few years.

In terms of improving Taoyuan’s natural environment, Cheng has launched a wide range of projects targeted at cleaning and restoring the city’s numerous natural bodies of water, including its 11 rivers, 2,800 ponds, and extensive coastal and wetland areas. The TCG has also engaged in reforestation, aiming to plant 600,000 trees within a five-year period, and has transformed 342 hectares of land formerly contaminated by heavy metals into arable land for agriculture.

The location of Taiwan’s international airport in Taoyuan has made the city Taiwan’s main logistics hub. In fact, Cheng notes that more than 1,000 logistics firms have operations in Taoyuan. In 2019, Taoyuan signed an agreement with ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, an international NGO based in Germany, to become ICLEI’s chair for promoting the development of EcoLogistics. In the three years since then, Taoyuan has worked to make its logistics industry more environmentally friendly, including by encouraging businesses in the city’s commercial districts to use electric vehicles to transport their cargo.

Although Cheng and the TCG view these resiliency projects as top policy priorities, they also hope to enlist the help and investment of both domestic and foreign companies whose operations align with Cheng’s “three lows, one high” goal for Taoyuan’s industrial development – that is, low pollution, low energy usage, low water usage, and high value-added.

“This industrial cooperation will help us foster the development of innovative technologies and create a sustainable and stable supply chain in Taoyuan,” Cheng says. “We therefore seek to continue our efforts to facilitate and attract low-carbon industrial investment in Taoyuan and set an example for other Asian countries to follow.”

Taoyuan City is committed to developing its economy, achieving sustainability, and becoming a resilient city. Taoyuan will strengthen its friendly ties with its 14 sister cities and counties in the U.S., including San Bernardino County and Dallas County, as well as Newark City and Guam, both of which recently forged sister-city ties with Taoyuan. Moving ahead into the post-pandemic era, Taoyuan will continue various collaborations with these sister cities.

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