A Green New Deal for Malta and Europe – Ralph Cassar

We do have a climate emergency. A real emergency which needs real and focused action. It should be an occasion to invest in clean, renewable energy, to focus on efficiency in manufacturing and a real circular economy. It is the right time to challenge the tenets of capitalism. Societies have a right to mould themselves into societies of cooperation, instead of competition; societies were certain services are off-limits to so-called market values.

That’s why the motion for a climate emergency is disappointing. It does not set any targets, but keeps the very weak existing ones. It does not make the actions needed compulsory. It basically devalues the very concept of an emergency. Some may ask what real parliamentary action may mean. There is one very good example, a private members’ Bill presented to the UK House of Commons, by Brighton Pavilion Green MP Caroline Lucas. The Bill is called the ‘Decarbonisation and Economic Strategy Bill’. Yes, because climate change means changing our economic model, in the UK, in Malta, in the European Union and around the world. It demands that a decarbonisation and economic strategy is prepared within one year, with details and timeframes for policy changes, financial implications and how costs for implementation will be met. It ties the hands of the Ministers in charge to implement things, with Parliament doing its job of proper scrutiny. The bill stipulates action which must be taken on consumption, plastics, energy efficiency and transport. It calls for an economic strategy which is consistent with the decarbonisation objective of zero-carbon by 2030. We are so late here in Malta, and depend so much on EU policies, since our Parliament and Government shy away from taking local initiatives, that a 2050 deadline seems more feasible. A progressive decarbonisation economic strategy promotes employment and reduces income and wealth inequality. The Lucas Bill requires the UK to promote and work for a net zero-carbon world in international fora, from the IMF and World Bank, to the United Nations; because we are all, literally in the same boat.

A blueprint for a Green New Deal is a report commissioned by the Greens in the European Parliament way back in 2009. In the report the Wuppertal Institute explains the policy initiatives necessary for a Green New Deal. Sustainable mobility is a central pillar of a Green New Deal. Policy instruments include investment in research and development programmes in the area, and emission limits that are strictly enforced. In Malta some areas are crying out for low emission zones – that is restricted vehicular access, but the Gonzi Cabinet, and now the Muscat Cabinet, keep refusing to implement this measure. Investment in clean public transport vehicles and a Bus Rapid Transit system in which whole lanes on roads are reserved for bus transit is a must. Of course alternative modes of transport such as bicycles and pedelecs must be provided with safe routes along all major arteries. In Malta Governments have done the opposite of this. Give people the options and they will take them up.

The Wuppertal report that focuses on a sustainable energy policy. It is proposed that any targeted financial support programmes should promote energy efficiency in manufacturing and the reduction of emissions from industrial processes. A reduction in energy consumption is a must, together with a sustained move to renewable energy grids. Sustainable resource management, or in other words, moving towards a circular economy is another aspect of any real and effective Green New Deal.

We need system change. According to another Green New Deal proponent, Ann Pettifor in her book ‘The Case for a Green New Deal’, the so called ‘invisible hand’ of the market cannot be trusted. While market mechanisms may be good at simply managing supply and demand of certain goods and services, the market is unable to set the ecological limits we must live within. A Green economy means a steady state economy. In turn a steady state economy must mean a just democratic economy at the service of all, not an economy which allows the concentration of wealth and resources. We need focused action in Malta. For this we need local targets enshrined in law. Malta should be at the forefront on an EU level pushing for real action and investment in a Green New Deal and a better quality of life for us all.

Ralph Cassar
Published in the Maltatoday – Sunday 27 October 2019