Climate change: we need to act now!

At a press conference in Marsa today, ADPD – the Green Party spokespersons stressed the need for serious action on climate change. Action that puts people and quality of life before profits.

ADPD – The Greens’ Chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said that as an island state, Malta should be  at the forefront of the global debate on climate change. Unfortunately, Malta is among those countries which constantly drag their feet to prevent or reduce the necessary action. In the Mediterranean region, in fact, the dangerous 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in the average temperature has already been exceeded, and we are risking more and more negative impacts on us and our country.

“The fact that we are a small country doesn’t mean that we don’t have responsibilities. The European Union has just unveiled a plan with proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent compared to 1990s. This should take place by 2030, as an intermediate target on the road to zero carbon neutrality by 2050.

One of the proposals is for energy from renewable sources generated in the European Union to be 40 percent of all energy used. This would mean that within 9 years Malta will need to multiply by four the renewable energy generated in the country. It will be tough, especially when we know that over the years the country has always tried to avoid its obligations in this area.

Another EU proposal is that within 14 years, that is by 2035, diesel and petrol cars will no longer be available on the market. Locally this will not solve anything if this is not acompanied with measures to reduce cars on the roads.

Another proposal from the European Commission is the introduction of a tax on fuel used by ships and in aviation. This proposal will undoubtedly have a significant impact on European islands and peripheral states. It is a proposal based on the fact that continental Europe is served by rail, which is generally efficient and is considered to have far fewer environmental impacts than aircraft. With such a proposal, tourism would be severely affected. How big the blow is depends on how big the tax is. The fact remains that both the aviation and maritime sectors are significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. To date these two sectors have avoided being included in measures to protect the climate due to intense lobbying.

The biggest challenge for this European Green Deal is that the necessary urgent transition needs to be a fair transition. Ecological transformation needs to be socially just. This can be achieved by putting people before profits. Change needs to happen, we are out of time. The longer we drag our feet, the higher the price we have to pay. ”

Mark Zerafa, ADPD – The Green Party’s Deputy Chairperson spoke about the need for a change in transport policy and said that Malta’s Recovery and Resilience plan (funded by Next Generation Europe funds) is too vague.

“The statements in the plan that public and mass transport must be promoted should be obvious by now. So should the move towards electric buses. But how can you improve and promote public transport if public transport gets stuck in traffic? How can you promote public transport if bus corridors – carriageways reserved for public transport – are nowhere to be seen, not even on new roads? The government is not even implementing the measures mentioned in its own transport masterplan and all it is saying in its recovery plan is that it wants to promote public transport. We need a Rapid Transit Bus system right away. It is the same old story with the statements that electric bicycles should be prmoted more. It is good to give financial incentives for the uptake of electric bicycles, but will these be effective if government is not investing in safer roads? There are many people who are afraid to use clean and alternative means of transport because our roads are designed to give absolute priority to cars, scaring people off other means of transport. Government itself is undermining the transition to alternative and clean transport.”

ADPD Secretary General Dr Ralph Cassar also referred to the government’s zero-carbon strategy. “The lack of ambition is also reflected in the government’s zero-carbon strategy. The government’s emphasis on the interconnector doesn’t make sense. It is simply not true that electricity from the interconnector is clean – to be clean the government has to commit to buying only renewable energy from the interconnector. The fact is that all types of fossil fuel electricity will rise in price in the near future due to new European carbon taxes. Those who insist that the interconnector is ‘the’ solution is taking people for a ride. We need a local industry in renewable energy. An industry specializing in energy efficiency in homes and businesses. Government must ensure that every new building is carbon-neutral and generates all the electricity it consumes. In addition, we reiterate the need for long-term investment and incentives for micro-turbines in industrial areas, the use of waves and sea currents for electricity generation, strengthening the electricity distribution system, and 100% renewable energy in government buildings. We need a guaranteed price for the long-term for renewable energy, for example over 20 years, instead of small schemes that expire every year. The time for small scale pilot projects is over.”