Six ways to make EU and Maltese industry climate neutral

Although in Malta we do not have heavy industry, and although the country is what it is, small, we still owe it to ourselves to reduce carbon emissions by at least 65% of the 1990 level of emissions by 2030, reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

We owe it to ourselves because on the one hand it is ridiculous if the rhetoric on climate change, including the inconsequential declaration of a climate emergency by Parliament, is not followed through by real and urgent action, as the word ‘emergency’ implies.

Secondly, reductions in carbon emissions are accompanied by the reduction and in some cases the near elimination of practices, raw materials and products which negatively affect our environment and ultimately our health and quality of life.

Any attempt by the Maltese government to wriggle out of its international commitments, on the back of the supposed and perceived Maltese ‘specialness’ should be resisted. It would be the usual excuse for business as usual.

Recently our colleagues, Green MEPs Henrike Hahn, Damien Carême and Michael Bloss proposed a six step plan to make the manufacturing industry carbon neutral. Some of these points apply to types of industries which do not exist in Malta.

However since Maltese industry imports materials from mainland Europe, it is also in all our interest as a country and as a Union, that even these materials are manufactured more sustainably. Greener is better.

Factories and manufacturers all over the EU employ millions of workers and produces the goods and products we require, however industry utilises huge amounts of coal, oil and gas, water, raw materials, precious metals and chemical substances from all over the world, making it one of the leading sources of air, water and soil pollution in the EU. Worryingly global warming has already exceeded 1°C, and our current policies are steering us towards climate failure.

On a positive note some European companies are world leaders in innovative and sustainable solutions.

Industry can, and should, contribute to the achievement of climate targets.

At the end of the day, it is also in industry’s interest to make a green transition. Together with other Green Parties from all over Europe we have already proposed a post-covid19 Green Plan.

The six steps to transform industry proposed by Green MEPs supplement and strengthen our argument for a just and green transition for Malta and the EU.

1. Lead the way

Europe must set increasing environmental, social and transparency standards for its industrial value chains.

This will allow companies to understand which investments to make in order to achieve the transition to a sustainable and competitive economy in consistency with the EU’s 2030 and climate neutrality target.  The main focus should be on resource and energy efficiency, the shift to a fully renewable energy system and a circular economy.

These objectives must be matched with financial and employment support to enable a just transition for all workers. Particular attention should be afforded to the decarbonisation of steel, cement, chemical and other energy-intensive processes. The bulk of aid and support should be directed towards micro and small enterprises.

2. Polluters must pay

Europe is already suffering from damage caused by climate change to the tune of € 13 billion annually. No country can be taken seriously in fight against noise and air pollution, the conservation of clean drinking water sources, if polluters are not held responsible for their actions. It is essential that all European industries pay the price for the environmental damage they cause.

To this end, any exceptions from the payment of carbon emissions costs must be phased out, with the money redirected to green investments. This will help companies with sustainable business models to become competitive and grow. The so-called ‘free’ market will ‘decide’ in favour of the dirtiest, cheapest, low wage business model. This should not be allowed.

3. A level-playing field

Foreign companies selling their products in Europe should pay the same price for their emissions as European businesses. We don’t want industrial emissions to relocate from the EU to other parts of the world; we want to decrease emissions everywhere. That is why the implementation of a coherent Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism will be a key measure for the transition of the European industry.

4. Focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy

To decarbonise the energy use of industry, we have to implement energy efficiency measures. We need to identify which processes need to be improved or changed to reduce energy consumption and eliminate waste. Industry needs to tap the full potential of renewable energy and electrify its processes.

Solar technology has become cheaper than coal and gas in most countries. Energy efficiency and renewable energy are also providers of a huge number of local, skilled jobs.

A domestic clean energy industry is essential to maximise job opportunities.

Here is an idea for new jobs, rather than focusing on tax evasion, ghost companies and the pathetic and lazy ‘idea’ of the sale of passports.

The acceleration of renewable energy deployment will allow us to produce more renewable hydrogen, which is key for most polluting industries where renewable-based electrification is not yet feasible.

5. Create leading markets

Sustainable solutions should be more affordable for consumers. Consumers should be able to access information through say labelling on how long lasting and easy to repair the products they buy are. We need to improve transparency on manufacturing processes, from the sourcing of the raw materials to the actual manufacturing process. Government and public authorities should consider the sustainability of the products and services they buy, and favour sustainable products and services and not just take the cheapest offer.

6. Funding that’s fair

Keeping public funding in line with the goal of climate neutrality and focused on the green industrial transition will be key to guaranteeing that there are no stranded investments.

Clear EU definitions of sustainable activities are now available (EU Taxonomy): these definitions should be the compass for all EU and national funding, starting with the COVID-19 recovery schemes. Going forward, it will also be important to set up a robust monitoring framework for EU funding, particularly of large industrial and infrastructure projects.

It is unacceptable, for example, that the EU funds unsustainable road building projects which go against its own climate targets. The Ten-T funding project is obsolete and should be scrapped.

We must act now. We cannot wait till a few years before 2050 as some seem to be suggesting. We need an industrial plan now. It is time for a greener Maltese and European industry.

Ralph Cassar
ADPD Secretary General
Publised in The MaltaToday – Thursday 24 December 2020