Tackling climate change requires ambition, not speeches

The release of the latest report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has placed a spotlight on the local handling of the climate crisis. One would hope that the Labour and Nationalist parties would finally awaken to the reality that climate change is upon us, and maybe realise that we must start to take urgent action now. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.

Predictably, both parties proceeded to flood the local media with long drawn out generic speeches. What we need is ambition to face this emergency, ambition which is backed by a strong policy framework. The PL and PN sketchy plans and position papers are clearly inadequate, and they are nowhere near as ambitious as they need to be. 

Achieving carbon neutrality as soon as possible is a must. The IPCC report clearly states that the cost of climate change increases exponentially. Hence, if we act quickly, we will greatly decrease the social, economic, and environmental costs associated with climate change. Moreover, Malta is particularly prone to these negative effects.

Most of our development is located right by the coast, our temperatures frequently reach dangerous levels for vulnerable individuals, and we are already prone to extreme weather events. Crucial sectors such as agriculture are already at risk, an increase in temperature and more dry seasons could very well kill off farming for good.

It is disappointing to read that both the PL and PN do not plan to seriously tackle such an important issue. The Labour government’s low carbon development strategy does not achieve climate neutrality by 2050. This is saying a lot especially since the plan hides energy generation emissions from the interconnector by not attributing them to Malta, even though without Malta’s demand, such energy would not be generated.

It also aims to shift internal combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles. This surely constitutes an improvement, but still electric vehicles are still energy hungry, and given the prevailing mentality will require further road widening, and tree cutting unless a focussed effort to reduce car use is undertaken.

The Nationalist Party advocates a similar approach, going for the low-hanging fruit and avoiding any real change, shipping emissions to Europe and increasing electric vehicles. There are other measures such as investing in energy efficiency, and the somewhat vague concept of bringing climate solutions research to Malta, which I sincerely hope won’t be another Smart City fiasco.

Malta does not need to wait for some fantastic technological solution in the future. It can actively address its greenhouse gas emissions in the short term by reducing unnecessary energy consumption, and by increasing renewable energy production. Regarding the former, there is a clear elephant in the room, which is the high rate of private vehicle use. Private vehicle use is very energy intensive, and hence other modes of transport need to be encouraged at its expense.

Public transport solutions, such as bus rapid transit (BRT) systems must be developed, along with a greater investment in the frequency of public transport itself. Infrastructural priority must always be given to pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport, rather than private vehicles. Furthermore, the recent surge in remote working, where possible and feasible, should be maintained in the long term.

Increasing renewable generation in the short term is also possible. All new buildings should be carbon neutral. Moreover, all public buildings and industrial facilities should be able to generate a minimum quantity of energy from renewable energy, according to the space available within the premises. Similarly, industrial zones should allocate specific areas to install and generate renewable energy, which is then fed into the national grid.

No permits should be given out for new buildings which cannot generate their own clean energy. All incentives targeting various economic sectors should hinge on these sectors achieving carbon neutrality in their operations. Banks, insurance companies and financial sector companies should be obliged to show how they will change their operations concretely, in order that mean global temperature increase is kept below 1.5°C, including stopping investment in fossil fuels.

ADPD will continue explaining the whole picture when it comes to the climate crisis. We will continue working with fellow Greens all around Europe, to move quickly to a social ecological market and a just society where well-being is at the centre of all policymaking, and where ecological thought is not just an afterthought but integrated into social and economic policies.

There are the true Greens and there are the fake ones. Choose the original.

Luke Caruana
ADPD Treasurer
Published in The Times of Malta – Sunday 19 September 2021