Only time will tell. As a European Union, have we have been quick enough to address the unrelenting climate crisis that has been increasingly manifesting itself through extreme weather patterns like heatwaves, forest fires, floods, and droughts all around the globe? What is undeniable is that the bloc and its Member States have been taking some important steps in the right direction.
The past years have shown the EU’s commitment towards action, particularly in a bid to reduce emissions and build a more sustainable future for European citizens. This has been undertaken, inter alia, through the establishment of ambitious targets, investment in renewable energy and in the improvement of energy efficiency, the promotion of sustainable transport, and the protection of forests.
It was in December 2019 when EU Member State leaders convened around the European Council table in Brussels and agreed that the EU should achieve climate-neutrality by 2050. This means that the bloc has set itself the target of achieving, in less than three decades, net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by balancing human emissions with the natural removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Precisely one year later, in December 2020, the leaders decided that net greenhouse gas emissions in the EU are to be reduced by at least 55 per cent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
In this regard, the EU leaders asked the European Commission to take forward work on a set of policy initiatives tagged as the European Green Deal. By the European Climate law, which was proposed by the European Commission in July 2021 to enshrine the goal of climate neutrality in EU law, these goals are binding for the EU and its Member States.
Malta’s unwavering commitment
Recognising the urgency to take action against climate change, Malta’s dedication towards combating this global issue has been unwavering, as evidenced by the country’s ambitious plans and contributions towards the Paris Agreement and the EU’s collective climate targets.
Despite being one of the lowest emitters per capita, Malta acknowledges the challenges it must overcome to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. As a small island EU Member State with limited natural resources, unique topography, and a specific demographic profile, the path to decarbonising its economy requires careful consideration of cost-effective measures to reduce emissions.
To pave the way towards a low-carbon future, Malta has formulated a comprehensive low-carbon development strategy that aligns with the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality goal. This strategy encompasses a series of concrete measures to address the 2030 climate targets across key contributing sectors.
Malta has already made significant strides in reducing emissions from the power generation sector, transitioning from heavy fuel oil to cleaner liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2016. However, the country’s aspirations extend beyond this accomplishment. Despite the challenges, Malta is determined to further increase renewable energy generation. To encourage the adoption of renewable energy sources, the government has rolled out grant programs and feed-in tariffs for onshore solar installations, while also exploring the potential of offshore renewables.
Energy efficiency plays a crucial role in Malta’s climate action plan, and the authorities have taken proactive steps to promote energy-saving practices. Incentive schemes have been launched to support the installation of energy-efficient equipment, such as solar water heaters, heat pumps, and double glazing in buildings. These measures not only benefit the environment but also lead to cost savings on electricity bills.
Transportation is another major focus of Malta’s climate efforts. The government has been actively promoting electric vehicles (EVs) through generous grants and scrappage schemes. Despite global supply chain issues, the response to EV incentives has been encouraging. To support the shift towards sustainable transport, work is underway to establish an extensive public charging infrastructure for EVs, co-financed through EU funds. Additionally, the electrification of public transport buses is a priority, with a target to electrify 141 buses by 2025 using funding from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Fund.
Furthermore, the government remains committed to incentivising a modal shift towards more sustainable forms of transport and reducing the dependence on private cars. Free public transport for bus cardholders and investment in safer infrastructure for active mobility are essential elements of this approach.
To reduce emissions from maritime activities, Malta is investing in ship-to-shore facilities, a key EU-funded project that will not only improve air quality around the harbour areas but also decrease emissions from ships close to the coast.
In a bid to address waste management and emissions reduction, the Maltese government is undertaking its most significant investment of half a billion euros to upgrade waste infrastructure. This ambitious project includes waste-to-energy facilities, pre-sorting facilities, and an organic processing plant. These infrastructures will aid Malta in diverting waste away from landfills and contribute to emission reduction from the waste sector.
For sure, Malta is not shying away from the urgent global challenge of climate change. The country’s relentless pursuit of climate neutrality by 2050 and its dedication to the Paris Agreement and EU climate targets demonstrate a firm commitment to safeguarding our planet’s future. Despite its unique challenges as a small island nation, Malta’s strategic and comprehensive climate action plan aims to make significant contributions to the global fight against climate change. Through sustainable policies, investments, and partnerships, Malta is positioning itself as a responsible and forward-thinking leader in the journey towards a greener, more sustainable world.
Photo: Viktor Vella