Our own climate gamble

The global impetus on this challenge is ever increasing, in particular during the pandemic.

As far as potentially devastating global emergencies go, it has been an okay month for climate change. At long last, US President Joe Biden unveiled an ambitious climate change plan which will be a game-changer for global efforts; while the European Parliament and Council of the European Union agreed on the new climate law with the most ambitious of targets. 

Malta, is also doing its part – a country committed to become climate neutral by 2050, preceding the European Union’s law and raising the bar for immediate action to fight the planet’s climate emergency.  To reach this highly ambitious target, the small island nation state, that risks being devastatingly affected by climate change, must act immediately across the board. 

Innovatively, the ongoing review process of the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED) is identifying climate change as a key issue for spatial planning as part of Malta’s dire need to better streamline the green economy and development.

The Maltese government must take bold steps to embed the green and low-carbon economy in its economic vision.

Moving towards a low carbon economy – the so-called green transition – does not mean halting economic growth and development nor does it mean compromising. Going back to business as usual is not an option. The Maltese government must take bold steps to embed the green and low-carbon economy in its economic vision. Green goods and services should be promoted to generate green jobs and green economic value-added and lead towards a more resource-efficient economy.

An effort can be seen, in the way the Maltese government, together with a number of Local Councils, has increased its resolve to have more open public spaces, especially in urban areas. This has been coupled with a number of much needed urban greening programmes, combining the planting of trees with the trendy vertical gardens and green walls. 

Instilling sustainable consumption practices to prevent waste generation and increasing recycling for a more circular economy has been identified as the foundation of the long-term Waste Management Plan for 2030. 

Transitioning towards a low carbon economy requires that Malta reduces the emissions decoupling it from economic growth. Malta is already on the right path. It is the lowest emitter per capita in the EU due to its service-based economy. A keynote improvement was evidenced through the switch from heavy fuel oil to gas in electricity generation which improved Malta energy efficiency reducing substantially the emissions generated by the sector.

The changes in the energy sector are not sufficient. It’s time to tackle other priority sectors such as sustainable mobility, green transport and energy-efficiency in buildings. These do not come easy as there are various challenges brought about by our national circumstances. The emissions from these sectors are driven through individual choices which in turn depend on prices and availability of such commodities.

It is positive that the Maltese government continues to offer support via grant schemes the uptake of electric vehicles and renewable sources of energy such as PVs, solar water heaters, and heat pumps. However, it must increase its research and continue exploring emerging technologies, among others the blue renewable energy sources and their feasibility within the context of our islands.

Probably one of the most exciting future opportunities at a European level will be “Green Hydrogen”, with the EU investing significant funds towards advancing Research and Development into scaling up the technology and distribution of the resource. This will ultimately limit our dependence on fossil fuels and complement our renewable energy resources.

An economic post-pandemic strategy without the green element is short-sighted.

An economic post-pandemic strategy without the green element is short-sighted. To this end, the Maltese government has enshrined the climate neutrality pillar within its post-pandemic economic vision.

From the way we power our homes and the fuel we use to drive our cars, to the rearing of the animals we eat and the waste we dispose of, every effort will help make a difference to slow down the effects of climate change. Our drop will count.

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