The Malta Independent 22 September 2021, Wednesday

Ambitious but necessary

Aaron Farrugia Monday, 19 July 2021, 06:45 Last update: about 3 months ago

The start of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU reminds us that we are only six months away from 2022. Yet these are a very crucial six months for our climate and the environment.

The Presidency’s Work Programme will focus on areas within the Green Transition. 

With EU level work on the Zero Pollution Action Plan, work on the circular economy including the batteries revision, the EU’s Pollinator Initiative and the dozens of policy files as part of the ‘Fit for 55’ package, there is certainly a lot going on in these crucial areas.

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Furthermore at international level, several meetings are lined up, including the Biodiversity (CBD COP 15) meeting in Kunming, China that is planned for 11-24 October, and the Climate COP26 in Glasgow, United Kingdom which is planned for 9-20 November.

The European Green Deal is Europe’s roadmap to champion the transition of the EU towards a climate-neutral economy by reducing carbon emissions to 55% by 2030 and achieving climate neutrality by 2050. It is Europe’s new growth strategy and an opportunity for us to respond to biodiversity loss and the climate breakdown.

The Green Deal was the inspiration behind the ‘Fit for 55’ package adopted by the European Commission on 14 July. The package is a key policy milestone in order to implement this Deal. A comprehensive package which will update the Climate and Energy policy framework to ensure that the EU is fit to deliver and achieve its overarching climate goals.

The Slovenian Presidency will lead the Council negotiations on the package, and it would be crucial to ensure high ambition across the initiatives to enable this transition. The Presidency will, in fact, already kickstart discussions on the matter at Ministerial level when all EU Ministers travel to Slovenia later this month for the Informal Environment and Climate Council.

These discussions and the eventual negotiations have an important role to play as the EU must demonstrate ambition and leadership at COP26 which needs to be backed by tangible progress, not just on the mitigation aspects but also in the implementation of the Climate Adaptation Strategy.

Setting the ball rolling, in Malta we have recently launched our Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) which identifies the most cost-effective way to decarbonize the economy by 2050. This was under public consultation until 13 July.

The purpose of this strategy is crucial in ensuring the necessary transformation pathways towards the national objective of carbon neutrality by 2050. It provides a strategic direction for the next 30 years with various measures to decouple economic growth from natural resource use and environmental pressures.

A Long-Term Renovation Strategy (LTRS) has also been published, setting out the measures to support the renovation of Malta’s building stock into a highly energy efficient and decarbonized building stock by 2050. This Strategy presents indicative milestones for 2030, 2040 and 2050 and is based on reviews of policies and actions implemented, while also proposing new actions to trigger cost-effective renovation of buildings. 

Turning to Biodiversity, the benefits brought about through nature are essential, as they underpin most aspects of human development. The negative impacts of biodiversity loss, climate change and health crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to occur and escalate. Therefore, reversing the dramatic loss of biodiversity and ensuring more resilient ecosystems remains high on the agenda.

In the run-up to China and at the CBD COP15, work must continue to demonstrate EU leadership for an ambitious post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Furthermore. I look forward to the report on the implementation of the EU Pollinators Initiative which will be presented at our Ministerial meeting, as we need to ensure the drivers of decline in pollinators are tackled and addressed.

Promoting thriving marine and coastal ecosystems is also crucial in the context of the Biodiversity Strategy to ensure long-term survival of species and habitats. In fact, a couple of days ago, the public consultation on the Conservation Measures and Objectives for Malta’s Marine Natura 2000 sites was launched.

At EU level, the drive for a circular economy and waste prevention continues. Malta’s Long-Term Waste Management Plan (LTWMP) is steered by the strategic objectives to maximize resource value in waste, to design waste prevention initiatives, to reform the collection system, to build the necessary waste management facilities and promote further the involvement of the private sector in waste management. 

The multiple environmental challenges are highly interconnected and need to be addressed through their specific policies but also as part of horizontal policies.

A health challenge, without prior warning signs, has been very tedious for society to deal with and should serve as a lesson. All the warning signs have been presented to us with regard to climate change and biodiversity loss, so if too little is done to avoid the dramatic effects of these global challenges, our society will face future challenges which will be impossible to deal with.

We look forward to working with the Slovenian Presidency and the other EU Member States to advance these discussions and dossiers as smoothly as possible.

The Green Transition is ambitious, but it is necessary.

 

Aaron Farrugia is the Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning

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