The Malta Independent 23 May 2024, Thursday
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A climate pact for Malta

Michael Briguglio Thursday, 25 August 2022, 07:40 Last update: about 3 years ago

A few days ago, historic climate policy was legislated in the United States of America, through the Inflation Reduction Act. The legislation in question deals with a myriad of areas, with clean energy, energy innovation and climate change mitigation featuring prominently. Through these reforms, the USA is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to around 40%, compared to 2005, by 2030. The impact of these policies are likely to extend beyond the USA, given its links to the rest of the world.

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Closer to home, two years ago the European Union had introduced its own Green Deal to combat climate change and environmental degradation. Here, the EU is aiming to have no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, to decouple economic growth with resource use, and to ensure that no person and place will be left behind.

In the meantime, the same European Union is aiming reduce net greenhouse emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990. In particular, the Green Deal covers a broad range of areas, including the natural environment, construction, food, transport, energy, industry, employment, education and innovation.

As a small island state which is also an EU member state, Malta has particular interests, challenges and opportunities in this regard. To begin with, Malta forms part of the EU policy process, which, amongst other characteristics, also includes funding opportunities for public, private and voluntary sectors. At the same time, however, Malta can and should increase its own funding and fiscal measures to adapt to changes related to climate change, some of which we are already witnessing in the present.

The upcoming national budget should serve as a springboard for funding in this regard, in areas such as construction, energy, transport, agriculture, infrastructure, and industry.

Given that climate change has a universal impact, it would make sense to have a climate pact, involving different stakeholders, where as much consensus as possible is reached to tackle the challenges ahead. Whilst being flexible enough to adapt to climate challenges, such a pact should also help guarantee continuity from one administration to another.   

Hence, I suggest that apart from involving the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development, which, in itself is a main protagonist in Malta’s budgetary process, such a climate pact should also involve Malta’s opposition, experts from various fields, as well as local communities. Such a policy process should be structured, deliberative and ongoing, and not simply characterised by one-off ceremonial meetings.

Let us remember that in 2019, both sides of Malta’s parliament agreed to declare a Climate Emergency. Three years down the road, much of the words and speeches which were pronounced in the House of Representatives have not been matched by sufficient action.

In the meantime, some related policy areas have raised controversy. For example, the European proposal to replace fossil jet fuel with sustainable aviation fuel hit the news headlines in view of its impact on Air Malta and airline tickets. Negotiations related to this policy process are still staking place.  We have also heard the Prime Minister talking about the stability of Malta’s energy and fuel prices, amid the war in Ukraine.

But it is quite clear that Green policy areas such as the circular economy, sustainable transport and mobility, the protection of biodiversity, climate mitigation, and pollution are being elbowed out of Malta’s policy priorities despite the clear environmental challenges we are facing.

It is true that Malta, as a small island state, has little impact on global greenhouse emissions, but it would be very short sighted to downplay the considerable climate impacts on our land and sea, with social and economic repercussions.  

Dr Michael Briguglio is a sociologist and senior lecturer at the University of Malta

www.michaelbriguglio.com

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