The Malta Independent 5 March 2024, Tuesday
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‘The world is experiencing a triple planetary crisis’ – Robert Abela

Sunday, 3 December 2023, 11:42 Last update: about 4 months ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela has said that 'the world is experiencing a triple planetary crisis,' while speaking at an international event on Sunday.

Abela addressed Commonwealth High-Level side event titled: 'A Commonwealth Call to Action on Living Lands: Progressing from Adoption to Implementation - Launch of Implementation Framework', during the COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

"Addressing climate change, protecting biodiversity, and nurturing the ecological restoration of our land has become an urgent priority for all. As members of the Commonwealth, we are here to renew our commitment to work together towards this aim through the Call to Action on Living Lands. Indeed, combating land degradation and desertification is essential to sustain human life on Earth," he said.

"From ensuring long-term food security to land stabilization, soil conservation is directly linked to climate mitigation and water quality. Growing water scarcity due to climate change is becoming an even greater reality for an increasing number of countries, threatening the lives and livelihoods of its citizens. Taken together, all these conditions have a significant effect on a country's economic and social development. This was the case for my country, Malta."

He said that throughout its history, Malta has faced particular challenges related to water scarcity.

"Malta's semi-arid Mediterranean climate limits the availability of natural freshwater resources. Natural water resources can only meet around 40% of the annual water demand of the Maltese islands, even if water is used in a highly efficient manner. Malta's national water policy is therefore based on the conjunctive use of water demand management and water supply augmentation measures - whilst ensuring a high level of engagement with water users. This ensures the security of water supply for the population, support of economic activity, and the survival of the agricultural sector whilst respecting the needs of the natural environment. Throughout the years, Malta has successfully strived to develop an integrated water management framework."

He mentioned the key features of this framework as being an effective leakage management programme, the development of energy-efficient sea-water desalination, the launch of a New Water programme and the drafting of a 10-year high-level national investment plan for water services

 "Concurrently, we have strived to develop a high level of appreciation for the importance of using water effectively and efficiently," he said mentioning two particular key measures: (i) support provided to enterprises in optimising their water use efficiency and (ii) promoting research and innovation through financing joint initiatives by academia and industry to develop water management solutions through a scheme managed by the Energy and Water Agency.

"Distinguished Guests, One of the worst impacts of climate change on Malta is undoubtedly drought, making adaptation to ensure water security a most pressing issue to address when building and financing our resilience to climate change. In July this year, Malta's first-ever Green Bonds were launched through the Water Services Corporation, the sole and national water management utility on the Maltese Islands. The Water Services Corporation is the first company in Malta to have taken this step and one of the first Water Utilities in the World to follow an ecological initiative such as this," Abela said. He said that the Green Bonds were open to institutional and retail investors and consumers, € 25 million to finance targeted sustainable water and wastewater projects.

"The bonds were fully subscribed within hours of issuance. The bonds have a term to maturity of ten years and an interest rate of 4.25% and have been certified by the Climate Bonds Initiative. This certification ensures that the capital outlay from these bonds will be used to finance green projects that positively impact the environment and, in the same way, level up Malta's economic model towards carbon neutrality. The income from the Green Bonds will be used to finance a number of projects, including the state-of-the-art high energy-efficiency desalination reverse osmosis plant in Gozo and over 19,000 square meters of solar farms, which generate renewable energy. These projects will help address some of Malta's key water security challenges when adapting to climate change and building resilience while boosting the economy. The Bonds will also help reduce the Water Services Corporation's reliance on fossil fuels. This will be done by financing cutting-edge aeration technology in wastewater treatment, enhancing treatment performance, and reducing pollution with less energy input."

Another essential feature of our strategy has been to bolster these investments with interactive, solid educational programmes, he said. "These programmes support building a water conservation culture among the general public, thus facilitating the uptake of measures."

Abela said he "cannot but emphasise the importance of regional and international cooperation. Currently, through the regional LIFE IP RMP project, a water management toolkit for Mediterranean islands is being developed and whose capitalisation effort will see Malta engaging with other Mediterranean islands through two specific regional conferences which Malta will be organising in the Eastern and Western Mediterranean. With Commonwealth support, such a project can be replicated among Commonwealth islands."


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