The Malta Independent 21 April 2024, Sunday
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TMID Editorial - The Climate Change Authority: about time

Saturday, 24 February 2024, 10:35 Last update: about 3 months ago

Last week, Parliament discussed and agreed upon the setting up of a new Climate Change Authority to monitor climate action on the island. 

It came after an agreement was reached on it in Cabinet last month, and after it was first announced back in July 2023.

Energy Minister Miriam Dalli had announced that the Climate Change Authority would monitor the impact of climate change and implement actions to curb its effects and she told Parliament that it would evaluate policies linked to climate change to ensure that the island’s mitigation action was impactful.

“It will serve independently from other entities, but in constant collaboration,” Dalli said.

The government is also going to formally bind itself to taking the necessary action so that climate neutrality is achieved by 2050.

Both Dalli and Prime Minister Robert Abela during the debate gave a hint as to the philosophy that the authority will follow when it comes to tackling climate change: both said that they wanted to incentivise the transition through positive measures, rather than implementing measures which will burden the people.

“We must take difficult decisions, but these decisions should not burden our businesses and families,” Abela told Parliament.

“There are those who argue that we must pay an economic price for this transition; but I do not believe in that. How can we work on securing our environment when our people do not feel secure? How can we protect the environment when our people have no peace of mind?”

This is in line with the philosophy that the government has taken when it comes to governing the country as a whole: any ‘negative’ measures which could result in more taxes or financial burdens on the people have been shunned in favour of more ‘positive’ measures which encourage people to make the change themselves.

One can imagine that we will see new environment-focused initiatives for private businesses to enhance the transfer of their operations into a more sustainable and eco-friendly framework to be amongst those measures, together with additional grants for people to invest in renewable energy or alternative modes of transport.

It will be interesting to see how the country’s energy policy will also interact with this authority: talks on a new gas pipeline are very much underway, permits have been approved for the second interconnector, and there are also discussions about offshore wind farms or collaborative solar farms in North Africa as well.

The authority certainly is a step forward, but one question does stand out: why did it have to take so long to get to this point?

The country declared a climate emergency on 22 October 2019 – over four years after this authority was formally approved by Cabinet. Surely one would have thought that if climate change was truly being treated as an emergency, then it wouldn’t have taken this long for an authority to supervise and coordinate the country’s fight against what is likely the world’s biggest communal challenge.

Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech was right in that sense to question the timeframes and to suggest that the last four years have been wasted.  Sure, the government has implemented and strengthened a number of schemes in the last four years, but the work would have been more effective with a supervisory authority such as this.

Either way, better late than never, and hopefully this authority will increase Malta’s efforts towards fighting the effects of climate change.


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