The Malta Independent 17 July 2024, Wednesday
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Climate change: health, fossil fuels and the excessive deficit procedure

Carmel Cacopardo Sunday, 23 June 2024, 08:39 Last update: about 25 days ago

During July 2023’s heatwave, in Malta, it was reported that 21 persons died of dehydration and other heat-related symptoms. The heatwave was compounded by repeated power cuts, which made matters much worse.

News agencies are reporting that intense heat in Saudi Arabia, by the time of writing, has been the cause of over 1,000 deaths of Hajj pilgrims to the holy city of Mecca.

Various environmental websites are commenting on a report just published by researchers at the University of Portsmouth on the heat risks of the Paris Olympics, due next month. The report, entitled Rings of Fire: Heat Risks at the 2024 Paris Olympics, warns, that excessive heat could result in athletes collapsing or even dying when participating in sporting events.

The report makes reference to the deadly 2003 heatwave in France: then, 14,000 persons died as a result of heat-related symptoms.

Much worse is expected this year. 2023 was the warmest year ever. The global average temperature during 2023 has surpassed the threshold of a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase over the pre-industrial age temperature agreed to at the 2015 Paris Climate Summit.

The European continent is warming at an alarming rate, much faster than other regions. The Mediterranean is much worse off. Earlier this week Euronews has reported that as heatwaves hit Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, death tolls are rising. In Crete, Athens and the Peloponnese peninsula temperatures have soared above the 40-degree mark, exceeding 44 degrees in Crete.

This is the present, unfolding before our eyes. The future can be much worse. It is not yet inevitable; however, it may soon well be. Earlier this year the European Environment Agency published the first European climate risk assessment. In a 425-page report we were told that climate change is a multiplier of risks: existing risks will get much worse. We are extremely slow in developing and implementing climate change adaptation strategies. Climate risks are growing much faster than our preparedness.

The impacts of climate change affect all of us, but most of all they effect the vulnerable amongst us. Whether it is floods or drought, extremes of temperatures or rising sea levels, at the end of the day it is the vulnerable and the poor who shoulder most of the burden which results. Environmental degradation and social injustice are intertwined.

Earlier this week Brussels has warned the tenant at Castille Place that Malta is risking being subject to the excessive deficit procedure in view of its excessive budget deficit. Among the essential measures Brussels is insisting once ore that Malta addresses fuel and energy subsidies as well as traffic congestion.

While fuel subsidies can be done away with the soonest, it is a different story with energy subsidies. They need to be redesigned in order to focus on helping the vulnerable. It does not make sense to subsidise everyone and everything.

Similarly with traffic congestion. We need to encourage activity which does not need a car. For example, the proliferation of supermarkets all over the island is making matters worse. Encouraging local shops of various sizes would encourage the regeneration of various urban areas and contribute to a reduction of car movements in our roads.

In this sense the regeneration of green spaces in or close to urban areas is a splendid idea. However, to make sense this initiative has to be integrated within an urban vision which places the human person and his/her needs at the centre of our land use planning.

A possible solution is the 15-minute city concept, mostly associated with Paris and architect Carlos Moreno. This initiative seeks to address our needs and integrating them with those of nature.

The aim is to encourage self-sufficient communities, where all basic needs are just a walk, or a bike ride away from your home. As a result we would gradually be addressing our addiction to the car, which, as a result we would need less and less. There would even be less need of fuel subsidies. It is a realistic future, particularly in a small country, where almost everywhere is a stone’s throw away.

This is a practical application of the principle of urban proximity, as a result of which cities move away from the use of fossil fuels into a vehicle free era. It is the mobility modal shift we require in this day and age to effectively deal with the emissions linked to private transport. Thereby addressing subsidies, climate change and the excessive deficit procedure too!

This is the ideal future. Ensuring an adequate quality of life and respecting our surroundings.

 

An architect and civil engineer, the author is a former Chairperson of ADPD-The Green Party in Malta.  [email protected] ,   http://carmelcacopardo.wordpress.com

 

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