L-emerġenza klimatika

Li niddikjaraw li l-qagħda tal-klima tnissel sens ta’ emergenza hu pass pożittiv. Li nagħrfu dan ifissser li qed titnissel kuxjenza illi ma baqax wisq żmien biex nieħdu l-passi li hemm bżonn.

Ir-Renju Unit, ir- Republika tal-Irlanda, Franza, il-Kanada, l-Awstrija u l-Argentina flimkien ma bosta bliet u awtoritajiet lokali madwar id-dinja, iddikjaraw li għandna Emergenza Klimatika. Dawn jinkludu lil New York u San Francisco fl-Istati Uniti, Sydney u Melbourne fl-Awstralja, Pariġi u Mulhouse fi Franza, Seville, Zaragoza, ir-reġjun tal-Catalonia u l-Gżejjer Canary fi Spanja, Milan, Napli u Lucca fl-Italja, Basel-Stadt fl-Isvizzera, Bonn, Cologne u Düsseldorf fil-Ġermanja, Auckland u Wellington fi New Zealand, Amsterdam fl-Olanda, Varsavja u Krakow fil-Polonja, u Bacolod fil-Filippini.

Id-dikjarazzjoni dwar l-emerġenza klimatika, li kienet waħda mit-talbiet tal-grupp ta’ attivisti ambjentali Extinction Rebellion, kienet bla dubju pass importanti, imma hu ferm iktar importanti dak li jrid isegwi din id-dikjarazzjoni. Jekk il-kliem tad-dikjarazzjoni ma jkunux tradotti f’azzjoni, id-dikjarazzjoni l-anqas biss tiswa’ l-karta li hi stampata fuqha!

Il-punt bażiku li jista’ joħroġ mid-dikjarazzjoni tal-emerġenza klimatika hu l-għarfien li l-azzjoni dwar it-tibdil fil-klima għandha tkun prijorità politika. KuIl Gvern għandu jagħti kaz ta’ dan fil-ħidma kollha tiegħu.

L-aħħar rapport tal-IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) ippubblikat fl-2018 jagħmel enfasi li minkejja l-wegħdiet mill-komunità internazzjonali fis-Summit ta’ Pariġi dwar it-tibdil fil-klima, it-temperatura globali tidher li ser taqbeż bid-doppju l-massimu li nagħtajna parir li m’għandux jinqabeż: mexjin lejn żieda ta’ 3 gradi Celsius iktar mit-temperatura pre-industrijali . Din iż-żieda astronomika antiċipata hi l-kawża tal-emergenza. L-impatt kumulattiv tal-azzjoni dwar il-klima madwar id-dinja s’issa jindika li l-miri minimi mhux ser jintlaħqu.

Bħala riżultat tat-tibdil fil-klima partijiet mid-dinja, gradwalment, mhux ser jibqgħu abitabbli: zieda fit-temperatura, intensifikazzjoni tal-maltempati, nixfa banda u għargħar band’oħra. Dan kollu ser iħarbat il-ħajja kif nafuha sal-lum.

Iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, l-European Environment Agency (EEA) ippubblikat rapport qasir intitolat Climate Change Threatens the Future of Farming in Europe fejn kien enfasizzat li t-temperatura fin-Nofsinnhar tal-Ewropa ser togħla tant li sal-2050, mir-raba’ jista’ jkun li  l-prodotti li nieħdu jonqsu bin-nofs. Fl-istess ħin iż-żieda fit-temperatura fit-Tramuntana tal-Ewropa ser tagħmel dik iż-żona iktar addattata għall-agrikultura.

B’mod partikulari, emfasizza Euractive, l-vitikultura fir-reġjuni madwar il-Mediterran li huma storikament marbutin mal-inbid tonqos sostanzjalment bħala riżultat tas-sħana eċċessiva li qed tiżviluppa.

Din hi l-emerġenza rejali. Minkejja kollox baqa’ ftit taż-żmien biex dan inkunu nistgħu nindirizzawh. Jeħtieġilna imma illi nieħdu iktar ażżjoni bis-serjetà biex nindirizzaw il-kawżi tat-tibdil fil-klima. Qed ngħixu stil ta’ ħajja insostenibbli li jagħti l-impressjoni li għada mhux ser jasla.

M’għandniex bżonn wisq iżjed rapporti. Nafu x’qed jikkawża t-tibdil fil-klima imma ma hemmx biżżejjed rieda politika għal azzjoni. Li nipposponu l-problema f’ħoġor il-futur mhi ser isolvi xejn għax anke għada jista’ jkun tard wisq.

Huwa għal dan l-iskop li jinħtieġ li nirrikonoxxu l-fatt li qegħdin fi kriżi klimatika: hemm ħtieġa li niffukaw l-azzjoni tagħna u nikkommettu ruħna li l-azzjoni dwar it-tibdil fil-klima hi prijorità.

Li neliminaw iż-żieda fil-produzzjoni tal-karbonju (carbon neutrality) fl-iqsar żmien possibli għandu jkun il-mira ta’ kull Gvern. Dan jintlaħaq billi tittieħed azzjoni f’kull qasam, b’mod partikolari fejn jistgħu jinkisbu riżultati b’mod immedjat.

Huwa għal dan l-iskop li Alternattiva Demokratika issa ilna żmien niffukaw fuq il-qasam tat-Trasport bħala s-settur ovvju li jista’ jagħti kontribut sostanzjali għall-isforz ta’ Malta biex ikun indirizzat it-tibdil fil-klima. Minħabba d-distanzi żgħar bejn l-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna, hu iktar faċli minn f’pajjiżi oħra li jkollna mobilità sostenibbli mingħajr l-użu ta’ karozzi privati li jħammġu bl-użu tal-petrol u d-diżil. Ilkoll nirrabjaw li qed jintużaw wisq il-karozzi u li l-użu ta’ mezzi alternattivi ta’ transport mhux inkoraġġiti biżżejjed.

Il-Pjan Nazzjonali tat-Trasport jenfasizza dan kollu meta jiġbdilna l-attenzjoni tagħna li iktar minn nofs il-vjaġġi li nagħmlu bil-karozzi privati jdumu inqas minn kwarta u huma għal distanzi li ma jaqbżux il- ħames kilometri.

Flok ir-retorika dwar il-klima għandna bżonn azzjoni konkreta. B’hekk biss nindirizzaw l-emerġenza.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 8 ta’ Settembru 2019

The Climate Emergency

Declaring a climate emergency is a positive step: recognising that the current state of the climate creates an emergency situation signifies that we are aware that time is running out.

The United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, France, Canada, Austria and Argentina together with various municipalities and local authorities all around the world, have declared a Climate Emergency. These include New York and San Francisco in the USA, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, Paris and Mulhouse in France, Seville, Zaragoza, Catalonia and the Canary Islands in Spain, Milan, Naples and Lucca in Italy, the canton of Basel-Stadt in Switzerland, Bonn, Cologne and Düsseldorf in Germany, Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand, Amsterdam in Holland, Warsaw and Krakow in Poland, and Bacolod in the Philippines. This was one of the demands of the environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion.

The Climate Emergency Declaration was certainly a positive step, but what comes next is more important because if the words of the declaration are not translated into action the declaration will not be worth the paper it is printed on.

The basic point which emerges from a Climate Emergency Declaration is the recognition that action on climate change is a political priority and all the actions of governments should be developed in recognition of this basic fact.

The latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report published in 2018 underlines the fact that, notwithstanding the Paris Climate Change Summit pledges by the international community, the global temperature is on track for an increase that is double the maximum which we are advised should not be exceeded: that is 3 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial temperature. This anticipated astronomical increase is the cause of the emergency: the cumulative impact of climate action on a global level so far indicates that the minimum targets set will not be met.

As a result of climate change parts of the globe will become progressively uninhabitable with increasing temperature, intensification of storms, droughts in some parts of the world and floods in others, all of which will disrupt our life as we know it.

Earlier this week the European Environment Agency (EEA) published a short report entitled Climate Change Threatens the Future of Farming in Europe, underlining the fact that the temperature in Southern Europe will be such the yield from various crops will be reduced by 50 per cent by 2050. Simultaneously, the increase in temperature in Northern Europe would make that region more suitable for agriculture.

In particular, emphasised Euractive, “viticulture in the historical wine regions of the Mediterranean will be not doing well, as a result of the heat stress.”

The emergency is real and yet there is still a small time-frame during which it can be addressed. We need to take serious action to address the causes of climate change: an unsustainable lifestyle which assumes that tomorrow never comes.

We do not need many more reports. The causes of climate change are known but there is an insufficient political will to act. Postponing the problem into the future will not solve anything as tomorrow may be too late.

It is for this reason that we need to recognise the fact that a Climate Emergency exists and focus our attention on a commitment to take action on climate change as a matter of priority.

Achieving carbon neutrality in the shortest possible time should be a clear objective of all governments. This can be achieved by acting immediately in all areas, but primarily in those where immediate results could be attained.

It is for this reason that the Greens in Malta have, in recent months, focused on the transport sector as the most obvious sector that could contribute substantially to Malta’s efforts against climate change. Given the short distances between localities, sustainable mobility can be easily achieved by means other than private cars using fossil fuel. I think it makes many people angry, as it does me, that people use cars far too much and there is certainly a lack of encouragement to use alternatives.

The Transport Master Plan underlines the attainability of this objective by pointing out that over 50 per cent of journeys by private car are for less than 15 minutes and for distances not exceeding 5 kilometres.

Climate action rhetoric needs to be translated into concrete action – and the sooner the better. It is the only way to address the emergency.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 8 September 2019

Il-politika dwar il-klima

“Extinction Rebellion” hi waħda minn l-aħħar forom ta’ eko-attiviżmu. Stabilita fir-Renju Unit reċentment, dan hu attiviżmu non-vjolenti bbażat fuq azzjoni diretta, intenzjonat li jikkonvinċi lill-Gvern biex jaġixxi fil-konfront tal-emergenza klimatika u ekoloġika li qed niffaċċjaw presentement.

It-talbiet li qed jagħmlu lill-Gvern tar-Renju Unit huma ffokati fuq il-ħtieġa li l-fatti veri jkunu magħrufa kif ukoll li jkun hemm azzjoni dwarhom mingħajr iktar tkaxkir tas-saqajn.

Li nassiguraw li jingħadu l-fatti jfisser illi fid-dibattitu dwar il-bidla fil-klima, leħen ix-xjenza jitħalla jinstema’ b’mod ċar. Ix-xjenzjati kienu ċari ħafna (kważi unanimi) huma u jenfasizzaw li l-bidla fil-klima qegħda magħna. Ix-xjenza tgħidilna li diġà qed inħossu l-ewwel impatti tal-bidla fil-klima. Dawn jinkludu temperaturi estremi, tibdil fl-intensità u l-frekwenza tax-xita: nixfa estrema f’partijiet tad-dinja u xita intensiva u għargħar f’oħrajn.

Li jkunu magħrufa l-fatti, jfisser ukoll li nagħrfu illi r-riżorsi fid-dinja huma limitati u li t-tkabbir ekonomiku bla limitu mhux realtà li tista’ isseħħ għax ma hemmx x’jagħmel tajjeb għal dan ix-xorta ta’ tkabbir. Mhux vijabbli li f’dinja b’riżorsi limitati nimmaġinaw tkabbir ekonomiku infinit. Aħseb ftit dwar il-kwalità tal-arja u l-ilma tagħna, il-minerali f’żaqq id-dinja kif ukoll l-ispeċi rari.

Li naġixxu issa jfisser li ma nistgħux nibqgħu nkaxkru saqajna qiesu mhu jiġri xejn. Il-klassi politika ma tistax tibqa’ ddur mal-lewża. Jeħtieġ bidla fil-mod kif ngħixu, mingħajr iktar dewmien.

Jeħtieġilna niffukaw fuq politika ta’ żvilupp sostenibbli b’ħarsa fit-tul flok fuq politika li tħares lejn il-gwadann immedjat . Irridu nibdew naħsbu dwar kif ġenerazzjoni ser ittejjeb fuq dak li ħalliet il-ġenerazzjoni ta’ qabilha flok ma naħsbu dwar x’ser nilħqu nagħmlu sa l-elezzjoni ġenerali li jmiss.

Sadanittant iż-żmien għaddej. Il-frekwenza ta’ maltemp qalil qed jiżdied. L-għargħar qed iħarbat l-infrastruttura ta’ pajjiżi madwar id-dinja. Il-kwalità tal-arja sejra għall-agħar. L-ispeċi qed jisparixxu b’rata li qatt ma rajna bħalha.

Il-livell tal-ibħra qed jogħla, bil-mod għalissa. Imma ma għandna l-ebda garanzija li dan ma jaċċellerax fiż-żmien li ġej.

F’Pariġi, fis-Summit dwar it-tibdil fil-klima fl-2015, kien hemm qbil li għandna nagħmlu ħilitna biex nassiguraw li t-temperatura tad-dinja ma tiżdiedx b’iktar minn 1.5 gradi Celsius fuq it-temperatura pre-industrijali. Imma, wara li diversi pajjiżi issottomettew il-miri volontarji tagħhom kif miftiem fis-Summit ta’ Pariġi, jirriżulta li sa l-aħħar ta’ dan is-seklu ż-żieda fit-temperatura ser taqbez il-mira bid-doppju, ċjoe ser taqbeż it-tlett gradi Celsius. Dan jirriżulta minn rapport tal- IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) li kien approvat fl-2018 u sar pubbliku fil-Korea t’Isfel. Jekk dan iseħħ, l-impatti tat-tibdil fil-klima ser jiżdiedu b’mod astronomiku.

Minkejja dan, ir-rapport tal-2018 tal-IPCC jenfasizza li xorta għadu possibli illum li nilħqu l-mira li tillimita ż-żieda fit-temperatura għal 1.5 degree Celsius. Imma biex dan iseħħ hemm ħtieġa ta’ tnaqqis sostanzjali fl-emissjonijiet kif ukoll tibdil sostanzjali u b’ritmu mgħaġġel f’kull aspett tas-soċjetà. Dan jinkludi process rapidu ta’ tnaqqis ta’ dipendenza fuq il-karbonju (rapid decarbonisation).

Issa għaddew iktar minn tlett snin minn meta Alternattiva Demokratika ippubblikat dokument poliitku dwar il-ħtieġa li f’Malta niffukaw fuq li naslu biex ninfatmu mid-dipendenza fuq il-karbonju (decarbonisation) sa mhux iktar tard mill-2050. Li nilħqu dan l-oġġettiv mhux biss jelimina d-dipendenza fuq fjuwil karboniku imma joħloq ukoll opportunitajiet ekonomiċi sinifikanti kif ukoll numru sostanzjali ta’ impiegi ambjentali fl-użu ta’ teknoliġiji ġodda. Jagħti ukoll kontribut għal titjib fil-kwalità tal-ħajja tagħna lkoll.

Ma nistawx nibqgħu niġu naqgħu u nqumu mir-regoli fundamentali tan-natura u x-xjenza mingħajr imbagħad ma nerfgħu l-konsegwenzi. Anke f’dawn il-gżejjer għandna responsabbiltà li nagħtu kontribut biex tkun eradikata l-inġustizzja klimatika. Imma ż-żmien għaddej, ma jistenna lil ħadd. In-natura ma tkaxkarx saqajha biex tirritalja!

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 1 ta’ Settembru 2019

Climate politics

Extinction Rebellion is one of the latest forms of eco-activism. It was established in the United Kingdom as an apolitical network using non-violent direct action to persuade the government to take action on the climate and ecological emergency which we face.

In brief, the demands by Extinction Rebellion to the UK government focus on the need to be truthful as well as on the need to act now without any further procrastination.

Telling the truth means ensuring that, when it comes to issues of climate change, the voice of science is heard loud and clear. Scientists have been very clear (practically unanimous) in emphasising the fact that climate change is here. Science tells us that we are already at the receiving end of the first impacts of climate change, which include extremes of temperature and the changing patterns of rainfall: extreme drought in parts of the world and the most intensive rainfall and floods elsewhere.

The truth also means a realisation that the earth’s resources are finite and that they cannot keep bankrolling unlimited economic growth. Infinite economic growth on a planet with finite resources in not viable. Think about the quality of our air, our water, minerals in the earth’s core and rare species: they are, at this point in time, stretched beyond the most reasonable limits. And, finally, the truth finally also means that there is no institution on earth which will bail us out of the accumulating ecological debt.

Acting now means that the status quo must end immediately. The current political class must halt its policy of going around in circles. Changing our lifestyles is an immediate must. We need to take on board a politics of sustainable development which focuses on the long-term view instead of a politics of short-term immediate gains. We must start acting on road-maps which span a generation and not on those which span general elections.

Time is running out: violent storms are more frequent; flooding is playing havoc with the infrastructure all over the world; air quality is deteriorating continuously and species are becoming extinct at the fastest rate ever.

The sea is rising – slowly at this point in time, but we have no guarantee that this will not accelerate. The rate at which ice is melting at the polar caps is not the least reassuring.

The Climate Change 2015 summit in Paris agreed on the need to spare no effort in ensuring that the global temperature did not increase by more than 1.5 degree Celsius over that recorded in the pre-industrial age. However, after the different countries submitted their voluntary targets, as agreed at the Paris summit, it seem that by the end of the current century the increase in temperature will be 3 degree Celsius – double the target. This is the result of an IPCC report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)  approved and published in South Korea in 2018. If this happens, climate change impacts will increase exponentially.

The key finding of the 2018 IPCC report is that while the 1.5 degree Celsius climate increase target is still achievable at this stage, it would require “deep emission reductions” and “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. This would include rapid decarbonisation.

It has been more than three years since Alternattiva Demokratika -The Green Party – published a policy paper on the need to focus on decarbonisation in Malta and achieve this by not later than 2050. Such an objective would not only eradicate our dependency on carbon fuels, it would also create significant economic opportunities and the creation of a multitude of real green jobs in emerging technologies, as well as contribute significantly to an improvement in our quality of life.

We cannot continue to violate the fundamental laws of nature or science with impunity. Even on these islands we have a responsibility to contribute to the eradication of climate injustice. Time is running out. Nature does not have second thoughts about implementing its agenda!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 1 September 2019

Triq Durumblat : ħdejn it-Torri Cumbo Mosta

 

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Durumblat hu (jew kien) isem ta qasam art bejn il-Mosta u Ta Vnezja li jibqa tiegħla lejn l-Imdina. Il-kelma Durumblat, jgħidilna Erin Serracino-Inglott fil-kapulavur tiegħu Il-Miklem Malti  trid tfisser ħotba fil-blat.

Imma din il-ħotba fil-blat ftit għadha tidher bil-bini sfrenat li tela tul is-snin.

Issa fl-aħħar forsi ser nieqfu biex naħsbu ftit dwar xinhu jiġri. Id-deċiżjoni tal-bieraħ tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar li tirrifjuta l-applikazzjoni biex art fil-periferija tal-Mosta tkun żviluppata bmod intensiv toffri tama li s-sens komun fl-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art fpajjiżna għadu ma intilifx għal kollox. L-applikazzjoni PC 039/09 kienet biex ikun determinat xtip ta żvilupp hu permissibbli fuq art tal-qies ta 38,600 metru kwadru ħdejn it-Torri Cumbo l-Mosta.

Il-bierah jiena kont preżenti għas-seduta tal- Awtoritá u fisem residenti fl-inħawi tkellimt kontra din l-applikazzjoni.  Fissirt kif l-iżvilupp propost hu wieħed massiv u li kien neċessarju li jkun magħruf, permezz ta studji apposta, xinhu l-impatt, mhux biss ta dan l-iżvilupp iżda ukoll fuq l-impatt kumulattiv. Jiġifieri meta tqis kemm l-impatt tal-bini eżistenti u żżid miegħu l-impatt tal-bini ġdid propost.

Jiena konxju li l-istorja mhux ser tieqaf hawn. Id-deċiżjoni żbaljata favur l-iżvilupp ilha li ttieħdet sa mill-2006 meta l-Parlament iddeċieda li madwar żewġ miljun metru kwadru ta art fil-periferija tal-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna jingħataw għall-iżvilupp. Dakinnhar kienu qalu li dan kien eżerċizzju ta razzjonalizzazzjoni. Imma jiddispjaċini ngħid li hu kollox barra razzjonali!

Huwa neċessarju li qabel ma din l-applikazzjoni tkun ikkunsidrata mill-ġdid, kif inevitabilment ser jiġri, ikun ikkunsidrat bir-reqqa l-impatt soċjali, ekonomiku u ambjentali ta dan l-iżvilupp massiċċ. Hemm ħtieġa li jsiru l-istudji neċessarji li jikkwantifikaw dan l-impatt kif ukoll li jkunu identifikati miżuri ta mitigazzjoni. 

Fost oħrajn għandna niftakru li l-aħħar ċensiment li sar fl-2011 kien żvela li minn 8359 residenza fil-Mosta, 16.2% kienu vakanti u 3.2% oħra kienu użati okkazjonalment. Dan waħdu diġa huwa raġuni valida biżżejjed li minħabba fiha dan it-tip ta żvilupp għandu jkun skoraġġit.

Għandu jkun ikkunsidrat ukoll li għall-futur, il-kunsiderazzjoni ta applikazzjonijiet ta din ix-xorta għandhom ikunu akkumpanjati minn miżuri innovattivi ta ħarsien ambjentali fosthom l-obbligu tal-ġenerazzjoni ta elettriku mix-xemx btali mod li kull waħda mill-units reżidenzjali permessi tkun carbon neutral.

Din id-deċiżjoni tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, hi lezzjoni għall-Gvern u l-Oppożizzjoni: wasal iżżmien li d-deċiżjoni stupida li kien ħa l-Parlament fl-2006 tkun reveduta. Mhux biss dwar l-art fil-Mosta iżda dwar kull wieħed miżżewġ miljuni metru kwadru li dakinnhar ingħataw għall-iżvilupp.

Alternattiva Demokratika hi kburija li tul dawn l-aħħar ħdax-il sena ma waqfitx titkellem fuq din il-materja u tistieden lill-Gvern u l-Oppożizzjoni biex jiftħu għajnejhom u jingħaqdu magħha biex din id-deċiżjoni ħażina tal-Parliament fl-2006 tkun indirizzata.

Paris COP21 : the last chance ?

Paris Cop21

Next week’s Paris Climate Change meeting is the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) relative to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, a framework treaty signed in Rio de Janeiro at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

For the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, the Paris meeting aims to achieve a universal and legally binding agreement on climate, with the aim of ensuring that global warming does not exceed the pre-industrial revolution temperatures by more than 2°C.

A number of Pacific island states whose very existence is threatened due to the rise in sea level as a result of climate change have been lobbying for a lower target, 1.5°C. This was, however, deemed as being too ambitious by the international community.

The Paris Agreement aims to help the world move towards a low-carbon future. This will mean that carbon emissions have to be reduced across the board and on a global level, as a result reducing global warming. If there are sufficient reductions in carbon emissions over a number of years the global temperature will, hopefully, be reduced by at least 2°C. If, on the other hand, carbon emissions remain practically unchecked, it is estimated that the temperature rise will be as much as 6°C over pre-industrial revolution temperatures by the year 2100. This would inevitably have catastrophic consequences – some of which are already being experienced.

The foundations for the Paris Climate Change Conference were laid in Lima, Peru, 12 months ago, as a conclusion of COP20 in what is known as the ‘Lima Call for Climate Action’. In Lima, all countries were called upon to declare their plans and pledges for the reduction of carbon emissions. Such pledges have, to date, been made by more than 180 countries which together are responsible for 97.8 per cent of global carbon emissions.

This response to the Lima Call is considered by many as being very positive, this increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome in Paris.

However, coupled with the plans and pledges for the reductions of carbon emissions, the underdeveloped countries expect that the developed countries will honour their pledges of substantial contributions to finance their transition to a low carbon economy. Initiatives during the past 12 months indicate that even on financing, Paris is on track.

During previous climate change conferences, all the countries expressed a willingness to address climate change. There was, however, one problem: they wanted others to do the hard work required. As a result, no one wished to take the first steps. The failure to reach an agreement in Copenhagen in the 2009 COP was a wake-up call.

Hopefully, we are on the eve of a global consensus that the time is ripe for action. We have a duty towards future generations to change direction and reverse the climatic impacts of human activity. Paris could well be the last chance to save the planet.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 29 November 2015

Pope Benedict XVI : Laying the Groundwork for a Sustainable Civilization ?

by Gary Gardner

Published by Worldwatch Institute on April 15, 2008

Rumour has it that Pope Benedict may address climate change during his visit to the United Nations this week. Whether he does or not, his young papacy can claim to be the “greenest” ever. Benedict has identified extensive common ground between sustainability concerns and a Catholic worldview – adding weight to the argument that the world’s religions could be instrumental in nudging policymakers and the public to embrace sustainability. Now, the Pope has the opportunity to further develop the links between sustainability and religious values, markedly advancing thinking in both arenas.

Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, made important environmental statements during his long papacy, but Benedict is the first “green pope.” Last year, the Vatican installed solar panels on its 10,000-seat main auditorium building, and it arranged to reforest land in Hungary to offset Vatican City’s carbon emissions, making it the world’s first carbon-neutral state. And Benedict has repeatedly urged protection of the environment and action against poverty in a number of major addresses. His next encyclical (major papal teaching), due out this summer, is expected to further wrestle with environmental, social, and other themes of interest to the sustainability community.

As he embraces these themes, Benedict and the larger Catholic community could play an especially valuable role in helping to address two major influences on the environment that get too little attention today: consumption and population. (A third, technology, already receives high levels of policy focus.)

The consumption question should be comfortable ground for a modern Catholic pope, given the longstanding social and spiritual critique of consumerism in Catholic thought. For example, Pope Paul VI, in his 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio, linked heavy consumption to injustice, declaring that, “No one may appropriate surplus goods solely for his own private use when others lack the bare necessities of life…. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.”

John Paul II added a spiritual dimension in Centesimus Annus in 1991, critiquing “a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards ‘having’ rather than ‘being,'” and urging people to “create life-styles in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments.” The Church’s spiritual and social teachings are rich complements to modern environmental arguments against consumerism.

Benedict’s challenge is to move longstanding Church teaching into concrete action. Despite the extensive archive of papal statements on the subject, there is no evidence that Catholics consume less or differently than anyone else. Yet given that 40 percent of the human family lives on less than $2 a day while the prosperous among us consume casually and wastefully, Catholic leadership in redefining “the good life” away from accumulation and toward greater human wellbeing and solidarity with the poor cannot come soon enough.

Benedict will need to be creative in persuading the comfortable in his Church to take consumption teachings seriously. The dramatic equivalent of solar panels on a Vatican rooftop may be needed to move prosperous Catholics to critically assess their own consumption-and to find joy in consuming less.

The other issue, population, is more difficult for a Catholic leader to tackle, especially one with Benedict’s reputation for doctrinal strictness. For Benedict and most Catholics, human reproduction is a domain infused with questions of deep personal morality. But a pontiff who appreciates the epochal nature of the sustainability crisis must surely also recognize the moral challenges raised when human numbers grow exponentially in a finite world.

How much of modern hunger, disease, poverty, and environmental degradation can be blamed on population sizes that have exceeded the carrying capacity of local, regional, and global environments? The share is unknowable, but surely not small. The challenge for Benedict will be to apply his formidable intellect to harmonize the personal and social ethics of population issues.

Benedict’s interest in sustainability issues comes not a moment too soon. The sustainability crisis is civilizational in scope and depth-and therefore a natural concern for a global institution like the Catholic Church. Should Benedict raise the twin issues of consumption and population to the level of theological and spiritual attention they deserve, he would not only advance thinking on religious ethics-but also on how to create just and environmentally sustainable societies.

Gary Gardner is a senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C. He is the author of the book Inspiring Progress: Religions’ Contributions to Sustainable Development.