Writing off future generations

Our actions today are a first draft in designing the future. They are tomorrow’s blueprint. Our future as well as that of future generations.

The ice sheets are melting at a faster rate than ever before. The resulting sea-level rise will obliterate coastal settlements around the globe. Even the Maltese islands will be impacted by a sea-level rise, irrespective of its magnitude. The larger the sea-level rise the more severe the impacts.

On a global level the sea is rising around 3 millimetres per annum. This varies with region. This variation may be insignificant to the naked eye and as result many would not even notice it.

No one can state with certainty as to how much the sea level will eventually rise. It is however clear to the scientific community that an increase in the mean global temperature is a major contributor. Islands and coastal communities all around the world will bear the brunt of this sea-level rise.

In the Pacific Ocean the sea has risen at a rate of three times the global average. A number of low-lying islands have already disappeared below the sea.  In the Indian Ocean, The Maldives, a major touristic destination, risks losing 77 per cent of its land with a 50-centimetre sea-level rise. It will completely disappear if the sea level rises to a metre or more.  

There is a time lag between our actions and sea-level rise such that we can substantially decrease sea-level rise in the future if we act appropriately now.

This is the reason underlying the EU’s policy of carbon neutrality, that is taking steps to ensure that net carbon emissions are reduced to zero by 2050, preferably earlier.

The Mediterranean Sea is a hotspot of climate change. Mediterranean experts on climate and environmental change within the framework of the UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan have drawn up a report entitled “Risks associated to climate and environmental changes in the Mediterranean Region”. This report points at the enormous challenges facing the Mediterranean due to the projected rising temperature in the region.

Without policy change it is estimated that the Mediterranean Region will, on average, be 2.2 degrees warmer in 2040 than it is today. This will have a considerable impact on water resources, agricultural production and health, amongst other issues. By 2100 without meaningful policy change this could lead to a one metre rise in sea level impacting severely the coastal communities in the Mediterranean.

The tourism industry, with most of its facilities situated along the coastline, will be obliterated. The impacts of climate change will be so severe that Covid-19 impacts will seem to be child’s play in comparison.

All over the world governments have been reluctant to act and take definite action on climate change to limit the potential temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and definitely to not more than 2 degrees Celsius. The commitments made at the Paris Climate Summit in 2015 are a welcome first step, but they are certainly not enough.

It has been estimated that if all commitments made in Paris are adhered to, we would still be on track to hit a temperature increase in excess of the two-degree limit. This would lead to a global disaster.

The first to bear the brunt will be islands all around the globe followed closely by low-lying coastal areas. This is the reason for island states being so vociferous in Climate Change fora, insisting for more action. It is unfortunate that Malta’s voice is not sufficiently heard in such fora. It is about time that we get our priorities right. Our relative silence is writing off future generations in the Mediterranean.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 3 January 2021

Has the Paris agreement been Trumped?


In December last year, on the outskirts of Paris, representatives of 196 countries signed an agreement setting out ambitious goals to limit the increase in the global warming. They also agreed to hold governments to account. What is known as “The Paris agreement” came into effect on 4 November 2016.

The agreement was skilfully drafted in such a way that it would not require the approval of the Congress of the United States of America. If such an approval had been required, it would have been rejected outright by the Republican- dominated Congress. Instead, it was implemented by Presidential decrees thereby making it possible for the USA to join the civilised world in combating global warming and, consequently, climate change.

As from 20 January, in addition to Congress, Republicans will have Donald Trump in the White House. On the basis of Trump’s statements during the Presidential electoral campaign, as well as a result of his nominee dealing with environmental matters in the Presidential transition team, there will most probably be a shutting down of the Environmental Protection Agency and a huge bonfire of environmental regulations in Washington, sometime after January 2017.

Trump holds that climate change is fiction, created by the Chinese in order to ensure that the United States is not competitive as a result of being tied up by agreements and regulations.

While President-elect Trump has pledged to dismantle climate change action programmes, the state of California is exercising significant leadership and embracing the clean energy industry, a magnet for new investment and job creation. Other US states are following in the footsteps of California: Texas and North Carolina are embracing the clean energy industries resulting in massive investments and new job opportunities.

The head of Donald Trump’s environment transition team is Myron Ebell, Director of the Centre of Energy and Environment of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Ebell also chairs the Cooler Heads Coalition, comprising over two dozen non-profit organisations that question global warming. Myron Ebell has been described as “an oil industry mouthpiece” – a description  which sums it off in just four words.

The Clean Power Plan, through which President Obama  had sought to implement the conclusions of the Paris Agreement, appears to be for the chop. This plan had established the first ever national carbon emission standards for power plants, the largest  source of carbon emissions in the United States. The aim was that, by 2030, these emissions would be reduced by 32 per cent from those in 2005 consequently preventing thousands of premature deaths and tens of thousands of childhood asthma attacks. In addition, it addressed the fuel economy of passenger vehicles, sought commitment of US industry to reduce carbon emissions, boosted clean energy programmes and increased low-carbon investment. It further developed a strategy to reduce methane emissions, partnered with agriculture producers and set aggressive goals for the reduction of the Federal Government’s  greenhouse gas emissions.

Going by Trump’s statements all this may be reversed in the coming weeks.

This will undoubtedly have an impact on, and influence decisions to be taken by, other countries and may well end up with the newly emerging economies taking a stronger lead in climate change diplomacy.

The Paris agreement was only the starting point. At Marrakesh in the coming days the international community was planning to improve the Paris agreement by focusing more on the importance of adaptation to climate change, including adaptation finance. However, it is now expected that US financial pledges made by President Obama will not be honoured by the new administration. This will inevitably lead to a derailing of plans aimed at ensuring the safety of the global environment.

Some are still hoping that Trump’s rhetoric will not be translated into action. Unfortunately, the first days of the transition of the new presidency do not give much cause for optimism in this respect.


Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 13 November 2016

Il-bidla fil-klima hi magħna


Nhar il-Ġimgħa li għaddiet rappreżentanti ta’ iktar minn 170 pajjiż, Malta inkluża, inġabru fil-kwartieri ġenerali tal-Ġnus Magħquda fi New York biex jiffirmaw il-ftehim dwar il-klima li intlaħaq fi tmiem is-sena ġewwa Pariġi. Dan il-ftehim għandu jfisser li hemm qbil li kull pajjiż ser jikkontribwixxi lejn soluzzjoni ta’ din il-problema.

Hemm qbil biex jittieħdu l-passi kollha meħtieġa ħalli t-temperatura globali ma togħliex iktar minn bejn 1.5oC  u 2oC fuq it-temperatura globali, kif din kienet fil-bidu tal-perjodu industrijali. Biex dan isir jeħtieġ li jonqsu l-emissjonijiet li qed joriġinaw mill-attivitajiet tal-bniedem u li qed jinġabru fl-atmosfera u jsaħħnu d-dinja. Ewlieni fost dawn il-gassijiet hemm id-diossidju tal-karbonju (CO2) li prinċipalment joriġina mill-ħruq ta’ żjut fossili li nużaw biex niġġeneraw l-elettriku kif ukoll mill-petrol u mid-diesel li jintużaw fil-karozzi u inġenji oħra.

Anke Malta ser tfittex li tnaqqas l-impatti tagħha fuq il-klima u dan billi jkollha politika sostenibbli dwar it-trasport, l-enerġija u l-agrikoltura, fost oħrajn. Irridu nindirizzaw l-impatti tal-klima fuq il-bijodiversità, fuq is-saħħa, fuq it-turiżmu, fuq l-ilma, fuq l-agrikoltura kif ukoll fuq l-infrastruttura marittima.

Kemm is-sena li għaddiet kif ukoll l-ewwel tlett xhur ta’ din is-sena kienu fost l-iktar sħan fl-istorja. It-temp qed jitħawwad. L-istaġuni qed jiġġebbdu u jinbidlu. L-istaġuni tax-xita inbidlu għal kollox b’mod li qed issir ħsara kbira lill-agrikultura kif ukoll lill-ħażna tal-ilma li hi tant essenzjali għal kull forma ta’ ħajja. It-temperatura li qed togħla qed iddewweb is-silġ fil-poli u fuq il-muntanji f’diversi partijiet tad-dinja bil-konsegwenza li l-livell tal-baħar qed jogħla u ser jogħla iktar jekk ma’ jittieħdux miżuri biex inrazznu l-għoli tat-temperatura.

Irridu innaqqsu l-impatti tagħna fuq il-klima bħala pajjiż: irridu innaqqsu l-emissjonijiet kif ukoll il-ħela ta’ riżorsi bħall-ilma u l-elettriku. Jeħtieġilna ukoll li narmu inqas skart kif ukoll li nirriċiklaw iktar. Jekk nagħmlu iktar użu mit-trasport pubbliku ukoll nistgħu inkunu ta’ għajnuna kbira biex Malta tnaqqas il-kontribut tagħha għall-bidla fil-klima.

Irridu nifhmu li l-bidla fil-klima qed tħarbat il-ħajja ta’ kulħadd. Qed tipperikola r-riżorsi li s’issa tipprovdilna b’xejn in-natura. Dan ifisser li filwaqt li kulħadd jintlaqat, l-iktar li jintlaqtu huma l-fqar f’kull rokna tad-dinja. Għax it-tibdil fil-klima iżid il-faqar kullimkien. Dan diġa beda jseħħ.

Il-klima hi parti mill-ġid komuni, hi ta’ kulħadd u hi għal kulħadd. Hu għalhekk ukoll li għandna l-obbligu li kull wieħed minna jagħti sehmu biex l-impatti ta’ pajjiżna jonqsu. Il-ftit impatti tagħna huma importanti daqs il-ħafna impatti ta’ ħaddieħor. Mela niftħu ftit għajnejna għall-ħsara kbira li diġa saret u nagħtu sehemna biex din tonqos. Ma baqax żmien x’jintilef għax il-bidla fil-klima diġa qegħda magħna.

Din is-sena bħala riżultat tal-bidla fil-klima ftit li xejn kellna xita f’Malta. L-effett fuqna ser jinħass l-iktar fuq l-agrikultura u l-ħażniet tal-ilma. Pajjiżi oħra sofrew l-għargħar li kaxkar kull ma sab.

Dawn huma l-effetti li qed jidhru u li diġa huma magħna. Nagħmlu l-parti tagħna biex flimkien ma dak li jirnexxielhom jagħmlu pajjiżi oħra innaqqsu dawn l-impatti u b’hekk titjieb il-qagħda ta’ kulħadd. Għax il-klima hi ġid komuni tal-umanità kollha: hi ta’ kulħadd u hi għal kulħadd.

F’Pariġi sar l-ewwel pass

Plan B

Nhar is-Sibt f’Pariġi rappreżentanti ta’ 200 pajjiż waslu fi ftehim dwar il-bidla fil-klima li ġie deskritt bħala wieħed ambizzjuz u li jagħti tama għall-futur. Bil-ftehim ta’ Pariġi ġie miftiehem li ż-żieda fit-temperatura ma taqbiżx b’iktar minn 2oC dik taż-żmien pre-industrijali fil-waqt li ser isiru sforzi biex possibilment iż-żieda l-anqas ma tasal sa 1.5oC.  Dan sar billi kull pajjiż intrabat individwalment biex jistabilixxi l-emmissjonijiet li jeħtieġ li jnaqqas biex jintlaħaq dan l-iskop.

Dawn l-ammont ta’ emissjonijiet ikunu reveduti perjodikament biex ikun assigurat li l-isforz ta’ kulħadd magħdud flimkien jgħin biex naslu għall-iskop komuni li jonqos it-tibdil fil-klima u l-impatti tiegħu fuq id-dinja.

Intlaħaq qbil li huwa meħtieġ investiment ta’ $100 biljun dollar biex ikunu mgħejjuna l-pajjiżi mhux sviluppati biex dawn ukoll ikunu f’posizzjoni li jaddattaw l-ekonomija tagħhom ħalli anke huma jagħtu l-kontribut tagħhom fit-tnaqqis tal-emissjonijiet mingħajr ma jħarbtu l-ekonomija dgħajfa tagħhom. B’hekk il-piz ikun jista’ jintrefa minn kulħadd għax min ma jiflaħx jiġi mgħejjun.

Il-ftehim ta’ Pariġi jorbot lil kull pajjiż li jistabilixxi hu l-emmissjonijiet tiegħu fil-futur iżda ma hemmx obbligu dwar kemm għandhom ikunu dawn l-emmissjonijiet. B’differenza mill-passat dan il-ftehim iħalli ħafna iktar diskrezzjoni f’idejn il-pajjiżi li iffirmawh u allura jiddependi ħafna iktar minn qatt qabel fuq il-volontà tal-pajjiżi individwali. Hawn qegħda d-diffikulta prinċipali tal-ftehim ta’ Pariġi: il-wegħdiet li għamlu s’issa l-pajjiżi individwali meta tgħoddhom flimkien m’humiex biżżejjed. Għad jonqos ħafna iktar x’isir.

Huwa għalhekk li l-għaqdiet ambjentali internazzjonali fil-waqt li huma sodisfatti li l-ftehim intlaħaq jenfasizzaw li dan għadu biss l-ewwel pass. Warajh iridu jiġu ħafna passi oħrajn li jekk ma jseħħux ma jintlaħaq xejn minn dak li ġie miftiehem.

Ma kienx faċli li jaslu sa hawn għax kienu diversi l-pajjiżi li baqgħu jkaxkru saqajhom, anke f’Pariġi. Pajjiżi bħall-Arabja Sawdita u l-Venezwela, produtturi ewlenin taż-żejt opponew kemm felħu. L-istess pajjiżi żviluppati argumentaw kontra l-prinċipju li jerfgħu l-piż tat-tniġġiż passat li wassal lid-dinja fil-posizzjoni diffiċli li tinsab fiha illum.


Jeħtieġ nifhmu li t-tibdil fil-klima diġa qiegħed magħna. Illum li (kif jgħidulna l-esperti) diġa qbiżna t-temperatura pre-industrijali bi 1oC u qed naraw b’għajnejna temp li qed jinbidel bin-natura tħarbat kull ma hawn madwarna.

Qed naraw xita li qed tonqos fil-frekwenza imma żżid fl-intensità, temperatura medja li qed togħla, silġ fil-poli u fuq il-muntanji li qed idub bil-konsegwenza li l-livelli tal-ibħra bdew jogħolew.

Diġa qed naraw b’għajnejna l-ħerba li qed tħalli warajha l-bidla fil-klima. Dan iżda għadu m’hu xejn ħdejn dak li jista’ jseħħ jekk il-pajjiżi kollha li nġabru u ftehmu f’Pariġi ma jwettqux dak li wegħdu. Għax l-effetti tal-bidla fil-klima huma serji ħafna.

Għalina f’Malta t-tibdil fil-klima jħalli impatt fuq saħħita, fuq l-ekonomija u anke bħala riżultat tal-għoli tal-livell tal-baħar il-kosta ta’ pajjiżna ukoll hi mhedda. Inżommu quddiem għajnejna li l-ogħli fil-livell tal-baħar jeffettwa l-faċilitajiet kollha kummerċjali u turistiċi li pajjiżna għandu mal-kosta, sviluppati tul is-snin bid-dedikazzjoni ta’ tant ġenerazzjonijiet li ġew qabilna.

Biex Malta tnaqqas il-kontribut tagħha lejn il-bdil fil-klima jeħtieġ li tkun inkoraġġita iżjed il-ġenerazzjoni ta’ enerġija alternattiva kif ukoll li jonqsu drastikament il-karozzi mit-toroq, permezz tal-użu ta’ mezzi differenti u alternattivi ta’ trasport u b’użu ikbar tat-trasport pubbliku. Hemm bżonn ukoll ta’ pjan fit-tul dwar kif tul is-snin ser innaqqsu l-emmissjonijiet mingħajr ma jkun hemm impatt negattiv fuq l-ekonomija. Dan jista’ jsir permezz ta’ dak li jissejjah Carbon Budget li jorbot lill-Gvern li jnaqqas id-dipendenza fuq iż-żjut billi jistabilixxi miri speċifiċi. Il-bidla li trid twassal għal tnaqqis tad-dipendenza fuq il-fjuwils fossili hija opportunità biex mhux biss nagħtu kontribut ikbar għat-tnaqqis tal-impatti fuq il-klima, imma ukoll biex ikollna arja nadifa, innaqqsu t-tniġġis u l-mard, kif ukoll biex nibnu ekonomija moderna li toffri sors ta’ għixien sostenibbli lin-nies.

Din hi l-unika triq.

pubblikat fuq iNews : it-Tnejn 14 ta’ Diċembru 2015

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