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

We need a Carbon Budget

Searching for the word “climate” through the 2021 Pre-Budget document published earlier this week entitled Towards a Sustainable Economy one finds the word three times: twice referring to the United Nations Agenda which has to be addressed by Malta as a prospective UN Security Council member, while a third reference is to policy documents under preparation in Malta. The word climate in the pre-budget document is not associated with any climate change policy implementation or action and its impact on the Maltese economy.

It is already five years since the Paris Climate Summit and its conclusions are still being “studied” in Malta. If we keep on procrastinating, achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 will be very difficult to attain.

When Parliament approved the Climate Action Act in 2015 it identified that one of the tools to be used in the politics of climate change was the formulation of a Low Carbon Development Strategy. Consultation on a Vision to develop such a strategy was carried out in 2017, but three years down the line the final policy document is nowhere in sight, even though the Minister for Climate Change Aaron Farrugia has indicated that it may be concluded towards the end of this year. 

A Low Carbon Development Strategy will identify those sectors which are of considerable relevance in developing a low carbon strategy. Some of them are major carbon emission contributors to be addressed. Other sectors are part of the solution as they provide alternative tools which serve to decouple the economy from intensive energy use, in the process reducing carbon emissions.

The Vision which was subject to public consultation three years ago identifies a number of sectors as areas for climate action, namely: enterprise, energy, transport, waste, water, agriculture, tourism, information and communication technologies (ICT) and finance.

The Low Carbon Development Strategy, when published, should address these areas of action. It would also be expected that such a strategy would also identify the manner in which we will be in a position to achieve our target of carbon neutrality. Such a strategy would also, for completeness be expected to be coupled with a carbon budget which would break down the general target into specific manageable objectives which could be achieved over a specific and reasonable timeframe.

At the Paris Climate Summit, together with all other countries, Malta made pledges to take action in order to lay the foundations for reducing climate impacts. If all the pledges made at Paris are honoured, however, we will still be very far off from achieving the target of not exceeding a two-degree Celsius temperature rise. Much more is required.

Unfortunately, Malta’s climate related policies are double faced. On one hand the Malta government publicly pledges action to address climate change. Simultaneously, however, it proceeds with massive road infrastructural projects which encourage more cars on our roads. On the other hand, plans for the electrification of our roads are apparently subject to an elephantine gestation period. In the meantime, car emissions compete with power generation emissions as Malta’s major contributor to climate change.

It is unfortunate that the Low Carbon Development Strategy and the associated Carbon Budget are taking too long to be formulated. It will take much longer to implement them as special interest groups will undoubtedly seek to protect their specific areas to the detriment of attaining our carbon-neutral objective.  

Malta should be at the forefront of climate change action. Parliament’s declaration recognising the existence of a climate emergency is not enough. Words must give way to action. As an island, Malta should be aware that a primary climate change challenge in the years to come will be a rising sea level as a result of which the coastline may recede inwards at a rate so far unknown. The coast, we may remember, is home to most of our maritime and tourism infrastructural facilities, all of which are under threat. Even residential areas close to the sea level will be impacted. This would include all sandy beaches and the residential/commercial areas at l-Għadira, Xemxija, Salini, Gzira, Msida, Sliema, Ta’ Xbiex, Pietà, Marsa, Marsaxlokk, Marsaskala, Birzebbuga, Xlendi, and Marsalforn. Impacts could also move towards inland low-lying areas such as Qormi.

If we take too long to bring our own house in order, it may be too late.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 13 September 2020

Ġustizzja klimatika: s-sehem tagħna

L-istat attwali tal-emerġenza klimatika li qed tiżviluppa madwarna hu l-effett akkumlat ta’ snin ta’ emissjonijiet ta’ karbonju. Kontinwament qed inżidu ma dawn l-impatti akkumulati tant li l-projezzjonijiet tal-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) jindikaw illi l-miri tas-Summit ta’ Pariġi dwar it-Tibdil fil-Klima li sar fl-2015 mhumiex ser jintlaħqu bil-kbir.

L-emissjonijiet globali tal-karbonju tant żdiedu li flok ser nillimitaw iż-żieda fit-temperatura għal grad u nofs Celsius fuq it-temperatura tal-era pre-industrijali, resqin lejn żieda ta’ madwar id-doppju ta’ dan sa l-aħħar tas-seklu kurrenti: ċjoe żieda ta tlett gradi Celsius.

L-istati z-żgħar li huma ġżejjer joqgħodu fihom iktar minn 65 miljun persuna. Ilu ż-żmien issa li dawn ġew meqjusa bħala l-iktar vulnerabbli minħabba l-impatti tat-tibdil fil-klima. Kull stat gżira qiegħed fuq quddiem nett biex ikun minn tal-ewwel biex ilaqqat dawn l-impatti, u dan minkejja li storikament, fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom dawn kienu fost l-anqas li kkontribwew għat-tibdil fil-klima. Prinċipalment qed nirreferi għall-istati gżejjer żgħar li hemm fil-Paċifiku li ġeneralment mhumiex ‘il-fuq mil-livell tal-baħar. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan il-fatt dawn ser ikunu fost ta’ l-ewwel li jlaqqtu d-daqqa tal-għoli tal-livell tal-baħar, bla dubju wieħed mill-konsegwenzi ewlenin tat-tibdil fil-klima.

Meta nitkellmu dwar l-għoli fil-livell tal-baħar ma nkunux qed nitkellmu b’mod tejoretiku dwar il-futur. Fl-Oċejan Paċifiku din hi r-realtà tal-lum.

Ħarsu pereżempju lejn il-gżejjer Maldives, magħrufa għall-bajjiet ramlin bojod li ma jispiċċaw qatt u li matul l-2018 żaruhom miljun u nofs turist. Il-Maldives huma fost iktar pajjiżi ċatti fid-dinja. 80% tal-art mhiex iktar minn metru ‘l-fuq mil-livell tal-baħar.

L-ebda parti tal-gżejjer mhi iktar minn tlett metri mil-livell tal-baħar. L-istudji li saru jindikaw li sa mis-snin ħamsin il-baħar madwar il-gżejjer Maldives għola bejn 0.8 u 1.6 ta’ millimetru fis-sena. B’din ir-rata hu stmat li sa tmiem dan is-seklu 77% tal-gżejjer Maldives ikunu taħt il-livell ta’ wiċċ il-baħar.

Il-ġzejjer Maldives, ċentru turistiku rinomat, jistgħu jkunu ‘l-bogħod wisq għal uħud biex jifhmu is-sinfikat ta’ dak li qed iseħħ fil-present. Imma hi ukoll esperjenza li mhux ser iddum ma tinfirex mal-erbat irjieh tad-dinja .

It-tibdil fil-klima jeffettwa direttament lill-komunitajiet mal-kosta kif ukoll l-infrastruttura kollha żviluppata mat-tul kollu tal-kosta. Il-gżejjer kollha, waħda wara l-oħra, ser ilaqqtuha.

Malta mhix ser tkun xi eċċezzjoni. Il-gżejjer Maltin, bħall-gżejjer kollha, ser jintlaqtu sewwa minn dawn l-impatti klimatiċi.

Probabbilment li din hi r-raġuni għaliex, skond Eurobarometer, il-Maltin huma l-iktar imħassba fost l-Ewropej u jqisu it-tibdil fil-klima bħala materja ta’ serjetà kbira.

Naħseb li wasal iż-żmien li din li tidher li hi sensittività għall-impatti tat-tibdil fil-klima nittrasformawha f’azzjoni konkreta.

Nistgħu per eżempju nistabilixxu l-mira li nnaqqsu nofs il-karozzi privati li għandna llum fit-toroq tagħna fi żmien għaxar snin? Ovvjament ma jkollniex bżonn it-toroq kollha li qed jippjanaw li jibnu kieku kellna nippruvaw inwettqu mira bħal din.

Dan jista’ jsir bla wisq diffikultà meta nqiesu li nofs il-vjaġġi li nagħmlu bil-karozzi tagħna fil-gżejjer Maltin huma vjaġġi għal distanzi qosra (twal inqas minn ħames kilometri) u li jdumu mhux iktar minn kwarta. Li jonqos hu ftit rieda politika. Flok ma noqgħodu nistennew lil ħaddieħor, f’pajjiżi oħra ‘l-bogħod, biex jieħdu azzjoni ħalli jonqsu l-impatti fuq il-klima wasal iż-żmien li naħsbu ftit dwar dak li nistgħu nagħmlu aħna stess u ngħaddu biex nagħmluh.

Il-problema tal-gżejjer Maldives hi il-problema tagħna wkoll. Konna fost dawk li taw kontribut biex inħolqot il-problema u jeħtieg ukoll il-kontribut tagħna għas-soluzzjoni tagħha.

Din hi t-triq li twassal lejn ġustizzja klimatika.


Ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 15 ta’ Settembru 2019

Climate Justice: our role

The current state of the developing climate emergency is the cumulative effect of years of carbon emissions.

We continuously add to this accumulated impact to the extent that projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate that the targets of the Paris 2015 Climate Change Summit will be substantially exceeded. The current global carbon emissions are such that instead of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the temperature prevalent in the pre-industrial era, we are moving towards double this increase by the end of this century, that is 3 degrees Celsius.

Small island states, home to more than 65 million people, have long been recognised as being especially vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. Each island state is on the frontline of such impacts even though, historically, most of them have been the lowest contributors to climate change. I am referring mostly to the Pacific small island states which are generally low-lying and as a result, the first port of call of the rising sea level – one of the major consequences of climate change.

Rising sea levels is not the theoretical future. In the Pacific Ocean it is the real present. Consider, for example the Maldives, known for its extensive sandy beaches frequented by around 1.5 million tourists in 2018. The Maldives is also considered to be the flattest country on earth, with 80 per cent of its land area no higher than one metre above sea level and none of the rest no more than 3 metres above sea level. Studies indicate that, since the 1950s, the sea level around the Maldives has risen between 0.8 and 1.6 millimetres annually. At this rate it is estimated that, by the end of this century, 77 per cent of the Maldives current land area will be below sea level.

The Maldives, a tourism haven, may be too far away for some to grasp the significance of what is happening right now. It is, however, experiencing what will soon be the reality around the whole globe.

The coastal communities and the coastal infrastructure will be the hardest hit by climate change and al islands, around the world will be hit.

Malta will not be an exception; along with all other island states, the Maltese Islands will have to bear the brunt of this impact of climate change.

This could be the reason why, according to Eurobarometer, the Maltese are among the most concerned Europeans and consider climate change a very serious issue.

Isn’t it about time that this “apparent” sensitivity to the impacts of climate change is translated into concrete action?

How about, for example, setting a target of reducing the number of private cars on our roads by 50 per cent over the next ten years? We would obviously not need all the new roads being built, should we start seeking the best way to achieve such a target.

Given that it is estimated that 50 per cent of our private car journeys all around the Maltese Islands are for short distances (less than five kilometres) and of a duration that does not exceed 15 minutes this target would be easily achievable if there is some political will. Instead of waiting for others in faraway places to take action to reduce the impacts of climate change, it is about time that we start planning what we can do ourselves, and then proceed with doing it.

The problem of The Maldives is our problem too. We have contributed to its creation and consequently we must also contribute to its solution.

This is the path of climate justice.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 15 September 2019

It-tibdil fil-klima hi kawża ta’ inġustizzji

Kulħadd hu konxju li f’partijiet differenti tad-dinja t-temp għaddej minn estrem għall-ieħor. In-National Geographic, riċentement, taħt it-titlu “It-tibdil fil-klima tisforza Gwatemali biex jemigraw” irrappurtat ukoll li “n-nixfa u t-tibdil fil-klima qed jagħmilha diffiċli għall-bdiewa ta’ mezzi żgħar biex jgħajxu lill-familji tagħhom. Dan qed iwassal għal kriżi umanitarja.”

L-Organizzazzjoni Dinjija tal-Ikel (FAO) u l-Programm Dinji tal-Ikel tal-Ġnus Magħquda huma kkonċernati li n-nixfa qed ikollha impatt sostanzjali fuq dawk l-iktar vulnerabbli fl-Amerika Ċentrali. Din diġa wasslet biex intilfu 280,000 ettaru ta’ raba’ fil-Gwatemala, l-El Salvador u l-Honduras, u bħala riżultat ta’ dan effettwat is-sigurta tal-ikel ta’ żewġ miljun ruħ.

Nafu anke minn esperjenza tagħna stess f’Malta kif in-nixfa u l-għargħar huma kawża ta’ ħsara kbira lill-uċuħ tar-raba’: ħsara li qed tkun iktar spissa.

Xi pajjiżi qed isofru min-nuqqas ta’ xita. Oħrajn għaddejjin minn esperjenza differenti: fi ftit ġranet ikollhom ix-xita kollha li normalment tagħmel f’sena u dan bil-konsegwenza ta’ għargħar kbar. Dan it-tibdil fil-klima qed iseħħ ħtija tal-ħidma u l-imġieba tal-bniedem, ħidma mifruxa fuq ħafna snin li wasslet għal żidiet sostanzjali ta’ emissjonijiet ta’ karbonju (carbon emissions).

Hu ċar li t-tibdil fil-klima hu theddida għar-riżorsi bażiċi tal-ikel u l-ilma li fuqhom jiddependu l-komunitajiet tal-ġnus: dan kollu hu ostaklu kbir għad-dritt għal ħajja li għandu kull wieħed u waħda minna.

Il-politika dwar il-bidla fil-klima, fuq inizjattiva u l-insistenza ta’ stati gżejjer, ewlenin fosthom il-gżejjer fil-Paċifiku, preżentement qed tiffoka fuq il-ħtieġa li ż-żieda fit-temperatura tad-dinja ma taqbiżx 1.5 grad Celsius fuq it-temperatura pre-industrijali. Hemm kunsens fost il-komunità xjentifika globali li jekk iż-żieda taqbeż din iċ-ċifra hemm possibilità kbira ta’ apokalissi klimatika. Dan ma jikkawżax biss estremitajiet ta’ nixfa u għargħar imma ukoll jogħla l-livell tal-baħar b’mod li jinqerdu z-zoni kostali kif ukoll gżejjer diversi jispiċċaw taħt wiċċ l-ilma.

Ir-rapport speċjali tal-lnter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ippubblikat f’Ottubru li għadda jispjega fid-dettall il-veduti tal-komunità xjentifika globali dwar x’inhu jiġri: jispjega x-xjenza tal-bidla fil-klima u l-effett ta’ dan fuq id-dinja. 224 xjenzjat ewlieni minn 40 pajjiż differenti eżaminaw 30,000 studju xjentifku: il-konklużjonijiet tagħhom ma jistgħux ikunu injorati.

Ir-rapport tal-IPPC iwissina li t-temperatura tad-dinja diġa għoliet bi grad Celsius fuq it-temperatura pre-industrijali. Jekk nibqgħu għaddejjin bl-istess livell ta’ attività, sa mhux iktar tard mis-sena 2050 din it-temperatura ser tiżdied b’nofs grad Celsius ieħor, ikompli jwissina r-rapport. Għal din ir-raġuni l-komunità xjentifika hi tal-fehma li l-emmissjonijiet tal-karbonju għandhom jonqsu tant li sa mhux iktar tard mis-sena 2050 l-emmissjonijiet netti jkunu zero.

Hemm resistenza għal dan l-oġġettiv f’numru ta’ pajjiżi. Erbgħa minnhom (ir-Russia, l-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika, l-Kuwajt u l-Arabja Sawdita) ippruvaw ixellfu l-kunsens globali dwar il-konklużjonijiet tar-rapport tal-IPPC waqt il-laqgħa f’Katowice dwar il-klima iktar kmieni dan ix-xahar.

Kull pajjiż għandu sehem x’jagħti biex it-tnaqqis fl-emmissjonijiet jintlaħaq, u dan soġġett għall-prinċipju ambjentali li jistabilixxi li r-responsabbilta għalkemm hi waħda komuni tintrefa b’mod differenti (principle of common but differentiated responsibility). Anke Malta teħtieġ li terfa’ is-sehem tagħha ta’ din ir-responsabbiltà b’mod li tikkontribwixxi biex jonqsu l-emissjonijiet tal-karbonju ħalli jkun assigurat li ż-żieda ta’ 1.5 gradi fit-temperatura tad-dinja ma tinqabizx.

Meta l-ġenerazzjoni tal-enerġija f’Malta ma baqgħitx issir bl-użu tal-HFO (heavy fuel oil), żejt maħmuġ, u minflok qlibna għall-gass sar pass importanti l-quddiem. Imma meta nħarsu fit-tul dan mhux biżżejjed għax il-gass hu fuel ta’ transizzjoni: transizzjoni fit-triq lejn enerġija li tkun iġġenerata kompletament minn sorsi renovabbli. Neħtieġu iktar enerġija ġġenerata mix-xemx u mir-riħ kif ukoll għandna bżonn nagħrfu nagħmlu użu tajjeb mill-enerġija ġġenerata mill-mewġ li hi abbundanti fl-ibħra madwarna.

L-applikazzjoni tat-teknologija f’dawn l-oqsma toħloq xogħol sostenibbli u fl-istess ħin ittejjeb il-kwalità tal-ħajja ta’ kulħadd.

F’dan is-sens il-qasam tat-trasport f’Malta għadu ta’ uġiegħ ta’ ras u dan minħabba l-emmissjonijiet tal-karbonju li jirriżultaw miż-żieda astronomika ta’ karozzi fit-toroq tagħna. Sfortunatament, flok ma jinvesti f’trasport sostenibbli, l-gvern għaddej bi programm intensiv ta’ żvilupp tal-infrastruttura tat-toroq li inevitabilment ser iwassal biex jinkoraġixxi użu ikbar tal-karozzi fit-toroq tagħna. Dan iwassal biex jikkanċella l-progress li sar biż-żieda reġistrat fl-użu tat-trasport pubbliku.

Biex tkompli tagħmel l-affarijiet agħar, il-mina bejn Malta u Għawdex hi essenzjalment mina għall-karozzi,mhux mina għan-nies. Hu stmat li bħala riżultat ta’ din il-mina proposta ċ-ċaqlieq ta’ karozzi bejn iż-żewġ gżejjer jiżdied minn medja ta’ 3,000 għal medja ta’ 9,000 kuljum, u dan fi żmien 15-il sena. Hu possibli li jkun provdut serviz alternattiv u sostenibbli, indirizzat biss lejn in-nies, permezz ta’ dak li nirreferu għalih bħala fast ferry. Dan jista’ jwassal lin-nies dritt minn Għawdex saċ-ċentri kummerċjali tal-pajjiż. Il-karozzi, imma, huma fattur ċentrali għall-mina proġettata u dan għax il-ħlas li jsir għall-użu tal-mina huwa dipendenti fuq in-numru ta’ karozzi li jagħmlu użu minnha!

Dan kollu jmur kontra l-ispirtu tal-Pjan Nazzjonali għat-Trasport-2025 li jistabilixxi l-oġġettiv ta’ tnaqqis ta’ karozzi mit-toroq tagħna bħala mira li tista’ tintlaħaq. It-tnaqqis tal-karozzi mit-toroq tagħna mhux biss itejjeb il-kwalità tal-arja li permezz tagħha nieħdu n-nifs: hu ukoll il-kontribut żgħir tagħna bħala pajjiż kontra l-inġustizzji maħluqa minn tibdil fil-klima għax inkun qed innaqqsu l-emissjonijiet tal-karbonju bil-konsegwenza ta’ tnaqqis fiż-żieda tat-temperatura tad-dinja.

Għax il-ġlieda kontra l-inġustizzji li qed jinħolqu bit-tibdil fil-klima hi responsabbiltà tagħna ukoll.


Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 30 ta’ Diċembru 2018

Climate justice is our responsibility too

Everyone is aware that different parts of the world are experiencing weather extremes.  Under the heading “Changing climate forces desperate Guatemalans to emigrate”, National Geographic recently reported that “Drought and shifting weather are making it difficult for many small-scale farmers to feed their families, fuelling a human crisis”.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Programme of the United Nations are concerned that drought is having a considerable impact on the most vulnerable in Central America. It has led to a loss of 280,000 hectares of agricultural land in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, as a result affecting the food security of more than two million human persons.

We are aware, even as a result of local experience, that drought and floods cause considerable damage to agriculture and are occurring with increasing frequency. Some countries are experiencing an acute lack of rain while others are experiencing a concentration of a year’s rainfall in the space of a few days. These changing patterns of the weather are the result of human behaviour, accumulated over a large number of years through ever-increasing carbon emissions.

Clearly, climate change threatens essential resources – such as water and food – on which communities depend, putting in question their very right to life.

The politics of Climate Change, on the initiative and insistence of island states, in particular Pacific island micro-states, is currently focusing on the need to limit increases in global warming to not more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. There is a consensus among the global scientific community that, beyond such an increase, a climatic apocalypse would be more likely. This will be the cause of not just more drought and floods but also of unprecedented rise in sea level, as a result wiping out coastal areas, and low-lying islands all around the globe.

The special report issued by the lnter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October explains in detail the views of the global scientific community on the current state of play: it explains the science of climate change and the future of the Earth. A total of 224 leading scientists from 40 countries have assessed 30,000 scientific papers and their conclusions cannot be ignored.

Its report warns that the earth has already warmed by one degree Celsius more than the pre-industrial age. If we retain the present level of activity, we are warned that the temperature will rise a further half of a degree before the year 2050.

This is the reason why the scientific community considers that carbon emissions must be reduced, achieving net zero emissions before the year 2050. However, there are various pockets of resistance to attaining such an objective in a number of countries. So much that four of them (Russia, the United States, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia) have sought to water down the global consensus on the IPPC report conclusions in Katowice, at the climate change summit held earlier this month.

Each and every country has a role in achieving this substantial reduction of carbon emissions, subject to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. Malta also has such a responsibility to contribute to a reduction of carbon emissions in order to ensure that the 1.5 degree barrier is not breached.

In Malta, the switching of energy generation from one dependent on heavy fuel oil to gas was a positive step. However, in the long term, this is not enough as gas is considered a transition fuel: a step on the path to energy generation completely dependent on renewable sources. We require more energy generated from the sun and wind and we also need to ensure that good use is made of energy generated from waves – so abundant in the sea around us. The application of technology will lead to the creation of new, sustainable jobs and simultaneously contribute to an improvement in the quality of life for everyone.

Transport, however, is still a major problem considering Malta’s carbon emissions due the astronomic increase in the number of cars on our roads. Unfortunately, instead of investing in sustainable transport, the government has embarked on a massive programme of further development of the road infrastructure which will only result in encouraging more cars on our roads. Consequently, this will cancel out the progress being achieved with the registered increase in the use of public transport.

To add insult to injury, the proposed tunnel below the seabed between Malta and Gozo is essentially a tunnel for the use of cars. It is estimated that, as a result of this tunnel, the vehicle movement between the two islands will increase from 3000 to 9000 vehicle movements daily over a 15-year period. An alternative sustainable service providing for the movement of people would be a fast ferry service from Gozo to the commercial centres of Malta. However, the encouragement of the use of cars is central to the projected tunnel as tolls will be paid by car owners.

All this runs counter to the National Transport Master-Plan 2025 which establishes the reduction of cars from Maltese roads as an achievable target.

Reducing the number of cars on our roads will not only improve the quality of the air we breath but will also be a small but important contribution to global climate justice through a reduction in carbon emission levels.

Climate justice is our responsibility too.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 30 December 2018

Evarist Bartolo u l-politika tal-iskalora


Bħalissa qed naqraw fil-gazzetti l-argumenti li qed iġib Evarist Bartolo dwar il-posizzjoni taċ-Chairman tal-Awtorità dwar is-Servizzi Finanzjarji (MFSA)  l-Professur Joe Bannister. Varist qed isostni li l-involviment ta’ Bannister f’hedge fund fil-gżejjer Cayman hu konflitt ta’ interess li minħabba fih Bannister ma messux qiegħed jokkupa l-posizzjoni  sensittiva ta’ Chairman tal-MFSA.

Il-Professur Bannister isostni li diġa ta l-ispjegazzjonijiet tiegħu ħames snin ilu, li ġew aċċettati minn Lawrence Gonzi u Joseph Muscat.

L-attakk ta’ Varist Bartolo f’dan il-mument, fl-opinjoni tiegħi, mhux daqstant attakk fuq il-Professur Bannister. Bannister huwa fil-mument l-aħjar medium għal Varist biex jiffoka fuq ir-responsabbiltà kollettiva tal-Kabinett bl-użu ta’ lingwaġġ li bih ma jkunx imdarras il-Laburist.

L-attakk reali hu kontra r-resistenza ta’ sħabu fil-Kabinett biex jiftħu għajnejhom dwar Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri. Resistenza li minħabba fiha m’humiex jirrealizzaw il-gravità tas-sitwazzjoni li timmerita rizenja immedjata ta’ Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri l-Kasco, inkella t-tkeċċija tagħhom.

It-Times tal-lum fil-fatt tirrapporta lil Varist jgħid “One sees someone defending somebody else, mentioning seriousness and principles, and then one finds that there are personal obligations and that the two are doing very well together.”

Dan Varist jgħidu fil-kuntest tal-kritika tiegħu indirizzata lejn il-Professur Joe Bannister. Il-mira reali iżda, fil-fehma tiegħi, hi Joseph Muscat u d-difiża li Muscat qed jagħmel lil Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri l-Kasco.

Din hi l-politika tal-iskalora li biha l-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat filwaqt li jiddefendi lil min mexa ħażin qiegħed, fl-istess ħin, kontinwament, ikanta favur is-serjetà fit-tmexxija imma mhux jirrealizza li qiegħed kontinwament jegħreq, imdawwar bl-iskalora. U kif qallu l-professur l-ieħor, Simon Busuttil, fl-iskalora diffiċli jsalva mill-għarqa.

The chihuahua that roared

During the Cancún Climate Summit Bolivian President Evo Morales emphasised that “nature has rights”. He insisted on a 1°C rise above the pre-industrial-age temperature as the maximum permissible.

Stripped of his trademark anti-US remarks the Morales input at Cancún would not have led to any radically different conclusions at the summit. Who can dispute his declaration in favour of families already deprived of water because of drought, or islanders facing the loss of their homes and possessions as a result of rising sea levels? His plea was one to buttress arguments in favour of mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Realistically, however, there was never a chance of this being accepted.

Participants at Cancún opted instead for declarations which though very important as a political statement served to postpone decisions to the Durban Climate Summit towards the end of this year. It is this postponement which led to the Morales outburst equating lack of definite action with “ecocide which is equivalent to genocide because this would be an affront to mankind as a whole”.

Cancún went one step further from the declarations of the past. Agreement in principle was reached on the need for inspections in order to account for commitments made. As to who will eventually carry out the monitoring, reporting and verification this is still to be determined. Maybe this will be concluded at Durban later this year on the basis of the agreement in principle sealed at Cancún.

Climate change diplomacy is moving although at a very slow pace.

In the words of BBC Cancún correspondent Richard Black one can compare the 2009 Copenhagen summit to a Great Dane which whimpered while the Cancún 2010 summit can be compared to a chihuahua which roared. Much was expected from Copenhagen but little tangible results were achieved. On the other hand while there were no great expectations from the Cancún summit, foundations for a comprehensive settlement in the future were laid. Whether this will be achieved at Durban or possibly later is still to be seen.

At Cancún pledges by countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions were formalised. Developing countries for the first time agreed to look into possible cuts in their own emissions. They made no formal pledges yet they moved one step forward towards a more reasonable application of the “common but differentiated responsibility” principle in climate change diplomacy.

Countries represented at Cancún gave formal backing to the UN’s deforestation scheme REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). As a result of REDD rich countries will pay poor countries not to chop down forests on their territory. This will compensate them for their lost income and further encourage the production and use of sustainable timber. The developed countries will thus be paying for protecting biodiversity as well as for the service which forests are rendering as carbon sinks. Details of the REDD scheme have still to be worked out. Maybe by the Durban Climate Summit these will be settled.

The Cancún agreement has acknowledged for the first time in a UN document that global warming must not exceed pre-industrial temperatures by more than 2°C. While being a big step forward, this is clearly not enough. In fact exceeding pre-industrial temperatures by more than 1.5°C endangers the very existence of a number of islands as well as low-lying coastal areas.

Small island states and coastal areas are already feeling the impacts of climate change: millions reside and earn their livelihood in such areas. If temperature rises are not contained within the said 1.5°C increase these millions risk becoming climate change refugees.

The first climate change refugees have already left their homeland. Those displaced by sea level changes have already left the Carteret Islands and Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean.

Drought has been playing havoc with the lives of various African nations resulting in escalating tribal conflicts which have displaced millions of human beings. In Malta we have direct experience of this through the boat refugees departing from Libyan shores, a number of whom end up in Malta.

Depending on the actual rise above pre-industrial temperatures, current projections indicate that in the long term more than one billion human beings could face losing their homes and possessions in islands and coastal areas as a result of sea level rise. Millions more will be displaced as a result of the impacts of changing weather patterns. Availability of water will change as a result of a varying frequency and intensity of rainfall. As a result this will impact agriculture, sanitation and the quality of life in the areas affected.

Mr Morales is right. Nature has rights. It will strike back in defence of these rights if current greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced substantially. Maybe the roaring chihuahua will alert policy makers around the globe that there is no alternative to substantial reductions across the board.


Published in The Times of Malta : January 1, 2011

Kif tagħmel …………… jagħmlulek

 30 ta’ Diċembru 2009


Naħseb li lkoll kemm aħna konxji li l-klima qiegħda tinbidel. L-is­ta­ġuni ma tafx iżjed meta jibdew jew meta jispiċċaw. Fis-sajf sħana kbira li dejjem iżżid. Xita qawwija f’ħin qasir f’kull żmien tas-sena b’għargħar aktar ta’ spiss. Qegħdin niffaċċjaw estre­mi ta’ temp. Dawn huma wħud mill-indikazzjonijiet li għandna f’Malta li l-klima qiegħda tin­bidel.

F’pajjiżi oħrajn it-temp inbidel ukoll. Insegwu dak li qed jiġri fuq il-televiżjoni, bħall-għargħar riċenti f’Cumbria fit-Tramuntana tal-Ingilterra jew l-urugan Kat­rina li ħarbat l-istat ta’ New Orleans fl-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika fi tmiem Awwissu, 2005. Inkella l-urugani spissi fl-istat Ameri­kan ta’ Florida. Anki fl-Ewropa segwejna każi estremi ta’ temp kemm f’dik li hi temperatura kif ukoll għargħar ikkawżat diret­ta­ment mix-xita inkella mill-faw­ran ta’ xmajjar.

Il-parti l-kbira tax-xjenzjati jaqblu li dan kollu hu prinċi­pal­ment ir-riżultat akkumulat tul is-snin ta’ emissjonijiet mill-ħruq ta’ żjut u faħam biex il-bniedem jipproduċi l-enerġija, kif ukoll mit-trasport u minn proċessi industrijali. Naqsu wkoll il-foresti f’kull parti tad-dinja biex jittieħed l-injam tagħ­hom għall-ħatab, għall-bini ta’ djar jew għal xi użu ieħor bħall-bini tax-xwieni fi żminijiet oħ­rajn. Il-foresti naqsu wkoll biex żdiedet l-art għall-agrikoltura.

B’hekk id-dinja qiegħda żżomm is-sħana tax-xemx bħal f’serra bir-riżultat li t-tem­pe­ra­tura madwarna qiegħda togħla ftit ftit. Dan iżda ma jseħħx bl-istess mod kullimkien. Ix-xjen­zati huma tal-opinjoni li jekk it-temperatura taqbeż dik tal-bidu taż-żmien industrijali b’aktar minn 2 gradi Celsius, iseħħu tibdiliet kbar fil-klima. Tibdiliet li ħdejhom dak li seħħ s’issa jitqies bħala insinjifikanti. Rap­preżentanti ta’ gżejjer kemm fil-Paċifiku kif ukoll fil-Karibew qegħ­din jinsistu li l-limitu mas­simu għandu jkun 1.5 gradi Celsius fuq it-temperatura taż-żmien pre-industrijali. Dan qegħdin jgħiduh għax huma diġà qegħdin iħossu wieħed mill-effetti tal-bidla fil-klima. Il-livell tal-baħar qed jogħla u dawk li joqogħdu f’uħud minn dawn il-ġżejjer diġà qed ikoll­hom idabbru rashom. L-ewwel refuġjati tal-klima fil-fatt kienu r-residenti tal-gżejjer Carteret fil-Papua New Guinea liema gżejjer diġà bdew jiġu mgħot­tijin bl-ilma baħar. Sal-2015, hu kkalkolat li dawn il-gżejjer ikunu mgħarrqin kompletament bħala riżultat tal-bdil gradwali fil-livell tal-baħar.

Fl-Afrika wkoll it-temp inbidel drastikament. F’uħud mill-pajjiżi Afrikani bħas-Somalja, l-Etjopja u l-Eritrea hemm nixfa kbira u dan bħala riżultat ta’ nuqqas ta’ xita fuq perjodu twil ta’ żmien. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan, l-agrikoltura mhix tirrendi u n-nies m’għandhiex x’tiekol. Iffaċ­ċati b’dan, in-nies qegħdin jitil­qu minn dawn il-pajjiżi u qegħ­din jemigraw lejn pajjiżi oħrajn. Jaslu sal-Libja jew xi pajjiż ieħor bħall-Marokk u mbagħad jaq­smu lejn l-Ewropa b’numru minn­hom jispiċċaw Malta. Numru mhux żgħir minn dawn l-immigranti li f’pajjiżna nsej­ħul­hom “immigranti illegali” huma vittmi tal-bidla fil-klima.

Il-bidla fil-klima lilna f’Malta tista’ teffettwana b’mod dras­ti­ku wkoll u dan fi żmien mhux wisq ’il bogħod. In-nuqqas ta’ xita u l-għoli tal-livell tal-baħar se jkollhom effett dirett fuq l-agrikultura. L-ilma tal-pjan na­qas sewwa kemm fil-kwantità kif ukoll fil-kwalità. Dan riżultat tal-‘boreholes’, kemm dawk legali kif ukoll dawk illegali. Jekk ikun baqa’ ilma tal-pjan, dan se jkompli jiġi mgħarraq għax ikun diġà sar salmastru hekk kif il-livell tal-baħar jogħla ftit ftit. L-ilma ma jkunx iżjed tajjeb biex jintuża la għax-xorb, la għat-tisqija u lanqas għall-industrija għax ikun wisq mie­laħ. Ikun jeħtieg li jiġi trattat bir-‘reverse osmosis’ jew xi pro­ċess ieħor li jkollu bżonn ħafna enerġija. Bla ilma, kif nafu, ma jista’ jsir xejn.

Dakinhar li pajjiżna jirrealizza li ġie wiċċ imbwiċċ ma’ din il-prob­lema, dawk minna li jkunu għadhom jgħixu hawn, ikunu fl-istess pożizzjoni ta’ dawn l-“im­migranti illegali”, refuġjati tal-klima huma wkoll u jibdew ifittxu x’imkien ieħor fejn jistgħu jgħixu.

Tgħid ikunu lesti li jaċċettaw li jkunu trattati bħall-immigranti li jaslu Malta illum: li jkunu msakkrin, bl-għassa u b’deten­zjo­ni ta’ 18-il xahar imposta fuq­hom mingħajr ma qatt għamlu ħsara lil ħadd?

Wara kollox mhux kif tagħ­mel jagħmlulek?

No Compromise with Nature


published on December 19, 2009

by Carmel Cacopardo


At the time of writing negotiators at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference are still wrangling. The bone of contention is that the developed world has already used up the planet’s capacity to absorb emissions through past industrial activity whilst the developing countries as well as the emerging economies are demanding their fair share. This, they maintain, could be achieved through adequate funding as well as monitoring of binding emission targets. It is estimated that business as usual will lead to a global temperature increase of around six degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. Researchers maintain that in order to minimise required adaptation measures it is imperative to restrict a temperature increase to not more than two degrees. Island states consider that any increase above 1.5 degrees would be catastrophic. The Maldives, Tuvalu and Fiji have been vociferous in their campaigning for drastic emission cuts by all states in the short term. They risk being submerged. In Africa, countries are already shouldering drought and the resulting famine due to a collapse of agriculture. Faced with these problems many seek to move elsewhere away from nature’s wrath. Malta’s problem of illegal immigration is a direct result of these impacts of climate change on the African Continent. Mitigation through the reduction of carbon emissions is not a switch which can be put on or off at ease. It is, in part, the result of a carefully planned shift away from a carbon economy. There is a substantial financial cost related to such a transition. Alternatively as demonstrated in the Stern Report, the financial, ecological and human costs will be substantially higher. Malta is committed to mitigation measures decided within an EU framework. These currently entail a reduction of carbon emissions by 20 per cent on the basis of 1990 emission levels and the sourcing of 10 per cent of energy needs from sustainable alternatives by 2020. Government has been moving very slowly and it is still not clear whether targets will be achieved. The mitigation measures implemented by the global community will determine the intensity of the climate changes that Malta will have to face together with the rest of the international community. Malta’s vulnerability is substantial and comparable to that faced by the Pacific and Caribbean islands. If mitigation measures implemented are not substantial the temperature rise will be closer to six degrees. This will mean more drastic impacts as a result of higher sea level rises, reduced rainfall, as well as more intense storms. Malta’s adaptation measures will be dependent on the extent to which the international community implements the mitigation measures agreed to. So far the assumption has been that the international community would come to its senses and agree to measures which restrict a temperature rise to not more than two degrees Celsius. This requires a 40 per cent global carbon emission cut by 2020. Yet commitments made to date are insufficient. The resulting sea level rise could be substantial: around two metres by the end of this century. This will affect coastal facilities, low lying residential areas as well as the water table. It may also affect the extent of Malta’s rights over the surrounding sea in view of the fact that these rights are determined on the basis of a distance from the coastline. A receding coastline may affect territorial waters, fishing rights as well as the economic zone (including oil exploration rights). A rising sea level will affect most of Malta’s tourism facilities as well as the commercial infrastructure in our ports. These will as a result, either be closer to or else below sea level. Malta’s beaches such as Għadira, Għajn Tuffieħa and Pretty Bay will be below sea level whilst some low-lying residential areas may have to be abandoned. The water table will be affected by a rise in sea level through an increase in its salinity. Coupled with the mismanagement of water resources in past years, climate change will lead to a situation where ground water in Malta will not be usable if not subject to substantial, costly and energy intensive treatment. This will hasten the collapse of agriculture which is dependent on the direct use of water extracted from the water table. It will also increase exponentially the cost of water used for consumption and industrial purposes. Consideration of the impacts of climate change should thus lead us to consider whether the Maltese islands will still be capable of supporting a population of 400,000. Misuse of nature’s resources in the past coupled with the foreseeable impacts of climate change lead to the inevitable conclusion that in the not too distant future it will be difficult to support human life on these islands. Resistance to change over the years signifies that environmental problems faced by Malta have increased. Nature does not compromise. Deferring action will condemn millions (including Maltese) to immeasurable suffering.