Climate change is nature’s reaction to the cumulative impacts it has sustained as a result of human behaviourover the years. Long periods of drought or intensive rainfall leading to flooding, longer periods of sunshine, extremes of temperature are all too familiar nowadays.
It has been emphasised time and again that we need to achieve carbon neutrality at the earliest. This signifies that the amount of carbon emissions resulting from our activities must be less than the carbon being stored in the various carbon sinks.
We must address each and every one of our activities as the carbon emissions from all of them, added up, will bring us closer to or further away from our targets.
Addressing climate change is a political issue. It involves policy decisions. If we intend to address climate change these political decisions should be complimentary and contribute to achieving the goal of mitigating climate change as well as addressing its causes.
The decision to substitute the Delimara power station running on heavy fuel oil with one using natural gas has contributed substantially to reducing Malta’s carbon emissions.
On the other hand, the current policy of encouraging the use of fuel guzzling cars and yachts pulls in the opposite direction. Increasing the capacity of our roads and planning new yacht marinas is not a positive contribution to addressing climate change. Yet it goes on, one decision after the other.
The decision to start the long road towards electrification of our roads was not linked with a decision to have a moratorium on new fuel stations. Why does current policy encourage new fuel stations when their operational days are clearly numbered?
It would be pertinent to point once more to the Transport Master Plan which emphasises that around 50 per cent of trips made with private cars in Malta are for short distances, taking up less than 15 minutes. Yet local and regional sustainable mobility is not encouraged. A behavioural change in our mobility patterns at a local and regional level could remove a substantial number of cars from our roads. Why is this not actively encouraged?
Transport policy is unfortunately not climate friendly. This needs to change the soonest if we are to make any headway in addressing climate change.
The carbon neutrality of our buildings is also of crucial importance in our climate change strategy. I have repeatedly emphasised the need of entrenching solar rights thereby ensuring that solar energy can be generated in more buildings. In addition, planning policy should establish that individual carbon neutral buildings have all the energy required for the use of the particular buildings generated on site. This would of necessity limit buildings to dimensions whose energy needs can be catered for through solar energy generated on site. This would limit building heights and substantially reduce the construction of penthouses. Land use planning can contribute substantially to climate change mitigation!
The basic problem with climate change issues is that the link between our behaviour and the carbon cycle is not obvious or visible to the untrained eye. This makes it easier for those who seek to avoid or reduce the uptake of actions mitigating climate change.
We owe it to future generations to do all we can to address the accumulated impacts on the climate. Taming the present can ensure that there is a future.
published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 23 January 2022