From Dubai to Singapore

Last week, the President of the Republic, laying out the programme for the new government in what is known as the speech from the throne, emphasised that the environment is a core value for this government. Reading through the speech prepared by government, his Excellency was clear by dwelling on a number of different topics of considerable environmental importance.

However, Dr Vella was unfortunately not advised as to how and when the government intends to address its continuous contradictions in its drive to shift its focus from the infrastructure to the environment.

The elastic environmental politics presented by this government ranges from more flyovers to achieving carbon neutrality, simultaneously being dependent on two interconnectors tapping the Sicilian energy market.

Previous governments led by the Labour party had sought to transform Malta into another Dubai, that is a land of high rises and extensive land reclamation . The attempt at Dubai-ification embarked on by the Muscat led government will apparently now be transformed into a Singaporization as emphasised by infrastructure Minister Aaron Farrugia. This is the implementation of the policy of continuity which his Excellency was apparently not sufficiently advised about.

The current crop will do their best to outshine their predecessors. Since there is not much more land to ruin, they have therefore turned their gaze towards the sea which they will be ruined in due course.

Preliminary studies carried out in the past had identified the areas in Maltese waters where land reclamation could be considered, subject to more in-depth studies. The coastal areas identified and studied are those along the  Magħtab/Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq coastline and the Xgħajra/Marsaskala coastline. These are the coastal zones which have to be watched and protected.

The basic question to ask before embarking on planning any land reclamation projects is: what do we need land reclamation for? In the past land was reclaimed to construct the Freeport or to protect the coast at Msida, Gżira and elsewhere.

If any new pressing need is identified one should carefully consider them.

The Netherlands used land reclamation successfully to adequately manage its low-lying land. Hong Kong made use of land reclamation to create high value land required for its airport on the Chek Lak Kok island. Through land reclamation Singapore expanded its container port, an essential cornerstone in its economy.

The way to go about tackling land reclamation is through serious public consultation. Labour in government has, so far, only consulted developers on land reclamation. It has, in the recent past, only consulted those who were seeking new ways to make a quick buck! These are the fourth-floor guys who are only interested in making hay while the sun shines.

If government is serious about land reclamation it should immediately publish a list of its proposed projects. This should be accompanied by a draft national land-reclamation strategy for public consultation. At this point consultation should not be with the speculation lobby: it has already been extensively consulted. Consultation at this stage should primarily be with environmental NGOs and the coastal communities, in particular those directly impacted.

Having said the above I do not think that land reclamation is or should be a priority. Rather, the priority should be the restructuring of the construction industry: specifically cutting it down to size and putting it to good use.

The country would be economically, environmentally and socially much better off if the construction industry is assisted in its much-needed restructuring. It would undoubtedly need to shed labour which can be absorbed by other sectors of the economy. Retraining would be required to ease the entry of the shed labour force into other economic areas.

After years of haphazard and abusive land-use planning, land reclamation is the last thing we need!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 15 May 2022

Tourism: from Covid to Climate Change

The tourism lobby, through the MHRA (Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association), is once more breathing down the authorities’ neck. Some of their former employees have not returned, after the pandemic.  They are obviously referring to those employees of theirs who were shed off their payroll, as soon as the pandemic impacts started being felt.

After treating some of their employees like shit they are now asking for tax exemptions as a carrot to attract them back to fill the void created. Tax exemptions?  Difficult to qualify if you are employed on a zero-hour contract, hardly paying any tax at all!

The fact that an increasing number of employees are migrating from the tourism industry, is indicative that the employment conditions and the remuneration paid by the industry, at least, to some of its employees, is not worth it. If it were, former employees would come back on their own without the need to be enticed with tax exemptions.

Specifically, sections of the tourism industry are based on cheap labour: paying miserly hourly rates on zero-hour contracts. In addition to having reasonable rates of pay, it is imperative that zero-hour contracts are scrapped. That is to say a contract of employment must be for an agreed number of hours per week and not left at the absolute discretion of the employer. Greens in Malta have repeatedly advocated this step. A Labour government is apparently not interested.

Isn’t it about time that the tourism industry gets its act together? Government has over the years dedicated many resources to help the industry get on its feet. Various subsidies and favourable administrative decisions including planning policies designed to ride roughshod over the residential community are in place. Yet they want more.

At almost 3 million tourists in 2019, Malta is definitely close to a saturation point in the uptake of tourists it can handle. This has placed too large a strain on the country’s infrastructure.

Covid has clearly identified an Achilles heel. We need to learn a number of lessons. Foremost to reduce our dependence on tourism in order to ensure that the next time movement between countries is an issue, impacts on all are cushioned considerably. The next issue is round the corner. It is climate change.

Last week various initiatives were announced by the EU Commission in order that the target of carbon neutrality by 2050 is achieved. The Commission has identified a number of measures which could facilitate the achievement of an intermediate target of 55 per cent greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2030 and beyond.

One such initiative is the environmental taxing of aviation fuel. Such an initiative is intended to internalise the environmental costs of such flights. This could result in either of two options: the payment of a carbon tax by those who use such flights or the use of alternative modes of transport thus avoiding altogether the payment of the tax.

On mainland Europe, use of trains is in many cases a suitable alternative which has considerably reduced environmental impacts. However, in our case we do not have practical alternatives to aviation. This will inevitably increase the costs of flights and consequently bring about a reduction in the number of tourists opting to visit Malta. Most of our competitors will be similarly impacted, but that is no consolation for the industry! Cheap plane fares could soon be history.

As announced by Minister Miriam Dalli, Malta expects that it is a “special case”. Most probably it will be successful in negotiating a reasonable transition, and/or some exceptions. In the long run, however, opposing outright such a measure goes against Malta’s long-term interests. Malta, like all island states, together with coastal settlements and communities, will have to face some of the worst impacts of climate change, that is sea-level rise. The climate, would not care less about our special case, or our economy. It will impact us just as forcefully. The climate is merciless.

It would be pertinent to remember that most of our tourism infrastructure lies along or within reach of the coast. This signifies that a sea-level rise could easily play havoc with such infrastructure. If substantial, a sea-level rise will also seriously impact our coastal communities, which are spread over quite a large area along the coast.

It is about time that we stop and think carefully. Tourism is at the crossroads. It needs to be subject to an overhaul: taking into consideration the covid lessons, and applying them to the climate change scenario which sooner or later we will have to face. This is the future of tourism, not tax exemptions.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 25 July 2021

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

It-Tibdil fil-Klima: wara t-twissja ta’ Covid-19


Il-virus Covid-19 beżbiżna waħda sew u ħarbat il-ħidma ta’ kulħadd. Imma ħdejn l-impatti antiċipati tat-tibdil tal-klima dan hu kollu logħob tat-tfal li dwaru Covid-19 jista’ jitqies bħala prova parzjali. Twissija li forsi tiftħilna ftit għajnejna.

F’Pariġi fis-7.25pm ta’ nhar it-12 ta’ Diċembru 2015, 5,000 delegat li kienu qed jirrappreżentaw 195 pajjiż, unanimament aċċettaw l-evidenza dwar l-impatti tal-klima. Huma għażlu t-triq għall-futur.

Nhar il-25 ta’ Frar 2020 Christiana Figueres u Tom Rivette-Carnac ippreżentawna b’publikazzjoni li għandha tkun ta’ interess kbir. Hi intitolata “The Future We Choose. Surviving the Climate Crisis.” Christiana Figueres, li magħha hu assoċjat il-ftehim ta’ Pariġi, kienet tmexxi l-Aġenzija tal-Ġnus Magħquda inkarigata mit-Tibdil fil-Klima (UNFCC) bħala Segretarju Eżekuttiv. Tom Rivette-Carnac kien l-istrateġista ewlieni tagħha inkarigat biex jaħdem dwar l-appoġġ minn utenti (mhux Gvernijiet) li kienu nteressati f’dan il-ftehim li kien ilu jinħema s-snin.

Wara l-qbil dwar it-triq li setgħet twassal għal bidla, biex il-kliem miktub ikun trasformat f’azzjoni konkreta hu dejjem sfida. L-għażliet quddiemna huma ċari.

L-attitudni li qiesu mhu jiġri xejn (business as usual) twassal biex it-temperatura medja globali, li diġa qabżet bi grad wieħed Celsius it-temperatura medja ta’ qabel żmien ir-rivoluzzjoni industrijali, tista’ tiżdied b’madwar 4 sa 5 gradi Celsius. L-impatti ta’ żieda bħal din ikunu katastrofiċi. Riżultat ta’ żieda fit-temperatura globali f’xi reġjuni jkun impossibli li persuna toqgħod barra fl-apert għal ħin twil. Ħtija ta’ hekk partijiet mid-dinja isiru mhux abitabbli. Iż-żieda fit-temperatura tkompli taċċellera id-dewbien tas-silġ fil-poli u ħtija t’hekk il-livell tal-ibħra jibqa’ jiżdied. Il-komunitajiet mal-kosta jkunu taħt theddida kontinwa. L-impatti fuq l-infrastruttura kostali kifukoll fuq kull attività mal-kosta jkunu sostanzjali.

It-tibdil fil-kundizzjonijiet atmosferiċi jżidu x-xita intensiva f’żoni u nixfa tqarqaċ f’żoni oħra. Il-maltemp iżid kemm fil-frekwenza kif ukoll fl-intensità u l-ħerba assoċjata miegħu tikber bil-bosta kif naraw spiss diġa f’diversi partijiet tad-dinja.

Il-konklużjonijiet ta’ Pariġi jfissru li l-komunità internazzjonali għarfet u àccettat l-evidenza xjentifika akkumulata dwar it-tibdil fil-klima. F’Pariġi kien hemm qbil li kull pajjiż kellu jidentifika sensiela ta’ wegħdiet li kellu jwettaq fl-isforz globali biex tkun indirizzata l-kawża tat-tibdil fil-klima. Wegħdiet li għandhom ikunu aġġornati kull ħames snin. Il-wegħdiet reġistrati s’issa, anke kieku kellhom jitwettqu kollha, m’humiex biżżejjed biex iż-żieda fit-temperatura globali ma taqbiżx iż-żewġ gradi Celsius, u preferibilment mhux iktar minn grad u nofs Celsius, kif insistew il-komunitajiet ta’ mal-kosta kif ukoll il-gżejjer li mhumiex wisq il-fuq mil-livell tal-baħar. Bejn il-kliem u l-fatti, hemm baħar jikkumbatti.

Sal-2030 l-emissjonijiet globali jeħtieġ li jonqsu b’mhux inqas min-nofs biex jintlaħqu l-miri stabiliti f’Pariġi. Sal-2050, min-naħa l-oħra jrid jintlaħaq l-istatus ta’ karbonju żero. Biex jintlaħqu dawn il-miri essenzjali Christiana Figueres u Tom Rivett-Carnac jagħmlu użu minn diversi proposti li saru tul is-snin. Il-bidla meħtieġa hi waħda enormi: hi bidla li tant hi kbira li taqleb ta’ taħt fuq kważi kull ħaġa li jmmissu jdejna.

Tirrikjedi bidliet radikali dwar kif ngħixu, kif naħdmu u kif niċċaqalqu minn post għall-ieħor. Tibdil f’dak li nikkunsmaw kif ukoll kemm dwar dak li nipproduċu kif ukoll dwar il-mod kif nipproduċuħ.

Il-wasla fuqna għall-għarrieda tal-kriżi Covid-19 tatna togħma żgħira ta’ xi tibdil essenzjali. Ix-xogħol b’mod virtwali għandu, bla dubju, jkun element permanenti dwar il-mod kif naħdmu. M’għandux ikun eċċezzjoni ta’ natura temporanja. L-edukazzjoni ukoll għandha tingrana iktar fid-direzzjoni tat-tagħlim virtwali b’mod permanenti.

L-ivvjaġġar mhux essenzjali għandu jkun skoraġġit fuq bażi permanenti. Fejn meħtieġ l-ivvjaġġar għandu jsir b’mezzi sostenibbli. Dan m’għandux ikun limitat għall-elettrifikazzjoni tal-karozzi, wara li jkunu tnaqqsu drastikament fin-numru, imma għandu jinkludi tnaqqis sostanzjali tal-ajruplani. Għax l-azzjoni dwar it-tibdil fil-klima jfisser li l-ivvjaġġar bl-ajru (inkluż it-turiżmu) kif nafuh sal-lum m’għandux futur. L-ivvjaġġar bl-ajru jiġi jiswa’ ferm iktar mil-lum kemm-il darba l-impatti ambjentali sostanzjali tiegħu ikunu riflessi fl-ispejjes reali.

Jekk inħarsu fit-tul l-iżvilupp intensiv tal-infrastruttura tat-toroq mhi ser isservi l-ebda skop. Inqas karozzi fit-toroq ikun ifisser ukoll impatti konsiderevoli fuq l-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art. Inqas karozzi jfisser inqas ħtieġa għal parkeġġ u garaxxijiet u iktar spazju għan-nies. Ikun wasal iż-żmien li fl-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna r-reżidenti jiġu mill-ġdid qabel il-karozzi. Dejjem, mhux kultant.

Jeħtieġ li napprezzaw u nagħmlu użu iktar minn prodotti agrikoli lokali. Imma anke l-prezz tal-prodotti agrikoli għandhom jirriflettu l-impatti ambjentali sostanzjali li jinħolqu biex il-biedja tagħti r-riżultati. L-ispiża tal-produzzjoni tal-laħam u tal-prodotti derivati mill-ħalib, per eżempju, ma tkunx waħda żgħira jekk din tinkludi l-impatti ambjentali tal-produzzjoni. Fil-fatt, Christiana u Tom, jistqarru li l-ikel fl-2050 hu għali minħabba li jeħtieġ riżorsi ta’ valur biex il-produzzjoni tiegħu tkun possibli. “L-ilma. Il-ħamrija. L-għaraq. Il-ħin.” Hu ċar li jekk irridu nimplimentaw bis-serjetà l-ftehim ta’ Pariġi l-Politika Komuni kurrenti dwar l-Agrikultura m’għandhiex futur.

L-impatti tal-Covid-19 huma logħob tat-tfal meta wieħed jara sewwa x’hemm lest għalina bħala riżultat tat-tibdil fil-klima. Fid-dawl tat-tibdil fil-klima hemm soluzzjoni prattika waħda: bidla radikali fil-mod kif ngħixu, naħdmu u nqattgħu l-ħin liberu. Permezz tal-Covid-19 in-natura tatna twissija ċara. Jekk dan ninjorawh m’hemm ħadd f’min nistgħu nwaħħlu.

Pubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 10 ta’ Mejju 2020

Climate Change: after the Covid-19 rehearsal

Covid-19 virus has rattled each one of us, throwing all into unprecedented turmoil. This is however child’s play when contrasted with the anticipated impacts of climate change in respect of which Covid-19 may be considered as a rehearsal or a minor drill!

In Paris, at 7.25pm on 12 December 2015, five thousand delegates representing 195 nations unanimously accepted irrefutable evidence on the impacts of climate change and selected a pathway for the future.

On 25 February 2020 Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivette-Carnac presented us with a riveting publication entitled “The Future We Choose. Surviving the Climate Crisis.” Christiana Figueres, public face of the Paris agreement, was the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework for Climate Change (UNFCC). Tom Rivette-Carnac was her Chief Political Strategist. He joined the effort to advance the Paris Agreement negotiations, mobilising support from a wide range of stakeholders outside national governments.

After selecting the pathway which could lead to change, transforming words into action can be quite a challenge. The options we face are unequivocal.

Business as usual would signify that the current mean global temperature, which is already around 1 degree Celsius above average temperatures before the industrial revolution, can warm up by 4 to 5 degrees Celsius. The impacts of such an increase in global temperature would be catastrophic.

Increasingly, in some regions, as a result of an increase in global temperature it would be impossible to stay outdoors for a length of time. Parts of the earth will, as a result, become uninhabitable. The increased temperatures at the poles will accelerate the melting of the polar ice-caps, as a result further increasing the rise in sea-level. Coastal communities will be under threat and all coastal activity and infrastructure will be severely impacted.

The change in atmospheric conditions will increase precipitation in areas and drought in others. The frequency and intensity of storms and the resulting havoc will multiply as is already evident in the various parts of the globe.

The Paris summit conclusions signified that the international community has recognised and accepted the accumulated scientific evidence on climate change. In Paris it was agreed that each individual country will identify and communicate its pledges through which they will participate in the global effort to address the causes of the change in climate. These pledges have to be updated every five years. The pledges registered so far, even if adhered to, are however insufficient to limit warming to well below two degrees Celsius, and preferably to not more than one and a half degrees Celsius, in line with the expectation of communities spread along coastal areas and low-lying islands. Much more is required to walk the talk.

To achieve the Paris targets global emissions must be reduced by not less than half not later than 2030. We must attain a carbon neutral status by not later than the year 2050.
In order to reach these essential targets Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac draw on the various proposals which have been made to date. They emphasise that the change required is significant: a change of this magnitude, they emphasise, would require major transformations in all that we do. It would require radical changes as to how we live, work and travel, along with changes to what we consume as well as to how and what to produce.

The sudden advent of the Covid-19 crisis has given a minor hint of some of the changes.
Telework must be a permanent component of our method of operation and not a temporary exception. Education can and should contain a more permanent online component.

Non-essential travel should be curtailed on a permanent basis. Where necessary, travelling should use sustainable means. This does not only include electrification of our cars, after drastically reducing their numbers, but also a substantial reduction of aeroplanes from our skies permanently. Acting on climate change means that tourism as currently practised has no future. Air travel will become quite costly if its considerable environmental impacts are internalised.

On a long-term basis the current intensive development of our road infrastructure also serves no purpose. Fewer cars on our roads will also signify extensive land use planning impacts. Local communities can then reclaim back our roads. With fewer cars there will be less need of parking space and/or garages. Our towns and villages may then be planned for residents, not for cars.

We need to appreciate and make full use of local agricultural products. However, agriculture must internalise its substantial environmental costs. The cost of production of meat and dairy products, for example, would be substantial if their environmental impacts are internalised. Christiana and Tom, comment that in 2050 food is expensive because it requires valuable resources to produce. “Water. Soil. Sweat. Time.” Clearly the current Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union has no future once we seriously start implementing the conclusions of the Paris agreement.

The impacts of Covid-19 are child’s play when considering the long-term impacts of climate change. Faced with climate change we have one practical option: a radical change in how we live, work and play. The Covid-19 rehearsal is nature’s clear warning. We ignore it at our peril.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 10 May 2020

Il-kosta: fi stat ta’ emerġenza

Iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, l-International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tal-Ġnus Magħquda, ippubblika rapport dwar l-ibħra u t-tibdil fil-klima. Ġejna avżati għal darb’ oħra bil-konsegwenzi tat-tibdil fil-klima u l-impatti li ser jirriżultaw bħaż-żieda fil-livell tal-baħar.

Ir-rapport ifakkarna ukoll fil-ħtieġa urġenti li jkunu indirizzati b’mod adegwat l-emissjonijiet tal-karbonju sa mhux iktar tard mis-sena 2050.

Il-Kummissarji Ewropej Miguel Arias Cañete (Azzjoni Klimatika u Enerġija), Karmenu Vella (Ambjent, Affarijiet Marittimi u Sajd) u Carlos Moedas (Riċerka, Xjenza u Innovazzjoni) kienu sodisfatti bir-rapport, għax jikkunsidraw li dan hu tfakkira lill-komunità globali biex din taġixxi u tindirizza t-tibdil fil-klima u l-impatti tagħha fuq l-ibħra malajr kemm jista’ jkun. Fi stqarrija tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja li t-tlett Kummissarji ħarġu nhar l-Erbgħa emfasizzaw li l-konklużjonijiet tar-rapport huma ċari: “iż-żieda fit-temperatura globali ikkawżata mill-bniedem qed tkun il-kawża ta’ tibdil drastiku fl-ibħra. Mhux biss qed togħla t-temperatura, imma l-ibħra qed isiru iktar aċidużi u fihom inqas ossiġnu. Il-livell tal-baħar qed jogħla ħafna iktar milli kien antiċipat.”

Il-Kapitlu numru 4 tar-rapport għandu jkun ta’ interess partikolari għal Malta. Huwa intitolat “Sea Level Rise and Implications for Low Lying Islands, Coasts and Communities”.

Il-medja globali taż-żieda fil-livell tal-baħar qed tiżdied b’rata li qed taċċellera. Mill-osservazzjonijiet li saru jirriżulta li din żdiedet minn 1.4 millimetri fis-sena fuq il-perjodu 1901-90 għal 3.6 millimetri fis-sena tul il-perjodu 2005-15. Ir-rapport jirreferi għal diversi studji li saru biex ikun imkejjel kemm tista’ tkun din iż-żieda fil-livell tal-ibħra fil-futur. Lil hinn mill-2050 hu diffiċli li jsiru projezzjonijiet u dan minħabba li x-xenarju dwar l-emmissjonijiet u t-tibdil fil-klima assoċjat mhux magħruf biżżejjed. L-anqas mhu magħruf kif ser tkun ir-reazzjoni tas-silġ akkumulat fl-Antartiku f’dinja b’temperatura għola. Bl-informazzjoni li hawn il-projezzjonijiet li saru jindikaw li l-livell tal-ibħra jista’ jiżdied b’madwar 110 ċentimetri sa tmiem dan is-seklu. Mhux eskluż li meta jitlestew studji addizzjonali li għadhom għaddejjin din iż-żieda tista’ titla’ sa 200 ċentimetru.

Dawn il-projezzjonijiet huma ibbażati fuq osservazzjonijiet xjentifiċi flimkien mat-tagħrif akkumulat minn studji dwar l-impatti tal-klima fuq l-ibħra, iż-żieda fit-temperaturi globali flimkien mar-ritmu li bih qed idub is-silġ akkumulat. Minkejja din l-inċertezza dwar dak li ser jiġri kif jidher mill-varjazzjoni mhux żgħira fil-projezzjonijiet dwar kemm u meta jista’ jogħla l-livell tal-ibħra, id-deċiżjonijiet ta’ ippjanar konnessi ma dak li hu meħtieġ biex tkun protetta l-kosta huma meħtieġa li jittieħdu illum.

Dan jinkludi d-deċiżjonijiet meħtieġa dwar infrastruttura ta’ importanza kritika kif ukoll xogħolijiet għall-ħarsien tal-kosta li hu meħtieġ li jkunu tlestew qabel ma jibda jseħħ ix-xenarju li l-baħar jogħla fil-livell b’mod sostanzjali.

L-għoli fil-livell tal-baħar hu ta’ theddida għall-komunitajiet residenzjali mal-kosta kif ukoll għall-parti l-kbira tal-infrastruttura turistika u marittima.

Iż-żoni kostali tagħna huma żviluppati b’mod esaġerat u fihom hemm jgħixu numru mhux żgħir ta’ nies, b’densità esaġerata.

Il-faċilitajiet u l-infrastruttura turistika huma ikkonċentrati tul il-parti tal-kosta li hi kważi fil-livell tal-baħar b’mod li l-inqas żieda fil-livell tal-baħar jista’ jkollu effett diżastruż. Għal stat gżira bħal Malta l-infrastruttura marittima hi kruċjali: anke din qegħda fil-livell tal-baħar. Bħala konsegwenza ta’ dan l-iċken ċaqlieq fil-livell tal-baħar jista’ jkollu effett diżastruz fuq il-gżejjer Maltin jekk ma nippreparawx ruħna sewwa mhux biss għall-iktar possibiltajiet realistiċi imma anke għall-agħar possibilitajiet.

X’ser nagħmlu? Qegħdin nippreparaw ruħna għal din l-emerġenza li qed tiżviluppa wara biebna?

It-tweġiba ovvja hi le: ma jidher xejn li jindika li qed nippreparaw ruħna. Il-problema ewlenija għalina hi li anke b’zieda żgħira fil-livell tal-baħar il-faċilitajiet mal-kosta jistgħu jisparixxu. Neħtieġu viżjoni ċara fuq kif ser naffrontaw it-tibdil fil-klima.

Il-Ministeru tat-Turiżmu iktar hu interessat biex joqgħod jilgħab bir-ramliet artifiċjali li malajr jitkaxkru mill-mewġ mal-ewwel maltempata qalila kif ġara fil-Bajja tal-Balluta riċentement. Man-natura ma tilgħabx! L-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, min-naħa l-oħra iktar hi interessata li taqdi lil dawk li jridu jistagħnew mil-koxxa u fl-ebda ħin ma bdiet tagħti kas tat-tibdil fil-klima fid-deċiżjonijiet tagħha.

Neħtieġu kosta ħajja u vibranti. Nistgħu nipproteġu ‘l kosta billi nħejju ruħna għal din l-emerġenza tal-klima li qed tiżviluppa quddiem għajnejna. Jekk ser nibqgħu ma niċċaqilqux it-tort ikun tal-ġenerazzjoni tagħna u ta’ ħadd iktar.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 29 ta’ Settembru 2019

Our coastline: in a state of emergency

Earlier this week the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its report on the oceans and climate change. We are once more warned of the consequences of climate change and the impacts of rising sea levels, as well as of the urgent need to have decarbonisation in place by not later than the year 2050.

EU Commissioners Miguel Arias Cañete for Climate Action and Energy, Karmenu Vella for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and Carlos Moedas for Research, Science and Innovation have welcomed the report, considering it a wake-up call for the global community to tackle climate change and its impacts on oceans as soon as possible. In an EU Commission press statement issued on Wednesday, they emphasised the fact that the conclusions of the new report are clear: “human-induced global warming is drastically changing our oceans. They are heating up, becoming more acidic, contain less oxygen. Sea levels are rising much faster than anticipated.”

Chapter 4 of the report should be of particular interest to Malta. It is entitled “Sea Level Rise and Implications for Low Lying Islands, Coasts and Communities”.

Global Mean Sea Level is rising at an accelerating rate. From observations made it results that this has increased from 1.4 mm per year over the period 1901-90 to 3.6 mm per year over the period 2005-15. The report refers to various studies regarding the projected sea-level rise. Beyond 2050 is unchartered territory due to the uncertainties in emission scenarios and the associated climate changes and the response of the Antarctic ice sheet in a warmer world. The relevant projections, however, still point towards a possible sea-level rise of 1.10 metres towards the end of the century. It is not excluded that this projection may be increased upwards to as much as 2 metres, once additional studies are concluded.

These projections are based on scientific observations and the accumulated knowledge from studies on the impacts of climate change on the oceans, notably the increase in global temperatures as well as the resulting melting of glaciers and ice sheets.

Despite this uncertainty associated with such a wide range of the projections made, decisions on coastal adaptation planning are required to be made today. This would include decisions on critical infrastructure and coastal protection work which need to be put in place in anticipation of the most likely scenarios.

Rising sea levels are a threat to coastal residential areas as well as to most of our tourism and maritime infrastructure.

Our coastal areas are over-developed and densely populated. Tourism facilities and infrastructure is concentrated along the low-lying areas of the coast. For an island state the maritime infrastructure is crucial. As a consequence, sea-level rise may, even in the medium term, have a devastating impact on the Maltese islands unless we are adequately prepared – not just for the likely scenarios but also for the worst case scenario.

Where do we go from here? Are we prepared for this developing emergency which is unfolding before us?

The answer is an obvious “no”. We are not prepared. There are no signs that any sort of preparation is in hand. The basic problem we have to face is that even in the medium term our coast may be wiped out together with all its infrastructure. We lack a clear vision of how to deal with climate change.

The Tourism Ministry is only interested in playing around with artificial sandy beaches which will be quickly vacuumed up and reclaimed by the sea during the first storm – as was clearly demonstrated in Balluta Bay during the last stormy season. The Planning Authority is bent on facilitating “making hay while the sun shines” and has at no point factored climate change in its policies and decisions.

A healthy and vibrant coastline is essential and we can only protect it by being prepared for the developing climate emergency. If we do not we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 29 September 2019

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

Is-silġ qed idub

Is-silġ qed idub kullimkien. Iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa fl-Iżlanda saret kommemorazzjoni tal-glaċier Okjökull li dab wara madwar 700 sena li ilu jeżisti.

Kien hemm ċerimonja ta’ tifkira u twaħħlet plakka bi twissija għall-futur li tgħid: “Okjökull hu l-ewwel glaċier fl-Iżlanda li spiċċa. Matul il-mitejn sena li ġejjin il-glaċieri ewlenin li għandna ser imisshom l-istess xorti. Dan il-monument jirrikonoxxi li nafu x’qiegħed jiġri kif ukoll x’jeħtieġ li jsir. Intom biss tafu jekk għamilniehx.”

Din id-dedika tispiċċa bid-data taċ-ċerimonja u l-konċentrazzjoni attwali tad-dijossidju tal-carbonju fl-arja, 415 parti minn kull miljun.

Mappa ġeoloġika tal-1901 tal-Iżlanda tindika li dan il-glaċier kien ikopri area ta’ 38 kilometru kwadru. Issa spiċċa: dab u sparixxa fl-oċeani.

It-tibdil fil-klima qiegħed magħna. Illum diffiċli biex dan jitwaqqaf. It-tibdil fil-klima m’għadux xi eżerċizzju tejoretiku li jbassar il-futur: hu r-realtà li qed tiżviluppa quddiemna u li rridu niffaċċjaw.

Il-kommemorazzjoni simbolika “tal-mewt” tal-glaċier Iżlandiz hi twiddiba għal kulħadd: it-tibdil fil-klima teffettwa lil kulħadd, min mod u min ieħor. Iż-żieda fit-temperatura globali qed iddewweb il-glaċieri u l-icebergs. Dan iwassal biex jogħla l-livell tal-baħar u dan b’theddida serja għal kull attività fuq l-art li hi qrib tal-livell tal-baħar. L-effetti mhux ser ikunu biss mal-kosta, imma iktar ‘il-ġewwa ukoll.

Kontinwament naqraw kif ibliet kbar li qegħdin mhux wisq ‘il-fuq mil-livell tal-baħar qed jaħsbu u jitħassbu dwar kif jistgħu jilqgħu għal din it-theddida: ibliet bħal New York, Miami, Tampa, Boston, New Orleans, Amsterdam, Mumbai, Stokkolma, Buenos Aires, Dakar, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Cancun u bosta oħrajn jistgħu jisparixxu. Miljuni ta’ bnedmin jispiċċaw bla saqaf fuq rashom.

U f’Malta?

L-għoli tal-livell tal-baħar jeqred il-faċilitajiet mal-kosta, bit-turiżmu jaqla’ l-ikbar daqqa. Numru ta’ zoni residenzjali mal-kosta ukoll jistgħu jkunu effettwati: bħal Marsalforn, ix-Xlendi, San Pawl il-Baħar, l-Għadira, tas-Sliema, l-Gżira, Ta’ Xbiex, l-Msida, Birżebbuġa, Marsaskala u Marsaxlokk, flimkien ma partijiet minn lokalitajiet oħra lkoll jintlaqtu skont kemm jogħla l-livell tal-baħar.

Jiena infurmat li l-power station ta’ Malta f’Delimara qegħda madwar 4 metri ‘l-fuq mil-livell tal-baħar.

Żieda żgħira fil-livell tal-baħar tista’ tillimita l-ħsara għall-infrastruttura turistika u l-faċilitajiet kostali. Imma jekk iż-żieda fil-livell tal-baħar tkun waħda sostanzjali iz-zoni residenzjali mal-kosta, u bosta iktar, jista’ jkunu effettwati.

It-tbassir dwar kemm ser jogħla l-livell tal-baħar jiddependi fuq iż-żidiet reali fit-temperaturi. Fis-Summit dwar il-klima f’Pariġi kien hemm it-tama li ż-żieda massima fit-temperatura ma taqbizx il-1.5 gradi Celsius fuq it-temperatura pre-industrijali. Sfortunatament, illum, dan jidher li hu ħolm għax mexjin lejn żidied ferm ikbar fit-temperaturi.

It-tbassir minimu hu dwar żieda fl-għoli tal-baħar ta’ madwar 500 millimetru imma hemm il-possibiltà li dan jista’ jilħaq żieda fl-għoli ta’ anke 7 metri! Dan hu tbassir li qed ikun revedut kontinwament mill-komunità xjentifika u jiddependi miż-żidiet reali fit-temperaturi u projezzjonijiet reveduti.

Malta għandha interess (dirett) ovvju biex it-tibdil fil-klima jkun indirizzat, imma fl-istess ħin issegwi politika li twassal il-messaġġ ċar li tiġi taqa’ u tqum, ma jimpurtahiex. Eżempju ta’ dan huma l-proġetti infrastrutturali konnessi mat-toroq li ser iservu biss biex iżidu n-numru tal-karozzi fit-toroq. Iktar karozzi, iktar emissjonijiet: kontribut dirett ikbar għat-tibdil fil-klima.

Fejn diġa beda jinħass l-għoli fil-livell tal-baħar diġa sparixxew numru ta’ gżejjer (mhux abitati) fil-Paċifiku. Hemm gżejjer oħra mill-Fiji sal-gżejjer Marshall, mill-Maldives sal-Bahamas, Tuvalu, l-Kiribati u bosta oħrajn li qegħdin taħt theddida imminenti.

Anke Malta u Għawdex qegħdin fil-queue għax in-natura ma taħfira lil ħadd, ma timxix b’mod diskriminatorju. Ser tolqot lil kulħadd mingħajr eċċezzjoni.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 25 t’Awwissu 2019