Times of Malta, 16th October 2008 – Editorial

In a wide-ranging talk to the Strickland Foundation some 18 months ago entitled Climate Change: Complacency Or Confronting The Challenges, Martin Scicluna, director general of the independent public policy think-tank, The Today Public Policy Institute, said: “In the next 20 years we are not only going to have to cope with adjusting to the needs of accession to the EU, sustainable development and the ruthlessly competitive demands of globalisation; we are also going to have to adjust our whole way of life to the threats of climate change and global warming. Those of you in this room who are in their 50s – and two thirds of people alive in Malta today – will live through the consequences of climate change. Your children and grand-children will see at first hand how, or whether, Malta rises to the challenges ahead. We have just a few years to draw up a survival plan”.

Belatedly, in the face of the EU’s targets for the reduction of carbon emissions, the realisation that Malta’s energy security is under threat and in the sclerotic way we have come to expect from the government when faced with a politically-challenging problem, the new Administration has begun to address the issue. It has established a committee tasked with drawing up a plan of action to tackle climate change in Malta. In parallel, technical experts are assessing the feasibility of alternative energy sources.

The opposition has commendably grasped the urgency of the situation. While recognising the pressing need for such a plan, its spokesman on the environment, sustainable development and climate change, Leo Brincat, has presented a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament aimed at giving legal force to the action plan now being drawn up by the government. This would be in line with actions taken by governments elsewhere and would ensure that Maltese citizens saw for themselves that their government was legally answerable for tackling this crucial challenge.

Today, mankind is poised for probably its greatest trial. Whether we like it or not, we are a part of it. The acceleration of climate change will sweep aside the near-perfect climate to which we have become accustomed. The scientific evidence is now overwhelming. Put starkly, climate change threatens the basic elements of life.

Any action plan for Malta must address seven key challenges: water depletion – an already critical issue, energy security, tourism, food security, health, the built environment and climate refugees.

The question which the opposition has posed is: Should the climate change committee’s forthcoming action plan be given legislative force? The government’s reaction has, at best, been lukewarm.

The challenges which confront Malta – like all islands more vulnerable to the impact of climate change – are such that considerable merit is seen in under-pinning the actions for tackling them with the force of law.

A Bill that sets targets for reductions in carbon emissions and for the timely introduction of alternative energy sources, laid down a firm time-table for addressing the desperate problems of a water table in severe peril and the achievement of energy security would have over-riding advantages in making this and subsequent governments more accountable on an issue of such paramount importance.

A bi-partisan approach to such a Bill can still be adopted.