Transitioning to a Low Carbon Future
November 6, 2018
By the Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change
Cospicua (one of the Three Cities) by night
IMAGE: Giuseppe Milo
Climate change has become a real concern that poses a significant threat to sustainable development. The Sustainable Development Vision for Malta, is aligned with, and is fed into by, the Low Carbon Development Strategy Vision, published in May 2017, by the same Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change.
Transitioning to a low carbon future brings with it challenges and opportunities for all countries pursuing this ambitious goal, not least Malta. Pursuing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets will enable us to make the new low carbon economy a reality, in line with the agenda established at international and European fora, driven by the objectives of the Paris Agreement. The targets that Malta is set to achieve can only be met through the development and implementation of a comprehensive national policy that will gradually re-shape us into a Low Carbon Economy. Nonetheless we need to ensure that decarbonisation still manages to maximise economic, social and environmental goals.
Climate Change as a Common Concern of Humankind
Malta has always been at the forefront in advocating climate action. It was Malta that requested the 43rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to discuss climate change at the highest international political level in 1988. At the same Assembly, Malta had, together with a group of like-minded States, piloted the formulation of the legendary Resolution UNGA 43/53 declaring Climate Change as a Common Concern of Humankind. The said Resolution was adopted unanimously at UNGA’s 43rd session. This legacy is proudly ingrained in the history of our nation, as one of most salient contributions Malta has made to the International community of States and future generations.
Malta as an Annex I party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and as an EU Member State is committed to reducing its national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by -19% below its 2005 emissions in accordance with the Effort Sharing Regulation.
Our commitment towards climate action has been further strengthened by the enactment of the Climate Action Act, 2015 (543), whereby it mandates the duty of every person together with the Government to protect the climate and to assist in the taking of preventive and remedial measures to protect the climate.1 The Climate Action Act provides the legal framework within which climate action is pursued, whilst also establishing a governance structure.
Through the ratification of the Paris Agreement, Malta, in its own right, reaffirmed its commitment to address climate issues to its full potential and to contribute towards the European Union’s collective target of 40% reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
Malta has identified the formulation of a long-term Low Carbon Development Strategy as a useful tool in the implementation of the objectives of the Paris Agreement, and has given this process due priority. Malta has initiated the process of developing a national Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) in accordance with requirements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), European Union legislation and the Climate Action Act, 2015 (Cap 543) and as part of a goal to fulfil the decarbonisation aspect of the Energy Union. This strategy will aim to consider our national circumstances and realities especially those aspects that link socio-economic development with climate action.
Low Carbon Development Strategy Vision
The Low Carbon Development Strategy Vision Document emphasises our aspirations to:
The Low Carbon Development Strategy will be modelled upon the key areas of action defined in the Low Carbon Development Strategy Vision Document, charting a roadmap to enable the transition towards a low carbon future, providing Government with a programme of implementable measures to achieve this strategic objective. Synergies with the National Energy and Climate Plan, mandated under the newly adopted Energy Union Governance Regulation, further strengthen the process, given that one of the energy union pillars also relates to decarbonisation.
Low Carbon Governance
To achieve this vision, there is a need to create the appropriate governance framework through which Malta is able to react to anticipated climate change scenarios that are likely to test its resilience up to 2050.
Good governance may be equated to a process which protects the good from the bad and of allocating emission quotas to different economic sectors within the allowable national threshold whilst also achieving sustainable development. In doing so it has to demonstrate coherence in adapting to, and mitigating of, the effects of climate change with a view towards achieving economic, social and environmental resilience. Simply put, climate change governance is about the level of decarbonisation to be achieved by whom, and by when, and the entire set of systems and mechanisms that will control decision making. A robust governance framework is one which ensures that this Strategy is formulated in a manner which fortifies economic, social and environmental resilience and which is kept in a dynamic state of flux in order to respond towards the prevailing state of play. It is important to understand that this Strategy is a pathway for this and future generations to whom we have a responsibility to bequeath a more resilient country than we inherited.
Within the context of a governance framework, quantitative and, or, qualitative targets and objectives are set, both at an overall national level and at sectoral level. The achievement of the goals set out in the Low Carbon Development Strategy can in turn be guided and monitored through the existing national institutional structure which includes, among others, a Climate Action Board established by the Climate Action Act, an Inter-Ministerial Committee for Climate Change, and the policy and implementation functions of the Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development, and Climate Change and Malta’s GHG Emission Inventory Agency, with the active participation of other Ministries and entities across Government, and civil society.
Mitigating Climate Change
Malta’s total greenhouse gas emissions are the lowest across the EU in absolute as well as on a per capita basis as noted in the Third Report on the State of the Energy Union.3 A significant decrease in emissions from the energy sector due to the recent infrastructural developments has led to the energy sector being lately superseded by the transport sector (including maritime) in terms of the sectoral generation of GHG emissions. Electricity production still qualified as the second largest emitter, followed by refrigeration, other energy (fuel use in commercial/manufacturing and domestic), waste, agriculture and the least contributing sector is land use, land-use change and forestry.
In line with the Effort Sharing Regulation, Malta is bound to reduce its GHG emissions by 19% below its 2005 emissions. This is no easy task and prima facie an unrealistic objective that has been imposed upon us but Malta remains committed to continue working towards mitigation action, despite our geophysical realities, including our climatic conditions, and the lack of an array of options for modal shifts to reduce carbon emissions. To this effect, in the Low Carbon Development vision, the need for sectoral target reductions, that will contribute to the national target both in the medium term and long term (2030, 2050) is highlighted. The LCDS shall also be assessing the mitigation potential per sector, on the basis of which sectoral targets shall then be assigned. Sectoral challenges are various, from economies of scale and low mitigation potential (as in the case of the agricultural sector) to more challenging technology and innovation issues (e.g. refrigeration and cooling) to land use conflicts.
Hence, in order to pursue GHG emissions reductions, low carbon investments are needed in areas where there is high potential for decreasing carbon and where diversification is possible. These key areas of action were identified in the Vision document and include energy, transport, waste, agriculture, water, enterprise, tourism, information and communication technologies (ICT), infrastructure (planning and monitoring of existence infrastructure), finance and expert knowledge.
Climate change has an impact on infrastructure, forestry and agriculture, marine life, fisheries, coastal areas, water management, biodiversity, health and risk of natural disasters. Consequently, climate change poses a serious threat to the human wellbeing as well as the economy and environment. Through global mitigation action, we curb GHG emissions and re-dimension the challenges posed by climate change, the impacts of which are already being felt in high risk zones.
Increasing our adaptive capacity
Adaptation to climate change requires actions taken to help communities and ecosystems cope with changing climate conditions, which include amongst others sea level rise, more frequent and severe floods and/or droughts, changes in temperature, precipitation and storm events, as a consequence of which, natural resources, infrastructure and human health are impacted. Increasing our adaptive capacity is required as an adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities (IPCC).
Malta’s National Adaptation Strategy published in 2012, will be updated and integrated within the Low Carbon Development Strategy. The adaptation strategy aims to minimise the vulnerability of natural and human systems by anticipating through modelling the impacts of climate change on our islands and mapping out appropriate action to counter potential damage. Measures including improving our green infrastructure, securing water supplies, assessing the need for coastal defences and enhancing energy performance in buildings are but a few of adaptation techniques considered. By doing so, we would be building further climate resilience, which has been defined as the capacity of social, economic and environmental systems to cope with a hazardous event or trend or disturbance, responding or reorganizing in ways that maintain their essential function, identity and structure, while also maintaining the capacity for adaptation, learning and transformation (IPCC, 2014).
Symbiotic societal and economic action
The transition to a low carbon future aspired for by Government can only occur through symbiotic societal and economic collective actions by 2050. The specific goals contained within national policy need to be owned and delivered by identified stakeholders across all public and private sectors in order to produce positive outcomes of change based on clear evidence and measurable results. Supporting structures are necessary to move in this direction, including embracing capacity building and mobilisation of financial tools to support programmes and smart incentives directed towards the implementation of the low carbon and climate resilient economy. In this respect, wide consultation is being undertaken in the development of the low carbon strategy, both inter-ministerial to ensure coherence and synergies with existing and future national strategies and plans at sector level, and with the private sector across all levels of society for the purpose of enhancing data collection, information transformation and awareness raising with the aim of promoting climate related education.
1 Climate Action Act, 2015 (543)
2 Low Carbon Development Strategy – Vision, MESDC, 2017
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