In the months before COVID-19 reached Malta, we were all in a state of denial.
Even our health authorities were trying to keep us calm, saying it was unlikely for the virus to reach us from China.
But before we knew it, COVID-19 hit us hard.
It forced us indoors. It shut down tourism. It killed friends and family. For many of us, it radically changed our lives in ways we still have not recovered.
Yet even after experiencing COVID-19, many of us remain in a state of denial about the other big emergency we are already experiencing: climate change.
For decades now, we have been warned that the planet is warming with severe impacts on global systems.
And as the years pass, the reality becomes more stark.
Yesterday’s report by the IPCC told us that the 1.5˚C temperature increase threshold beyond which the most serious impacts of climate change become irreversible is now projected to be crossed in 2030.
That’s just nine years from now.
Within our own lifetimes and the lifetimes of our children, life on earth, including in Malta is projected to become unbearable,
We risk being forced to live most of our lives indoors, with trees and other biodiversity struggling to survive, our electrical grid barely keeping up with demand for ACs, more of our food being imported, an increased cost of living and key areas of our economy like tourism will be severely affected.
It makes for depressing reading, especially when you think that slowing down the global damage is not really something within our small island’s control.
But that’s the wrong way of looking at the problem.
We must see this as a problem we can solve – that we must solve – and work tirelessly to find solutions, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation. Our lives, and the lives of our children and generations to come, depend on it.
Let’s start by erasing the first fallacy: We are not a small nation that cannot do anything about climate change. We are members of the European Union, which itself is a forceful leader in global discussions.
The second falsehood is that there isn’t much the EU can do. There is. For starters, we can strive to achieve carbon neutrality as quickly as possible and start to reverse the trend.
This is not impossible. There are two countries in the world that are already removing more carbon than they are emitting: Bhutan and Suriname. Uruguay is hoping to get there by 2030 and the first EU state hoping to reach this goal is Finland in 2035.
Malta has a strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. In other words, we are planning to be followers, not leaders.
That is simply not acceptable. We need to do better. We need to get there faster. And in doing so, we can show the EU and the rest of the world that they can get there faster too.
Then there is the third fallacy: that achieving carbon neutrality necessarily means slowing down economic productivity.
This is incorrect. What will actually result in an economic downturn is doing nothing, or going too slowly. The cost of inaction is far greater to everyone involved.
Being radical in our fight against climate change can actually reap huge economic benefits, especially for a country of our strategic location and size.
If Malta dedicates itself to the fight against climate change and if we gain credibility in this area, we can do two things that could radically improve our economy.
Firstly, we can build a whole new industry – something the country hasn’t seen for more than 10 years. If we plan appropriately, we can attract the world’s innovators to use Malta as a laboratory of climate change solutions.
Secondly, we will improve our international reputation, something that has suffered enormously for the last decade too.
Malta can become a global centre for climate change research, development and innovation.
If we invest ambitiously, we can attract the best global minds to make Malta a shining example of how countries should be battling climate change.
And our story can help persuade the rest of the world to make the changes we all need to make.
In 1988, Malta was the first country to formally table the issue of climate change on the political agenda of the United Nations General Assembly. And in the coming years, Malta is likely to have a bigger voice at UN level, as we plan to become an elected member of the Security Council. This is a major opportunity for us to fulfil our mission and have a positive impact on the world.
This is the next big project for Malta. It is the vision we need to realise. And together with the rest of the Nationalist Party, I am committed to seeing it through.
Our first step will be a national conference in the coming weeks to map out a clear way forward. If you want to be part of this vision, get in touch with us today.
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