You are currently viewing Making Malta carbon neutral – David Thake
An offshore floating wind farm would reduce emissions in both electricity and transport. Photo: Shutterstock.com

Making Malta carbon neutral – David Thake

In March 2015, Malta signed the Paris (Climate) Agreement, where it committed to a binding target of an at least 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. In doing so, this government promised to protect us from climate destitution and to follow EU climate policy. With the launch of the European Green Deal in January 2020, the country has the chance to tackle the dangers of this crisis and to reap the benefits such reforms will have upon all members of society.

Alongside the EU Emissions Trading System, and other binding agreements, the Green Deal heralds a post-fossil fuel industrial renaissance. It states that in order to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, a massive expansion of offshore wind resources must be undertaken, resource consumption must be reduced, and importantly, a just transition must occur that leaves no vulnerable community behind.

With a budget of €1 trillion for the next 10 years, this government must explore alternative energy sources other than Liquid Natural Gas (LNG). Unfortunately, the government’s approach to meet this challenge has been downright backward and there are a number of reasons why this is so.

Firstly, in Malta’s National Energy and Climate Policy (NECP), the government illustrates how it halved GHG emissions with the replacement of Malta’s energy production from heavy-fuel oil to LNG, yet failed to mention how between 2016 and 2018 Malta saw a dramatic 12.8 per cent increase in GHG emissions, earning us the title, “the dirty man of Europe”. Furthermore, I fear that based on this plan, Malta will once again be bottom-rung in renewable energy production, while the rest of the EU speed ahead towards a renewable energy transition.

Secondly, the Maltese government’s goal to attain only an 11.5 per cent production output of renewable energy by 2030 is unacceptable if our economy continues to grow and pollute. The government has failed to recognise that attaining GHG reduction targets is not a zero-sum game, where economic growth is sacrificed. On the contrary, between 1990-2017 EU GDP grew by 53 per cent, while at the same time, emissions were reduced by 22 per cent. Moreover, by focussing only on the applicability of Solar PV and ignoring new technologies in offshore wind, as well as only providing incentives for battery storage & Solar PV modules, this government confers all the responsibility to kick-start renewable energy change on the island upon the shoulders of the ordinary Maltese citizen.

Indeed, I find that the government’s core renewable energy incentives alone will only be accessible to the wealthiest, which in turn widens the gulf between the haves and have-nots, heightens the risk of energy poverty in vulnerable families and could lead to populist ideas seeing climate change mitigation as an elitist undertaking – spurring counterculture activism that would be tragically out of place.

This approach not only runs counter to the whole concept of the Green Deal, but it also highlights the government’s failure to identify the requisite private and public sector synergy actions to realise a renewable energy transition and a more equitable society. Clearly, as in all EU member states, incentives will never replace a consorted political effort.

 

Malta will once again be bottom-rung in renewable energy production– David Thake

 

Thirdly, the stunning and horrifying revelations made in the past weeks concerning the Montenegrin wind farm, as well as this government’s mismanagement of tackling corruption, has severely weakened our trust in foreign joint-projects, and raises serious credibility issues. Undeniably, simple calculations for personal financial gain were made in deciding to approach LNG rather than to make decisions for the betterment of Maltese society as a whole.

This view would explain why the government in December 2019 saw the utilisation of floating offshore wind in the short to medium term as being impossible. Unfortunately for our government, not even six months after publication of this country’s NECP, Italy unveiled a 250 MW floating offshore wind farm off the coast of Marsala, Sicily. 

Countries do not calculate the benefits of building a local floating offshore wind farm purely in terms of reaching GHG and renewable energy targets. Such a transition must have various positive knock-on effects, which this administration has clearly failed to identify. Take for example the government’s goal to set a date for banning the registration and importation of Internal Combustion Engine vehicles.

If the Maltese were to switch to e-vehicles in droves within the next 10 years, we would be switching from gasoline and diesel, to LNG, as per this government’s approach. Ultimately, we would enter into a situation where we would drastically increase emissions and oblige Enemalta to procure additional EU ETS allowances, forcing end-consumers to pick up the tab.

An offshore floating wind farm on the other hand would reduce emissions in both electricity and transport. Such a project would create new industries and thousands of high-income green jobs to maintain, build and advise on the operation of the wind farm. The benefits accrued from the Green Deal could assist in offsetting high electricity tariffs and allow us to identify marginal operating costs for future wind farm development, solar PV & wind coexistence, and a full renewable energy transition.

It would also greatly reduce Malta’s dependence on tourism and gambling, further diversifying our economy.

Initial investment will be considerable, however the costs of failing to act are far greater. Indeed, scientists writing for the European Commission’s EU Adaptation Strategy conclude that the risk of flooding may cost up to €1 trillion per year by 2050 if we continue on a “business as usual” trajectory.

The inconvenient truth is that Malta stands at a tipping point, where it could either slide into a future where we push the challenge of the climate crisis upon the backs of our children, or we decide to bare this weight ourselves today.

A future where on the one hand we face a collapsing tourist industry and financial base, desperately scrambling to improve Maltese shore defences, or on the other, a future where our children enjoy the shade of the trees (and wind turbines) we plant today.

David Thake is Nationalist Party spokesperson on the environment.

Article Source: Times of Malta