Dr Louise Spiteri CEO of the Environment and Resources Authority has told audiences at the ERA conference, ‘it’s high time that we don’t just talk, we need to act on the environment’.
Dr Spiteri was addressing the second and final day of the ERA conference exploring environmental challenges and the future shape of Malta’s environment.
She opened her speech by summarising the feedback given following the launch of the State of the Environment Report and the workshops which followed on topics like development planning and waste management. She explained that on her reading of the report, the environment cannot be fixed by itself and will need a synergy between all of the authorities and entities working together.
She likened the solution to a football game with many different players including development, tourism and transport, all working with the environment towards the goal of enhancing the economy, the economy being the playing field where all the players met.
She also explained that discussions and approaches to the environment have been changing. For businesses, the notion has been that the environment was an ‘obstacle’, ‘but it is not an obstacle to business’, she said. In the lens of the EU, Spiteri says the organisation originally framed environment as a ‘normal topic’, one that focused on negative action resulting in punishment.
Since then, the EU has ‘started to listen’, changing its approach and mentality, and adopting new measures to support the economy and environment. Businesses too, have been moving towards greener solutions, with more green initiatives included in their planning, she explained.
“We need to address the two elephants in the room”
The discussion then moved on to the main topics of the day. In the main hall, Saviour Vassallo, Senior Officer at the Malta Resources Authority, delivered his presentation looking at Malta’s coordination with national, EU and international level climate action targets.
Vassallo showed that the EU’s targets for reducing green-house gas emissions are ambitious. By 2020, EU member states including Malta, intend to reduce their emissions by 20%, 40% by 2030 and between 80 and 95% in 2050. But he insisted that Malta still needed to address the ‘two elephants in the room’ these being the level of green-house gases, Malta’s Industrial Pollution Prevention and Control figures.
Vassallo also explained that there has been some decrease in the amount of green-house gas coming from the fuel burning energy industry due to investment in more efficient electrical system. But, he also explained that there had been an increase in 2016 of emissions coming from transport, higher than energy emissions. Further to this, he explained that attention should be given to the rise of florinated green-house gas emitted from air conditioners and refridgeration. It was not as big as transport but was growing.
“187 Maltese roads affected by rising sea levels”
An interesting aspect raised in the Climate Change panel discussion was a concern over rising sea levels. Anthony Rizzo, CEO Malta Resources Authority, said that even if Malta, the EU or the international community meet their targets, climate change was not going away.
He explained that there are 187 coastal roads in Malta that are affected by rising sea levels, which could rise to over two metres. He therefore said that the road infrastructure has to deal with this situation as well as the vulnerabilities of Maltese roads to periods of drought and precipitation.
‘What we need are studies that correctly explain the climate change impacts on Malta. Our current road infrastructure will service us for 75 to 100 years. We need it to be prepared for the weather we face’, Rizzo added.