Why Malta is doing absolutely nothing to mitigate Climate Change

COP21 is the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference that is currently underway in Paris. The main aim of this conference is to present and ratify a legally binding and universal agreement on the Earth’s Climate. Should this happen, it will be a much anticipated end to over 20 years of UN negotiations on the topic. But how is Malta fairing when it comes to reducing its carbon footprint?

Malta Raffic COP21

Malta is truly united for action against climate change, united in a never ending sea of polluting traffic jams. This photo has been adapted from a Commission poster found here)

Frankly, let us just say that Malta has not done much in terms of improving its impact on the Earth’s Climate. At COP21, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat spoke on behalf of Commonwealth Nations, were he  “urged practical and swift action by governments and all other stakeholders, public and private, to implement and reinforce the outcome of COP 21, especially in favour of climate vulnerable states and communities”.

This is all fine and dandy, but it is a bit irritating that developed countries such as Malta still think that throwing money at developing countries counts as some sort of reprieve from making a change themselves. The follow are recent infographics taken from the European Commission’s website in the run up to COP21, which illustrate just how well Malta is performing.

EU GG Emissions

The Main sources of GHG emissions from the European Union (Photo credit: European Commission)

 As a bloc, the EU is producing greenhosue gases from six main sources; Energy, Industry, Transport, Agriculture, Residential and Commercial buildings, and waste production. Different EU Member States have different emission profiles, so it doesn’t really matter if Malta is producing more GHG from Waste when compared to Belgium per se. What really matters is how Malta has performed since 1990, which is illustrated in the images below, all oh which have been obtained from the the Commission’s statistics office Eurostat:

Malta COP21 GHG Emissions globalMalta COP21 energy wasteMalta COP21 GHG Emissions sectors

The key facts are the following:

  • Malta’s GHG emissions have increased by 57.3% between 1990 and 2012
  • The main sources of GHG in Malta is energy and transport
  • Malta has only produced 2% renewable energy since 1990
  • Malta is landfilling more waste in 2013 than it was in 1995.

It is embarrassing to say the least. Malta does not take the prospect of renewable energy seriously, as I discussed in an article two years ago. Yet, it is fine for the current Maltese government to help Montenegro build wind farms, but God forbid it decides to take the initiative domestically.

The problem with waste is that there is no proper national strategy to address issues such as recycling, which the European Environment Agency has recently revealed was on the decrease in Malta.

When it comes to transport, well just read the following blog post I wrote about traffic in Malta, and the population’s lack of will to choose greener alternative modes of transport.

Malta can be considered as being the most sanctimonious nation of the European Union. We play cool in front of other nations in summits such as the United Nations Climate Assembly in 2014, and the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in Malta, but when it comes to actually doing something we would much rather play hookey and take a ‘meh, let the big boys handle it’ mentality.

Irrespective of the fact that Malta is exceptionally small compared to other nations, we have a moral obligation to act on climate change just as much as every other country in world. The environment does not belong to the Maltese to dispense with as they see fit. We already have a knack for killing Europe’s Birds and damaging the Mediterranean’s Posidonia seagrass meadows, so the least we can do is try and present some concrete plans of how we can reduce the nation’s carbon footprint.

And while Malta is not the lowest rated country in the EU, there is no excuse why we should not aim for higher ground.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Life at Level 4 – Brussels on Lockdown

The Belgian Government raised the threat level in Brussels to 4 after information was received of an imminent terrorist attack in the Belgian Capital. Even though plans were cancelled and it ended up being an unexpected weekend inside, this situation provided me with better clarity on the wider terrorism situation in Europe.

Boulevard Anspach

The scene at Boulevard Anspach this morning. (Photo Credit: E. Baltatzi/Facebook)

Living at level 4 in Brussels was a peculiar situation: metro services were suspended, shopping streets and centres were shut down, armed soldiers patrolled the street and catering establishments were advised to close after 6pm.

The tension in Brussels was palpable, and those souls that decided to ‘risk their lives’ and venture out into the city faced a dismal choice in Saturday night entertainment. Some bars remained open into the early hours of Sunday morning, yet the streets were eerily empty. Even smokers decided to skip an ‘in-between beers’ cigarette outside the bar, most of which were being watched over by sentinel Belgian army.

There is no indication of when this lockdown will be reversed, as Beligan interior minister Jambon iterated that  the “terror threat in Belgium would not be over once Salah Abdeslam is out of harm’s way”.

I was initially very irritated at the idea of having my entire weekend dictated by the Belgian Government’s decision and by the encapsulating feeling of terror. But then I stopped for a second and thought of how stupid I was being: people in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya and other Arab states have been feeling like this for months on end.

It takes a certain of stupid and western privilege to feel annoyed in such a situation, and I have to admit that I too feel prey to these sentiments. In retrospect, I think it is refreshing that Europeans get a taste of what terror is, and how it can uproot what may seemingly be mundane weekend plans.

The whole Brussels lockdown will blow over in a couple of days, but the situation in Syria will not. And then xenophobes and racists have the cheek to whinge when these people flee their country for a life that is free of turmoil and continuous terror.

People in Europe have been gripped with terror since the Paris attacks, which is precisely Islamic State’s end game. Even though I have been vigilant this weekend, I still went shopping for my routine Saturday morning Viennoiseries, and I still went out for my Sunday afternoon coffee. I even walked it all the way home, which was a very brave decision indeed (I’m obviously being sarcastic here).

So this article is merely a thank you to those terrorists that would like me and the rest of the residents of Brussels to cower in fear. Thank you for making me understand the reason behind why we should be helping refugees seek a better life. Thank you for giving me a fleeting taste of the atrocities you are causing in these countries, and thank you for consolidating my notion that Europe is doing the right thing in rising up against you.

The metro will be shut on Monday, and so will most shopping centres and universities. Yet life goes on, and I refuse to let these people dictate how I should live my life in Brussels.

Imagine if Deborah Schembri starts chairing the House Environment Committee?

Dr Marlene Farrugia resigned from the Labour Party Parliamentary Group last Monday, and also gave up her Chairmanship of the House Environmental Committee. Since this new Chair is up for grabs, I am wondering whether the government will use this opportunity to give it to someone that will benefit its hidden environmental agenda…Deborah Schembri instantly comes to mind.

Deborah Schembri NGOs#

I always liked NGOs! Jokes. (Adapted from: DOI)

Marlene Farrugia voted with the Opposition on amendments to the Environment Protection Bill at committee stage, which will see the setting up of the two authorities formerly merged into the Malta Environment and Planning Authority.

Dr Farrugia also voted in favour of another amendment by shadow environment minister Dr Portelli, which proposed that the nomination of the chairman of the Environment Authority should be approved by Parliament after a hearing at the Standing Committee on Environment and Development Planning. Dr Farrugia supported this as she said that “it was time for the government to move away from past practices and increase parliamentary scrutiny”.

Since her resignation, the chairmanship is up for grabs, and only a representative from the Labour Party can fill the void according to the current standing orders.

The Standing Orders say that: “There shall be a Standing Committee on Environment and Development Planning which shall consist of five members appointed by the House, of whom three shall be members supporting the Government, one of whom shall be appointed as Chairman, and the other two shall be members from the Opposition.

As such, there needs to be another labour MP alongside Charles Buhagiar and Franco Mercieca. Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said today that he will nominate Marlene Farrugia to continue to serve as chair of the Parliamentary Environment Committee, but this can only be done if the law is amended to allow a non-government representative to serve as chair. In any case, the appointment of the chairman, can only be approved by the government.

Front Harsien ODZ has already stated that it would like to see Dr Farrugia to continue to chair the committee, but I would not hold my breath.

I have a certain feeling of trepidation that Dr Farrugia’s justifiable resignation will serve as the perfect pretext to elect a new chair that does not care about the environment, such as Deborah Schembri.

Deborah Schembri has been suspiciously omnipresent in the public debates revolving around the (fake) American University of Malta, where she even filled in for the non-existing Environment Minister Leo Brincat on Xarabank to defend the (fake) AUM project. In addition, there was also a very heated exchange between Schembri and Farrugia back in May on the same House Environment and Planning Committee regarding the issue of improving the SPED.

Schembri enraged Farrugia by comments that ultimately hinted at NGOs being given a special privilege by attending an environmental committee to put forward their proposals.

Deborah Schembri would be the perfect fit as  chairperson of the Environment and Planning Committee; she follows the hidden environmental agenda of the current government, has no qualms with excluding NGOs and alienating other parts of civil society from democratic procedures, and she REALLY loves the hunting lobby (or their votes anyway).

I pray that for once, I will be surprised and have to say that I was wrong. But Marlene Farrugia was an obstacle in the government’s side that has voluntarily vacated her seat to the detriment of all the Maltese citizens that value their environment.

 

Malta has the WORST gender gap in the EU according to WEF

Latest figures published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in their annual Global Gender Gap report show that Malta has the worst, literally the worst, gender gap disparity amongst all the EU-28.

malta gender gap bbc

According to this online calculator, Malta will reach gender equality in 2133. (Photo credit: BBC)

The full report can be found here, and it measures the likelihood of women to participate fully in political and economic life, also have an equal access to education and healthcare.

The calculation is made by analysing several datasets that relate to economic participation and opportunity, educational achievements, and also political empowerment. In Malta’s case, the latter is worrying with only 7% of the ministerial cabinet being women, or basically just one minister with Helena Dalli.

This index enables researchers to compare rich and poor countries without on a level playing field, and it consists of data obtained from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for the range 2010-13.

The following is the tabulated rankings of the 28 Member States of the European Union, with Malta squirming at the bottom and lagging behind states such as Nicaragua (12), Bolivia (22), Azerbaijan (96), and even Brunei (88) which has Sharia Law.

Finland 3
Sweden 4
Ireland 5
Slovenia 9
Germany 11
Netherlands 13
Denmark 14
France 15
United Kingdom 18
Belgium 19
Latvia 20
Estonia 21
Spain 25
Lithuania 31
Luxembourg 32
Austria 37
Portugal 39
Italy 41
Bulgaria 43
Poland 51
Croatia 59
Romania 77
Czech Republic 81
Greece 87
Slovakia 97
Hungary 99
Cyprus 100
Malta 104/145

Stop polluting the Maltese environment with your STUPID helium balloons

The annual President’s Solidarity Fun Run was held this weekend on Sunday the 15th of November. This event is organised by the Malta Community Chest Fund with the aim of collecting funds for Maltese charities. Thousands of people eagerly await this event, which showcases the generosity and community spirit that is typical of the Maltese. But for the love of God, can the organiser please ensure that they do not pollute the environment with their stupid Banif branded helium balloons?

I wonder how many of these balloons have made their way to the Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour around Valletta?

I wonder how many of these balloons have made their way to the Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour around Valletta? (Photo Credit: A. Cutajar/Facebook)

I cannot possibly understand why the organisers of such a huge event can keep on doing these silly things in 2015. The solution is simple; do not fill the balloons with helium so that they can be disposed of properly when they are popped!

When the Inspire Foundation held a water balloon fight towards the end of August, also a charitable event, they had the good sense to use sea water as opposed to fresh water. Kudos to them for managing to organise a good charity event and also use it as a pretext of educating the public about the importance of water conservation.

In case you are wondering, balloons have a significant negative impact on the environment. When you release a balloon, you are essentially releasing a piece of plastic that will eventually fall back to the Earth. Since these balloons can travel hundreds of miles before they pop, they would most certainly fall into the Mediterranean Sea when released from an Island like Malta.

There has been an increasingly strong lobby pushing for the ban of helium balloons, as echoed by the Royal Institution and by other chemists who have also pointed out that these decorations are using too much Helium, which is a scarce and important element with other more important applications.

Balloon pollution (Photo credit: balloonsblow)

As with other forms of plastic, they litter our oceans, kill wildlife and pollute pristine areas around the world. Can anyone from Banif bank potentially let us know if they plan to collect every single balloon released into the Maltese countryside and sea? They should really consider updating their CSR policies, but I guess a simple beach clean-up activity will help them atone for the pollution they are contributing to.

And I am not trying to be a buzz kill or to take away from the importance of such charity events, but it is about time that people start thinking about the consequences of their actions. Charity begins at home, so please respect your environment!

Selective grief and Western Privilege

The Paris attacks of Friday 13th sent shock waves around the world, as the French capital fell victim to second terrorist attack in the same year. While it is exceptionally distressing when such events claim the lives of unsuspecting people, is our selective grieving justified in the face of other similar attacks in other countries around the world?

Beirut Bombings

On Thursday 12th November, two suicide bombings claimed the lives of 41 people in a busy shopping street in Beirut, the biggest terror attack in Lebanon for 25 years. Yet these have been eclipsed by the Paris attacks that happened the following day, which have garnered a greater show of solidarity by the World.

The day before the Parisian attacks, two suicide bombers attacked a busy shopping street in Beirut in Lebanon, killing around 41 people and seriously wounding over 200 other innocent bystanders. Islamic State claimed responsibly for these attacks, in an area which is mainly a Shia suberb and a Hezbollah stronghold.

The events in Paris and Beirut were orchestrated by the same people, yet the former seems to be meriting more attention and solidarity by the Western world. Rightly so, Lebanese people are asking the West where is their Facebook ‘safety Check’, where is the Lebanese flag profile filter, and where is our #PrayforLebanon hashtag?

I have to say that I agree with this argument. The incidents of last Friday clearly highlight how influenced we are by the media, and how we actively choose to allow it to dictate the way we perceive certain events. I cannot fathom why we should pray for Paris and not pray for Lebanon. Both events are as equally despicable and heartbreaking to hear about.

Yet we do live in a world of ‘Western Privilege’, where it appears to be easier for us to show solidarity with fellow Westerns than with victims from less developed countries. Perhaps the main reason is that Paris feels more familiar to us than Lebanon, so in some way we manage to empathise more with the victims of this tragedy than those victims of a city that seems culturally alien to us.

This is part of a trend that has been well embedded into our mindset; if you analyse the terrorist attacks that happened in the recent months, most people will mention the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, and the Sydney hostage crisis in December 2014. These have been extensively covered in the media, and they each merited their custom social media solidarity hashtags.

Yet the same cannot be said of the suicide bomber that killed 19 people in a funeral in Baghdad this same month, or the 100 people killed by bombs in Ankara, Turkey during a peace rally, or the scores of worshipers that were slaughtered in a Yemeni mosque, or even the 224 passengers of Metrojet Flight 9268 they was struck in the Sinai Mountains in Egypt. All these acts were claimed by Islamic State, yet their coverage was not as inflated as that of the Paris attacks of last Friday.

It makes you wonder why we always preach for equality amongst our fellow human beings, yet then we unknowingly and indirectly choose which lives are more valuable on the basis of how we rationalise certain tragedies.

We should take this time to reflect on the countless victims of terrorism that are not publicised, and therefore appear to not qualify for much of our solidarity. It is time to put our western privilege aside and #Prayforall, not just for the Paris victims.

Have you heard of Environmental Migration?

The Valletta Summit on Migration is currently underway in Malta, following the unprecedented rise of migrants and refugees making harrowing journeys across the Mediterranean to reach Europe. With the spotlight clearly focused on those people that are fleeing their home countries as a result of conflict, human rights violations, and political and economic in stability, Europeans should also be aware of Environmental Migration.

Climate Migration

Sahel food crisis 2012: drought response in Mauritania (Photo credit: Oxfam International)

So what is Environmental Migration? Put simply, and according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), this is a form of migration that results from environmental issues that make a location “less habitable due to factors such as climate change, deterioration of agricultural lands, desertification, and water pollution”.

There are a number of communities spread across the world that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change and other environmental issues, making their life in their home unsustainable. Despite this, it would be ignorant for us to view this form of migration as simply the failure of these communities to adapt to climate change. We often blame migrants for having to leave their home, but can you imagine being in their same situation?

Scores of studies have proven that migration is one of the different types of ways which people have chosen to adapt to the realities of a changing environment. In addition, environmental migrants are more likely to use migration as a means of improving the local community from which they departed from. The IOM report highlights how studies from Côte d’Ivoire have shown that migrants from Burkina Faso regularly send remittances they earn back home, which in turn are invested in schools, hospitals and in water and irrigation systems. Moreover, research from countries such as El Salvador, Jamaica, Botswana and the Philippines has also shown that migrant remittances are essential in the advent of a natural disaster in their home country, which are used to provide relief to affected communities.

Climate-Refugees-Map-UNEP

Map by UNEP showing the main regions that are strongly affected by climate issues, and also the reason why environmental migrants leave their country. (Photo credit: The Green Market Oracle)

Environmental Migrants in Southern Europe?

Among the thousands of refugees and migrants arriving in Southern Europe, the is a small proportion of these that migrate as a result of unfavourable environmental issues.

The following is a brief summary of a 2012 study carried out by fellow reseacher Eleni Damianou (Ευχαριστώ!!), who studied the securitization of environmental migration in southern Member States of European Union at University College London.

The work focused on environmental migration and its framing as a security issue by the European Union, especially in the  southern part. In general, and as can be observed from recent events, the EU considers migration and climate change as security issues. However, what has not been examined is whether environmental migration follows the same path as migration that results from conflict and economic hardships.

Damianou conducted this research through archive analysis of official documents of the European Institutions and interviews with officials from the EU and the Greek government. Even though the research focused Greece as a case study, which was rather serendipitous gives the issues the islands of Kos and Lesbos are currently witnessing, it also mentioned Southern EU Member States including Malta, Italy, France, Spain and Cyprus.

lesbos-greece

Locals surveying a huge pile of deflated dinghies, tubes and life vests left by arriving refugees and migrants on the Greek island of Lesbos in September 2015 (Photo credit: Daily News/YANNIS BEHRAKIS)

Results obtained from this study indicate that environmental migration has indeed started to be framed as a securitized issue, and it is included in the official papers that concern the Union’s security. Moreover, the European surveillance authorities have started to treat environmental migration as a security trigger, especially in vulnerable countries.

The Greek example used in the study exposes the gap between the European and national policies; even though there are certain EU practices and policies in play, there is a strong militarization language around the migration issue, and a general societal crisis with racist and xenophobic phenomena that are against the European policies. These results reflect a general sentiment in Southern Europe, and not just amongst the Greek population.

With Africa and the Middle East on Europe’s doorstep, it is very hard to differentiate between environmental migrants and political and economic migrants, since the situation in these countries constitutes a combination of such factors that push people to migrate. In addition, there is not a way to know whether those people who migrate because of the climatic changes will follow legal or the illegal routes, so their number would be difficult to quantify since they would be lumped with the rest of those seeking asylum through illegal means.

Environmental migration is a reality that has not been widely discussed. It merges two main issues that the EU faces in this lifetime – migration and climate change. There is no way to predict whether migration resulting from climate change will have a significant impact on southern EU Member States in the future. However, like most issues centring around migration, the EU cannot afford to not tackle the root of the problem in the countries from which people are departing.

It is hoped that EU Member States can also address this issue in COP21, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, as it is quite regressive for migration and climate change to be viewed as independent issues when they are so evidently interlinked.

Every single human being is responsible for climate change, so we should see environmental migration as something which we are indirectly contributing to. It is time to adopt a more sensitised approach to the different types of migration, which has not been clearly specified in the 2015 Valletta Summit on Migration. However, it is hoped that the Emergency Trust Fund to assist African countries will also be used to tackle issues relating to climate change – the description provided so far to fund “Projects supporting basic services for local populations such as food and nutrition security, health, education and social protection, as well as environmental sustainability”, is simply too generic.