A lifeline for Malta, the EU and the planet | Robert Abela

Our nation as a small island state, is the smallest emitter in the EU, but may be among the worst hit by the effects of climate change in our region

Protestors march in Dusseldorf, Germany, during the September 2021 Climate Strike
Protestors march in Dusseldorf, Germany, during the September 2021 Climate Strike

The UN Climate Change Conference kicking off in Glasgow from tomorrow will offer Heads of Government the opportunity to turn an existential threat into a window of hope and opportunity for present and future generations.

The Conference of the Parties, better known as the COP, is the multilateral decision-making body that can make this happen. Six years after the conclusion of the Paris Agreement in 2015, COP 26 is tasked with a revision of the pledges made by its Parties in Paris. This review process ensures that the Paris Agreement remains fit for purpose to heed the warnings of the IPCC assessment reports.

2020 was earmarked as the year when the Paris Agreement is to become operational to gradually achieve its main objective of climate neutrality by 2050. This is the Paris Agreement’s milestone intended to maintain a limited increase of 2 to 1.5 degrees Celsius in the global mean temperature of the planet by the end of the century. If this objective is met, it would avoid catastrophic outcomes but would still require humanity and other living resources to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Ironically, 2020 was the very first time in twenty-six years that the conference did not take place due to COVID-19. The economic downturn caused by the pandemic runs the risk of stalling States from revising their targets under the Paris Agreement and from upscaling them to make them ambitious enough to turn the tide.

Together with other European Union member states, we have chosen to use recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as a renewed commitment to achieve the Green Deal, with decarbonisation as one of its many interrelated pillars. Since the conclusion of the Paris Agreement, the EU member States actually raised the stakes and aimed for collectively reaching a target that reduces greenhouse gases by 55%. The EU members States consider decarbonisation and adaptation to climate change as essential to achieving resilience.

The climate emergency ethos requires all States to contribute and collectively embark on a decarbonisation process that will tip the scales and avoid global warming from reaching the point of no return, causing extinction of life on the planet as we know it.

Malta too has chosen decarbonisation as a pathway and a pillar for its economic vision. But the many challenges to achieve this goal require us to ensure that the transition is just and does not create disparities and social injustice. Our government will lead by example and create the right conditions and a level playing field to facilitate the necessary shift for the private sector, business and civil society. We need to continue to engage in a constructive dialogue to identify options that will nudge behavioural change in the right direction without disrupting social cohesion.

There is no room for partisan politics when dealing with climate change. In the end our nation as a small island state, is the smallest emitter in the EU, but may be among the worst hit by the effects of climate change in our region.

As proof of our commitment to this cause we have earmarked 54% of our Recovery and Resilience Plan, and an unprecedented amount of local funds, to set decarbonisation in motion at a national level. Transforming our economic model into a climate neutral one, spurs us to be on the forefront as a small nation to lead among other small island states, by sharing our experiences, discussing our options, and looking at how we aim to proceed with upskilling and reskilling our people so as to remain competitive and resilient.

Our nation has had to adapt in various ways throughout our history to face and overcome various external challenges and threats. This is another cause for change. This time around we are far from insular in our approach to shift our economic model. We aim to share our experiences and learn from others. As an EU member state, we have the most robust legal framework to address climate change on a national level. This will sustain us to live up to our legacy in considering climate change as a common concern of humankind.

This way we will keep up with those States that choose to be on the right side of history for the benefit of future generations.

Robert Abela is Prime Minister of Malta.