Climate inaction, corruption and dictators | Daniel Desira

We need a unified and vigilant environmental movement, as well as a strong Green Party that can give mainstream parties a run for their money. Only then, will we see our policymakers walking the talk regarding climate action

The EU taxonomy regulation is supposed to provide a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities, to build back better following the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic upheaval which it has brought about and is meant to provide a standard for government authorities and companies when investing in a project. For example, it is one of the recommendations when it comes to the issuing of green bonds, as well as for investing in such bonds.

Climate change, the “green deal” and other environmental issues are mentioned several times in the text and would have been a step in the right direction had it not included nuclear and gas “under strict conditions”. Quite ironic, especially with gas, which still is a fossil fuel producing greenhouse emissions and a common source of income for powerful dictators as well as conflict, so while it is understandable that we are dependent on natural gas for the time being, we should be moving away from it in favour of truly sustainable sources.

As for nuclear, it is more of an open discussion with several pros and cons related to the technology. While nuclear power comes with no carbon-emissions, high power output, reliability and relatively smaller land footprint, one may also rightly argue that it is still a non-renewable source of energy and requires transportation and storage of radioactive waste. Moreover, nuclear is very costly to run in the long run and malfunction of a plant may have fatal consequences. The proliferation of nuclear weapons through the production of nuclear energy is another of the risks worth keeping in mind.

A few weeks ago, the S&D, Greens/EFA and Left political groups in the European Parliament have presented a resolution revoking gas and nuclear from the taxonomy, a motion which was defeated by the EPP, far right and Renew Europe. None of the Maltese MEPs have voted in favour and stood by the right side of history, with David Casa abstaining, while Alfred Sant, Alex Agius Saliba and Josiane Cutajar completely defying their own socialist group by voting against. Pseudo-progressive Cyrus Engerer opted not to vote at all despite having voted on other affairs on that day – a clearly indifferent attitude to our future as the devastating effects of climate change are more evident than ever, an energy crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, financed by Europe’s appetite for Russian gas, moves on.

What does this tell us about the state of the European project? And what does it tell us about Malta? Definitely that decisions are often not taken on the grounds of the common good but powerful lobbies around the European Commission. We can also see this in the way that fossil fuels are still subsidised, as well as how the criteria for European funds for infrastructure still allows for road widening projects for cars, rather than requiring incentives for alternative means of transport, like we can observe in Malta.

Moreover, Commissioner Ursola Von der Leyen is now cozying up to the Azerbaijani president, yet another ruthless dictator, to secure a stable supply of gas, a move which does not really spell well in terms of the Union’s beliefs on democracy and freedom.

And as for Malta, it’s quite evident that “Labour” MEPs are more interested in protecting the corrupt Electrogas deal, while the Nationalist ones just follow their European conservative peers. Our representatives in the European Parliament are very far from walking the talk about environmental protection, which their political masters lately preach about.

Climate change has recently become a buzzword for career politicians and policymakers. Part of the credit for this should go to the countless activists worldwide who have put on the pressure for a sustainable future. However, there is little use if climate action is not at the heart of their economic policy. Labelling gas as “green” is very far from the way to go and does not help us to either reach emission targets, or averting the catastrophic effects the climate crisis will have on humanity, especially those living in the poorest regions and the earth as we know it.

Needless to say, we need a unified and vigilant environmental movement, as well as a strong Green Party that can give mainstream parties a run for their money. Only then, will we see our policymakers walking the talk regarding climate action and truly focus on a just transition to renewables and energy efficiency.

Daniel Desira is a green activist, putting social justice at the heart of environmental issues. Follow on Instagram or Facebook