‘Doing nothing is not an option’ (he says, while doing nothing)

… make no mistake: that Olympic Gold Medal is as good as ours, already…

I’ve said it before; but it may be worth repeating. If ‘saying a lot, without saying anything at all’ were among the athletic disciplines featured at the Olympic Games… Malta would win Gold, every single time!

Take Prime Minister Robert Abela, for example (who, let’s face it, already has something of an ‘Olympian physique’, to begin with). Not content with having recently addressed a session of the United Nations Security Council, with the following pearls of wisdom:

a) ‘States must work together to overcome global challenges!’, and;

b) ‘We cannot have peace, if the strong impinge on the weak!’ (Erm… gee, Robert, you don’t say?)

… Dr Abela has since done what all Olympian athletes should do, in order to improve on their past performances. He’s been TRAINING, at the fine art of ‘saying a lot, without saying anything at all’. (And his efforts seem to be paying off, already, Robert Abela is clearly getting better at this game, by the minute!)

Just yesterday, for instance, he was in Dubai to represent Malta at the ongoing 2023 UN Climate Change Conference (COP28, for short). On his way into the building, he found time to deliver a brief televised message – and I recommend you actually watch the video, by the way - in which he said that:

a) ‘Doing nothing [about Climate Change] is not an option’;

b) ‘On a local level, we’ve done a lot…”;

c) "There is much more to be done, and we are enthusiastic to be part of the change for the good of humanity, no matter how small our country is.”

There, see what I mean? Leaving aside that sentence (a), in that list, corresponds to one of the most ‘tired’ and ‘hackneyed’ of meaningless clichés, that any politician can possibly utter about Climate Change, today [Note to Abela’s advisors: in contemporary English, it’s almost become a by-word for: ‘political inability to ever actually address the problem’.]

… what remains is still an awful lot of words, to express… well, almost ‘nothing at all’ (and trust me: I know what I’m talking about, here!)

So let’s take a closer look at those claims, shall we? Starting with Abela’s stated belief that: ‘on a local level, we’ve done a lot’.

Here, I must confess that my mind is reeling with sarcastic replies; mostly, along the lines of... ‘Yeah? Really? Like WHAT, exactly?’; or, ‘Then why are we still so many light-years away from reaching our UN Climate Change targets, by 2050?’; or, “Well, we’ve certainly done a heck of a lot to EXACERBATE Climate Change (like, for instance, removing every last tree from the surface of Malta and Gozo…”)

But for the purpose of this exercise, let’s stick only to the examples given by Abela himself. As evidence for all the ‘wonderful things’ Malta is supposed to have DONE [please note unnecessary emphasis, folks] about Climate Change, over the past few years… Robert Abela cited only two (2) examples:

1) We have increased our renewable energy production to around 13% of the total: mostly through the uptake of photovoltaic panels; which was, in turn, mostly limited to the domestic sector (households, and small private companies);

2) We are now DISCUSSING [emphasis, again] an ‘exciting new project’ to install ‘deep-sea wind-farms’ in the waters around Malta and Gozo… you know: the same project that former PM Lawrence Gonzi had also once ‘discussed’ (and just as ‘excitedly’, too!) way, way back in 2008…. without ever, as I recall, progressing to Phase Two of the operation (and actually INSTALLING those dratted ‘deep-sea windfarms’, once and for all!)

Not to overlabour the point, of course, but… neither of those examples amounts to a very great deal for Robert Abela to ‘brag about’, in the end.

‘Deep-sea windfarms’, for instance: they’re all well and good, as an idea to be discussed around the policy-formulation table. In the short term, however; there are plenty of scientific studies which show that the amount of energy generated by ‘non-existent wind-farms’, tends to always hover at around, erm… ZERO.

‘REAL windfarms’, on the other hand? As in, the ones that have actually been INSTALLED (instead of only ever ‘talked-about’)? Yeah: those might, in fact, be a good (though rather small) step in the right direction…

… but DO they have to ‘built first’, you see. (It’s unfair, I know; but hey, that’s life for you!)

As for the photovoltaics; here, the situation is slightly more complex. Recent NSO statistics, for instance, confirm that: ‘When compared to the situation in 2021, generation of energy from grid-connected PVs increased by 13.2 per cent in 2022, totalling an estimated value of 289.5 GWh.’

But while this is, in itself, a laudable improvement: it still pales to insignificance, when you consider that Malta’s DEMAND for electricity has meanwhile grown – and continues to grow, in step with its population – at a proportionally much higher rate, than we can possibly ever meet by increasing renewable energy production.

So while photovoltaics are indeed on the increase – to the credit of Abela’s government, I freely concede - our (gas-fired) power-station is still burning MORE fossil-fuel, to meet the rising demand; and we also making up for the short-fall, through energy imported directly from the European grid.

Effectively, this means that – both ‘locally’, and ‘internationally’ – Malta’s carbon-footprint has actually GROWN (not shrunk), in recent years…

And in a roundabout way, this brings us to Abela’s third point: namely, that ‘we are enthusiastic to be part of the change for the good of humanity, no matter how small our country is’.

To be fair, Robert Abela is not exactly alone in believing this widespread misconception (I myself have been guilty of similar mistakes, in the past)… but when you look at Malta’s CO2 footprint, on a GLOBAL level (as opposed to the local level: where it really is quite negligible, all things considered)… suddenly, it doesn’t look as though our contribution to Climate Change is altogether as ‘microscopic’, as most of us probably imagine.

It may surprise some people to know, for instance, that Malta currently boasts one of the largest international shipping registers, in the entire world (and by far the largest in the EU). According to ‘Statista.com’: “In all, 8,300 ships and 780 superyachts, with more than 82 million gross tonnes in vessels, now sail under the Maltese flag. More than 6% of the world's merchant shipping are registered in Malta…”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Malta-flagged vessels also produce around 6% of global maritime Carbon Dioxide emissions: making us the seventh biggest contributor in the world, after Liberia, Panama, Marshall Islands, Hong Kong, Singapore, and China.

Meanwhile, we also know that: “In 2022, there were an estimated 858 million tonnes of CO2 emissions globally from the shipping industry, compared with 739 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from air transport (domestic and international flights…” (which effectively means that ‘tiny Malta’ is also the seventh biggest contributor, to arguably the single largest source of CO2 emissions, in the entire global transport sector.)

Ah, but never fear! For didn’t we all just hear our Prime Minister, with our own ears, telling us how very ‘enthusiastic’ he was, ‘to be part of the change for the good of humanity’? (And, moreover, that we still have ‘lots to do’, to combat Climate Change?)

And on his way into COP28, too! I mean… what better opportunity could there even be, for Prime Minister Robert Abela to prove his earlier point – ‘Doing nothing is not an option’, remember? - by actually DOING SOMETHING, about Malta’s (rather enormous) contribution to the problem, on a global level?

But… well, how can even I put this? You didn’t really think that Robert Abela would actually MEAN any of those fine words, did you? And just as surely, you will not need me to remind you, that he has effectively done the OPPOSITE of everything he said, over the last two or three years alone.

Right now, for instance, Abela’s government is fighting tooth-and-nail against the EU’s ‘Emission Trading Scheme (ETS)’ directive: described as “a fundamental element in the European Union's strategy to address climate change, serving as a pivotal instrument for efficiently diminishing greenhouse gas emissions.”

And while, to be fair, Malta does have a small point, in resisting this directive (as usual, the EU seems to have forgotten that at least one of its member states, is roughly half the size of Birmingham…) the fact remains that our government is not only trying to block any external attempt, to ever force us to REDUCE our problematically-high maritime CO2 emissions…

… but Malta has meanwhile also been busy flagging MORE vessels (and MORE, and MORE, and MORE!)… with the result that – just like our population; and the energy demands it generates – our global maritime carbon emissions likewise just keep growing… and growing…. and GROWING!

At the same time, however: so, too, are Malta’s chances of ever actually ‘winning an international sporting competition’, for a change. Because at the rate that Robert Abela is honing all those skills of his, in the athletic discipline of ‘saying a lot, without saying anything at all’…

… make no mistake: that Olympic Gold Medal is as good as ours, already…