Watching the world burn | Timothy Alden

As citizens, we cannot go on expecting others to save the world for us. We must pressure our government and our MEPs and other opinion leaders to use their clout and change the direction the planet is headed

One of the most intimidating things to face the world this year was the scale and ferocity of the wildfires ravaging Siberia, Alaska, Greenland and now also the Amazon
One of the most intimidating things to face the world this year was the scale and ferocity of the wildfires ravaging Siberia, Alaska, Greenland and now also the Amazon

Timothy Alden is deputy leader of the Democratic Party

One of the most intimidating things to face the world this year was the scale and ferocity of the wildfires ravaging Siberia, Alaska, Greenland and now also the Amazon. Smaller wildfires, but no less devastating for the regions they are in, have also started to crop up, such as on Gran Canaria, a Spanish island. The world, it seems, is catching fire, and Malta is no exception.

This year, Malta lost 4,600 trees in June thanks to the fire which consumed Il-Miżieb. Wildfires are a natural occurrence, but climate change makes them more likely and more intense. The scale of destruction we are seeing now should be more than a wake-up call. It should be the ringing of the Siege Bell in Valletta, recorded and broadcast to all of our country as a grim warning. Island states are, after all, the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

As the climate crisis worsens, the wildfires will continue to get worse, releasing more carbon dioxide into the air. As this happens, it makes further natural disasters more likely, which may in turn fuel the climate crisis even more. This is called a positive feedback loop, and the further we go down this path, the more we lose control over our destiny. To do nothing now will lead to more terrible and costly consequences in the future.

So what can Malta do about it? Malta is a sovereign nation inside the European Union, with diplomatic clout, representatives in the European Parliament and the ability to punch far above its weight. Miriam Dalli did a fantastic job fighting tooth and nail in the European Parliament for a legal framework which will set a target of a reduction of 37% in CO2 emissions by passenger cars by 2030. This major contribution to the Clean Mobility Package deserves respect; I say that as the current Deputy Leader of Partit Demokratiku. Saving the planet cannot be a partisan issue.

Malta’s MEPs are generally known to punch above their weight, just as Malta does. Therefore, it must fall on them now to rise to the challenge and tackle the most pressing and critical issues of the day. To start with, something urgent must be done about the absolute disaster that is the Jair Bolsonaro’s Presidency of Brazil. As Brazil is the European Union’s second largest trading partner, we have the ability to exert enormous economic pressure on it so as to save the Amazon.

The European Union has just signed a trade agreement with MERCOSUR, a trading bloc of Latin American nations which includes Brazil. As per the treaty, Brazil is obliged to meet its obligations to the Paris Climate Accord. Realistically, the rate of deforestation under Bolsonaro has increased exponentially. Brazil is flouting and ignoring this agreement. Malta must pressure the European Union to hold Brazil to account. As wildfires rage in the Amazon, possibly started intentionally by those currently chopping it down, it is absolutely critical that decisive action is taken.

Past 20-25% of the Amazon being lost to deforestation, experts warn that a tipping point will have been reached leading to the desertification and destruction of the rest of the rainforest. The European Union must act immediately. Miriam Dalli has done good work, but we must continue.

Roberta Metsola now sits in the Parliament’s Environmental Committee, but it is now a question of what she will do with the position. The European People’s Party of which she forms a part has a dismal environmental track record and detracts from more difficult and pressing issues by talking about single-use plastics.

This is a smokescreen so that more difficult issues can be ignored. Roberta Metsola must lead the way, along with Miriam Dalli and indeed the rest of our MEPs, to bring Brazil to heel. If we do not address the loss of the Amazon rainforest while forests across the world burn, then no amount of clean-ups or tree planting is going to avert the collapse of our planet’s life support systems.

As citizens, we cannot go on expecting others to save the world for us. We must pressure our government and our MEPs and other opinion leaders to use their clout and change the direction the planet is headed. If we do not, nobody is going to escape the consequences of our gluttony and wilful ignorance.

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