Small states will suffer the most from climate change, Foreign Affairs Minister warns

Malta considers climate change one of the biggest challenges facing the world, Carmelo Abela told delegates at a Commonwealth anniversary conference 

Malta recognised that climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world, Foreign Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela said (Stock photo)
Malta recognised that climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world, Foreign Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela said (Stock photo)

Small states will bear the brunt of the consequences of unmitigated climate change, Carmelo Abela has warned, as he spoke of Malta's recognition that the issue is one of the world's biggest challenges.

The Foreign Affairs Minster - who was on Thursday speaking during a conference on climate change and small states, organised on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the signing of the London Declaration and the foundation of the Commonwealth on Nations - insisted that climate change required a global response and that a coalition of small states like the Commonwealth could be effective in this regard.

Abela highlighted that rising sea levels and elevated temperatures would end up most acutely affecting small countries, which had contributed the least to the climate change problem.

“Climate change is the foremost global challenge and small states, the least to blame for the problem, are likewise the ones to suffer the most, especially in terms of rising sea levels and increased temperatures," Abela said. 

"The Commonwealth has taken an active role in fighting for the climate," he noted, "And so has Malta, when 31 years ago it presented a resolution to the United Nations about global warming."

Abela emphasised that Malta could not afford to fail to recognise the effects of climate change on the oceans, especially since it was an island highly dependent on the sea for its economic success. 

“We must strive further in our quest to instil sustainable growth in our Commonwealth countries. The extent to which we positively exploit blue and green economies depends on our policies," he said.

“These challenges go beyond our borders, which is why we need a common voice and have to come together to share experiences and exchange ideas."

UK's climate change fight will continue after Brexit - High Commissioner

British High Commissioner to Malta,Stuart Gill pointed out that the Commonwealth had always been a leader in climate action, managing to make it an objective for the European Union to work to prevent temperatures from increasing by over 1.5°C.

“The United Kingdom has invested £92 billion in clean energy and has the biggest wind power capacity in the world. Our ambition to fight climate change will not stop when Britain leaves the European Union,” Gill said. 

Indian economist Prajapati Trivedi, a speaker on the panel, said that the world had come to a point where it wasn’t actively coming up with new ideas in terms of battling climate change.

“Our crisis is not a crisis of ideas anymore. It’s now time for action,” he said, adding that the world still thought that climate action was the responsibility of a particular figurehead or single ministry. The global climate issue, he argued, required an integrated approach where all of government works on a common goal of mitigating the issue. 

Panelist Simone Borg, Malta’s Climate Ambassador, said that climate action was slow in the making because it was the first time that science was being put into practice by leading to legislation.

She added that she still remembered former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff having frank conversations with Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the late 1970s and 1980s about the effect of a changing climate, and how these discussions eventually led to the Commonwealth pushing for a climate treaty.