Declaring a climate emergency is a positive step: recognising that the current state of the climate creates an emergency situation signifies that we are aware that time is running out.
The United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, France, Canada, Austria and Argentina together with various municipalities and local authorities all around the world, have declared a Climate Emergency. These include New York and San Francisco in the USA, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, Paris and Mulhouse in France, Seville, Zaragoza, Catalonia and the Canary Islands in Spain, Milan, Naples and Lucca in Italy, the canton of Basel-Stadt in Switzerland, Bonn, Cologne and Düsseldorf in Germany, Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand, Amsterdam in Holland, Warsaw and Krakow in Poland, and Bacolod in the Philippines. This was one of the demands of the environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion.
The Climate Emergency Declaration was certainly a positive step, but what comes next is more important because if the words of the declaration are not translated into action the declaration will not be worth the paper it is printed on.
The basic point which emerges from a Climate Emergency Declaration is the recognition that action on climate change is a political priority and all the actions of governments should be developed in recognition of this basic fact.
The latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report published in 2018 underlines the fact that, notwithstanding the Paris Climate Change Summit pledges by the international community, the global temperature is on track for an increase that is double the maximum which we are advised should not be exceeded: that is 3 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial temperature. This anticipated astronomical increase is the cause of the emergency: the cumulative impact of climate action on a global level so far indicates that the minimum targets set will not be met.
As a result of climate change parts of the globe will become progressively uninhabitable with increasing temperature, intensification of storms, droughts in some parts of the world and floods in others, all of which will disrupt our life as we know it.
Earlier this week the European Environment Agency (EEA) published a short report entitled Climate Change Threatens the Future of Farming in Europe, underlining the fact that the temperature in Southern Europe will be such the yield from various crops will be reduced by 50 per cent by 2050. Simultaneously, the increase in temperature in Northern Europe would make that region more suitable for agriculture.
In particular, emphasised Euractive, “viticulture in the historical wine regions of the Mediterranean will be not doing well, as a result of the heat stress.”
The emergency is real and yet there is still a small time-frame during which it can be addressed. We need to take serious action to address the causes of climate change: an unsustainable lifestyle which assumes that tomorrow never comes.
We do not need many more reports. The causes of climate change are known but there is an insufficient political will to act. Postponing the problem into the future will not solve anything as tomorrow may be too late.
It is for this reason that we need to recognise the fact that a Climate Emergency exists and focus our attention on a commitment to take action on climate change as a matter of priority.
Achieving carbon neutrality in the shortest possible time should be a clear objective of all governments. This can be achieved by acting immediately in all areas, but primarily in those where immediate results could be attained.
It is for this reason that the Greens in Malta have, in recent months, focused on the transport sector as the most obvious sector that could contribute substantially to Malta’s efforts against climate change. Given the short distances between localities, sustainable mobility can be easily achieved by means other than private cars using fossil fuel. I think it makes many people angry, as it does me, that people use cars far too much and there is certainly a lack of encouragement to use alternatives.
The Transport Master Plan underlines the attainability of this objective by pointing out that over 50 per cent of journeys by private car are for less than 15 minutes and for distances not exceeding 5 kilometres.
Climate action rhetoric needs to be translated into concrete action – and the sooner the better. It is the only way to address the emergency.
Published in The Malta Independent – Sunday 8 September