Archive for April 25th, 2012

Notes from a discussion about climate change

April 25, 2012

Some points from a discussion on Climate Change organized by the US Embassy and Nature Trust Malta on the  23/04/2012

First I will propose some reasons as to what is keeping decision makers from taking decisive action.

(The four reasons mentioned below are borrowed from the book ‘Climate Change Denial – Heads in the sand’, by  Haydn Washington and John Cook, 2011*)

FEAR OF CHANGE – Denial is a strong human trait. It is the hallmark of conservatism. Many conservatives do not trust scientists – they see them as too ‘liberal’. Environmental regulations are seen as threatening core elements of conservatism – such as the primacy of individual freedom, private property rights, laissez-faire government and free enterprise.

Another reason is the fixation on ECONOMICS. Our society is resourcist – nature is just a resource to most of us. Some feel confident that we can control and dominate nature. Most are fixated on ‘economic growth’ to the extent that there is rarely any discussion about a ‘steady state’ economy. There is also the issue of costs – a very common argument is that it costs too much to move towards a sustainable economy and society – when various studies show otherwise. Just to mention one of them the 2006 UK Stern Report showed that failing to act on climate change would end up costing more than acting now.

Another reason for the lack of decisive action is the lack of understanding of ECOSYSTEMS. That there is a tipping point were things get out of hand – failure to understand ‘exponential growth’ means a failure to act urgently on environmental problems.

Another issue is that anyone taking strong action risks being VOTED OUT OF OFFICE. The problem is that no action was taken 20 or 30 years ago when moderate action spread over a number of years could have solved the problems. We are now faced with far more serious problems which need more serious solutions.

Although there has been some progress towards sustainable development considerable implementation gaps remain and many commitments by the international community have not yet been met.

What we need is binding agreements with concrete actions such as global targets and measures to increase the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency. There needs to be concrete progress on securing financing for developing countries, and the phase-out of all environmentally damaging subsidies, the development of and commitment to the measurement of progress and welfare that go beyond GDP, and the strengthening of environmental governance in such a way that the interest of our planet becomes just as important as our worldwide economy.

This June, the EU will once again have a key role to play: the EU must ensure that the Rio+20 Summit does not result in only statements of goodwill, but in tangible actions and accountable targets and ways to measure them.

Decision makers must listen to scientists. EU’s 2020 target must be increased to a 30% reduction of carbon dioxide. Aside from the growing concerns regarding rapid climate change and the emergency need to transform our society and policies in line with what the scientists strongly recommend for us to avoid the worst for our planet – the EU’s reputation on the international stage is at stake. The Commission must come up with concrete proposals to ensure that the EU continues to make progress on the climate file so that it really delivers – on time.

Additional note: Needless to say despite all the rhetoric inMaltawe are way behind. Token programmes are not enough. The amount of energy generated from renewable sources is negligible. I was surprised to hear Minister Pullicino refer to energy from waste as ‘renewable’ and ‘clean’ energy. While it can be an option it should only the last resort. Surely it cannot even be considered when up till now only a shameful 7% of waste is collected separately for recycling. While lots of households are doing their bit it is clear that many businesses are not – enforcement is totally lacking. Incinerate what’s left, the unrecoverable portion, recover energy from it, use the best and most modern technology but not before recycling levels increase ten-fold.

On energy and waste government has failed. The rhetoric about the closure of Maghtab is just hot air – forget the propaganda of a park at Maghtab – landfills, more so unregulated ones, such as Maghtab are toxic and it would be crazy to use the place for leisure activities. The PN and government’s nice pictures are just cheap propaganda for the gullible (of which there are plenty).