Unless Malta’s power stations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent until year 2013, Enemalta will be obliged to purchase carbon credits for the CO2 emitted beyond the established quota. Furthermore, Maltese government would face EU infringement procedures followed by hefty fines.
Presenting a 200-page report compiled by a commission of experts, Resources and Rural Affairs Minister George Pullicino last week told members of the press that “the Climate Change Committee has presented 87 recommendations by which Malta can reach its targets on reduction of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions”. The Ministry is now allowing an eight-week public consultation period before a strategic plan is enacted.
“These recommendations do not look into climate change in its totality, but rather focus on what Malta can do to reach its targets by 2020,” said Climate Change Committee chairman David Gingell. “But unless there is a radical mentality change, there is no way we could attain these targets.”
As a Kyoto protocol signatory, Malta has agreed to reduce its CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by year 2020, but the reduction is tagged to 1990 emission levels. Since demand for energy has increased since then, the target reduction must be now of around 50 per cent compared to present emission figures.
Furthermore, Malta obliged itself to produce 20 per cent of its energy outtake from renewable sources by 2020.
The third 2020 target involves the increase of 20 per cent energy efficiency in households and other edifices.
“The EU has decided to introduce the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in order to motivate countries to reach their emission targets by 2020, this follows the ‘polluter pays’ principle,” Pullicino explained.
ETS, of which Malta will become part in 2013, obliges Enemalta to purchase credits from the free market should it exceed its 2020 emissions quota. Power plants and heavy industry falling under ETS may choose to put their extra credits on the market once they manage to emit less CO2 than the established quota.
Carbon credits fluctuate in price and are often subject to speculation. There have been instances when green NGOs purchased credits themselves to take them out of the market, thus resulting in an increase of price due to lack of market availability.
“Malta has actively participated in the discussions leading to the setting of these targets,” Pullicino said. “The 2020 targets have not been forced upon us, but rather, we have obliged ourselves to respect them”
A hefty investment plan of not less than €12.1 billion is envisaged for Malta to be able to reach its targets against climate change.
According to the report, the closing down of the Marsa power station; the new “state of the art” energy-efficient generation plant at the Delimara Power Station; and the substitution from fuel oil to gas powering the generation plants, are key moves which would significantly help in reducing CO2 emissions in the generation of electricity.
The years to come should also see the installation of a sub-sea electricity interconnector between Malta and Sicily, which would allow us to purchase energy from plants based in Italy.
Rather than the traditional discount subsidies aimed at helping families reduce their electricity cost, the report suggests the free installation of energy efficient household appliances aimed at reducing power use, thus resulting in cheaper utility bills.
“We want the public to react to this proposed strategy,” Pullicino stressed. But in the same breath, he added: “We don’t want people shedding crocodile tears to take political mileage over this issue, as we have seen in the past.”
Clearly referring to the embarrassing Marsascala recycling plant saga, when a public discussion went pear-shaped as residents and stakeholders started shouting over the Minister’s voice, Pullicino said: “We cannot afford to have people turning against investors, or threatening to freeze EU funds allocated to this strategy. I hope this country has matured since then.”
It is not clear what effect the pursuit of reaching 2020 targets could cost the country in terms of worst case scenario, especially in the eventuality of it failing to implement its strategy on time.
The report was launched shortly before Labour MP Leo Brincat presented a motion in parliament to enact a law regulating climate change measures.
While Gingell clarified that the drafting of a law has not been given priority by the committee, his report states: “The Minister responsible for Resources and Rural Affairs should give positive consideration to the tabling of this report at the House of Representatives for discussion and subsequent approval in order to signal in the most demonstrative manner possible that the politics of Climate Change is above partisan politics.”
As various parts of the report point at continuity, the updating of a strategic plan, reviews and the setting up of a department responsible for enacting the measures, Pullicino did not exclude the possibility of allowing the Climate Change Committee to have a permanent role once the strategy is enacted.
A full version of the report is available on www.climatechange.gov.mt