Climate Change Minister Leo Brincat addressed the MEUSAC Core Group ahead of the UN World Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris. Minister Brincat tied Climate Change Action with the importance of sustainable growth. He explained how Malta had adopted the Climate Change Act which establishes structures and mechanisms to instil climate change awareness and accountability related to such inaction. This would be
done through the setting up of structures such as the Climate Change Board and the Climate Change Fund.
Maltese MEP Miriam Dalli, who also addressed the meeting, outlined the importance of planning in the medium- and long-term rather than quick fix solutions. This is a global challenge that needs to be taken seriously collectively. Dr Dalli expounded on the importance of targetting renewable sources of energy in order to shift towards reaching global targets as well as improving the perfomance of the EU as a bloc which promotes itself as a front-runner. Dr Dalli also disucssed the Emissions Trading System and the situation of realities around us that result in climate migration. Another important factor outlined was that of the vehicle and transport sector where she expressed her dismay on recent developments at EU level. She explained that this would mean that the EU could possibly back-track on commitments related to emissionstied to diesel-run vehicles across the EU simply because car manufacturers had not taken measures for development and improvement over the years. Dr Dalli concluded her address that it was important that COP21 seeks to reach a legal agreement that is binding as otherwise the results of the summit would remain on paper. This agreement would need to be reviewed periodically. She also outlined that commitments had to be set according to country and economy size rather than having a one-size-fits-all set of targets.
GRTU outlined competitivenessas its main theme for its flagship Budget 2016 proposals this year. Matthew Agius, representing GRTU at the Core Group meeting, outlined how climate change had to be to sustainable growth and promoted as a possible means to boost competitiveness, rather than simply furthering the concept as deterring factor bound by penalties. The enactment of a Climate Change Law was welcomed but should not remain on paper or simply as a stand-alone piece of legislation. The way forward is an integrated approach throughout which would instil a widespread attitude across the board even through legislative measures. This positive rather than negative approach was essential as otherwise blocs, countries, businesses and citizens would not seek to apply climate change action despite the greater good aspect. It has to be seen as a tool in itself to push forward competitiveness.
In this sense, Agius gave practical examples from this year’s budget itself - proposals which even GRTU had put forward and had been taken up by Government. In the case of transport, examples such as measures for employers to incentivise combined transport for employers could also provide employers with benefits of ensuring better well-being for their own workers and that workers have no reason not to show up on time. This would result in higher productivity whilst mitigating to traffic problem in general.
GRTU had also welcomed initiatives intended to support further the shift towards renewable energy. Businesses had understood the competitive advantage of investing in PV panels and therefore take-up of such government support had been positive. New initiatives such as the suggested proposals to set up PV solar forms would also bring positive results in terms of competitiveness as well as climate change action.
With regard to the subject of waste, GRTU outlined how the WEEE directive had been a positive way forward following the Government’s commitment to abolish Eco-Contribution Tax. Nevertheless, this year we have seen increased or new excise duties replacing the removal of Eco-Contribution Tax. This was reinforcing the idea of climate change measures as a way of penalising and deterring competitiveness and not the other way round. It would have been better to see resources allocated to ensuring that the WEEE directive is being observed in the same way that there is enforcement for other directives. If there is no enforcement complying businesses would be discouraged as they would be less competitive when compared to their non-compliant counterparts and therefore climate change action would be seen negatively rather than positively.
Educationwas also a key factor for the success of climate change action. Matthew Agius suggested that training initiatives would be set in place to empower both existing businesses and micro-enterprise as to how they can adopt climate change measures in practice given their constraints and how this would benefit them. It was also important to empower startups and upcoming entrepreneurs to value such measures from go. This would ensure that new businesses are conscious at their design stage and would not need to change their methods of doing business afterwards. Incentives to award business innovationwould also encourage progress in this sector as one would encourage developing of new tools and ideas through the private sector.
GRTU also reiterated the importance of maintaining standardsas otherwise non-compliance would be encouraged at the cost of competitiveness and sustainability. Without instigating any witch-hunts, one cannot simply accept a laissez-faire approach of accepting non-compliance and non-adherences to standards as no one would take climate change concerns seriously. Examples could be drawn from the European level, both from what Dr Dalli had highlighted as well as recent news related to breaches of emissions data. These definitely send the wrong message to what is being sought to being achieved.