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‘Malta’s future may be tied to achieving a zero carbon economy’

Carbon dioxide levels in the air are the highest they have been for 650,000 years, according to European Space Agency statistics.

CO2 is a heat-trapping greenhouse gas and levels in the air must be reduced. In fact, the EU’s Climate and Energy 2020 package is binding legislation to ensure all EU Member States, including Malta, meet their climate and energy targets for 2020.

Three key targets are in place: a 20 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels), 20 per cent of EU energy from renewables and a 20 per cent improvement in energy efficiency.

Attaining the 2020 targets is not enough. The EU is taking action in several areas to meet the targets if capping global warming at two degrees Celsius is to be achieved. This is the highest temperature scientists estimate the earth can stand before global warming has a catastrophic effect on food production and water reserves, and Malta, along with the rest of the Mediterranean, is not exempt from the catastrophic effects such a change could bring.

While pressure is being put on both the public and private sectors to change the way they operate to reduce their carbon emissions in a bid to mitigate the impact of climate change, Climate-KIC and Paragon Europe are looking at how to achieve a zero carbon economy beyond 2030 to mitigate the severely damaging effects of climate change. Government legislation, the growing green economy and innovations in low carbon technology are helping to drive change and move Malta and our Mediterranean neighbours towards a low carbon economy.

Around 200 concerned delegates from all over the world will converge in Malta on May 29 for what promises to be Europe’s most important climate conference this year – ‘Towards a Zero Carbon Economy by 2030’ –  at the Old University in Valletta, where high-level speakers from the public and private sectors will be presenting their views on how business can move to low carbon operations, how government and EU legislation is helping tackle this issue and how financial and technological incentives can assist organisations in reducing their carbon footprint.

The EU emissions trading system is the EU’s key tool for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from large-scale facilities in the power and industry sectors, as well as the aviation sector. The ETS covers around 45 per cent of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, national emission reduction targets set by the EU covers the sectors not in the ETS accounting for some 55 per cent of total EU emissions from housing, agriculture and waste and transport.

Carbon dioxide levels in the air are the highest they have been for 650,000 years

EU member countries have also taken on binding national targets for raising the share of renewables in their energy consumption by 2020, under the Renewable Energy Directive. These targets also vary, to reflect countries’ different starting points for renewables production and ability to further increase it, from 10 per cent in Malta to 49 per cent in Sweden. Achieving the goals of the 2020 package should help increase the EU’s energy security and reduce dependence on imported energy, contributing to achieving a European Energy Union that creates jobs, advances green growth and makes Europe more competitive.

Climate-KIC and Paragon Europe are highlighting the climate challenges in the cradle of civilisation, to create a world’s first zero carbon economy solution in the Mediterranean by 2030 and issue an important Valletta Declaration from the conference that binds generations to come.

By organising a conference around three important pillars, the challenges and solutions in green urban centres, circular economy and green finance, the conference will also showcase the key deliverables achieved so far on Smart Sustainable Districts in the Mediterranean. Throughout the conference the focus will be on low carbon mobility concepts, the operation of smart grids, energy neutral buildings, the promotion of efficient water management and improvement of public and green spaces.

The conference will be opened by José Herrera, Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change. Global expert speakers will include Kirsten Dunlop, CEO, Climate-KIC; Dario della Sala, Head of Division ‘Sustainable Materials’, ENEA; Giovanni Pavesi, CEO, Linde Gas Italy; Jochen Froebrich, coordinator of Water and AgriFood, WssTP; and Professors C. S Psomopoulos and G. C. Ioannides, Electrical Engineering Department, Piraeus University of Applied Sciences.

Paragon Europe has agreed to work long term with the Minister in three areas: mobility, circular economy and financial instruments. We trust this will frame how Malta should start preparing for the future impact of climate change.

A long-term adaptation and mitigation plan to cope with the effects must start now. This includes identifying areas prone to sea flooding and building appropriate flood defences, drawing up a comprehensive water framework plan to ensure the survival of the mean sea level aquifer and developing comprehensive mitigation and adaptability plans to protect our cultural heritage.

The conference culminates in a Valletta Declaration on a Mediterranean Zero Carbon Economy. For the programme and to register, visit http://paragonevents.eu/event.php?c=climate-change or e-mail events@paragoneurope.eu.

Edwin Ward is chairman, Paragon Europe.

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