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Study on when to stop importation of vehicles using diesel, petrol

Several countries have already set dates when diesel and petrol vehicles would be banned

Experts are studying different scenarios leading to the phasing out of cars powered by diesel and petrol and an import ban on new models.

The study is aimed at determining when and how the importation of new fuel-powered cars should be stopped in a bid for Malta to reach its ambitious emission reduction targets, government sources said.

Photo: Matthew MirabelliPhoto: Matthew Mirabelli

In addition, the experts were also estimating how many vehicles would have to be taken off the road in the coming decades for Malta to cut emissions, the sources added.

A recent European Commission report on the Paris Climate Agreement warned that Malta was the only EU country having to buy emission credits from other member states as it continued to come way short of reduction targets.

The report attributed the missed targets to road pollution caused by cars and increased HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) emissions from the rising demand for air-conditioning.

It encouraged Malta to set targets and implement measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 2025.

Watch: Government consultation to set cut-off date for diesel and petrol vehicles

The government sources said Malta had three main origins of emissions: energy generation, waste and transport.

The country, they noted, had already made the move from energy produced by a heavy fuel oil-fired power plant to one running on cleaner gas. It had also started the process of introducing a new waste-to-energy plant that was touted as a far greener alternative to landfilling.

On transport, however, the sources admitted that drastic measures would have to be taken eventually.

“It might sound bizarre to think of taking cars off the road in a country where more and more are being added every single day but that is what will eventually have to be done,” one source said.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said last year the government planned to consult with stakeholders on a cut-off date beyond which all new car purchases would have to be green.

Malta is not alone in mulling the move and a number of countries have already set dates when diesel and petrol vehicles would be banned.

France was the first to declare a ban on the sale of new gas- and diesel-powered cars as of 2040. The United Kingdom followed suit, announcing it too had similar plans to ban internal combustion engines and completely remove them from roads by 2050.

Norway, Europe’s largest market for electric vehicles, decided on 2025 as a cut-off for the sale of combustion engine vehicles.

A source involved in drafting the island’s green policies said that while the idea of cutting down the number of vehicles on the road might sound far-fetched for a country so heavily dependant on personal vehicles, the matter was being taken very seriously by policy advisers.

“We don’t want to go down as a country that did not act on this. Others are and we must too,” the source said.

The move was also being viewed as a health concern. The Times of Malta has reported that premature deaths due to air pollution in Malta continued to rise and reached 270 in 2016.

The tally of deaths before a person’s expected age that could be attributed to pollutants in the air – fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone - emerges from the latest edition of the annual Air Quality in Europe report. Previous editions of the study found that the number of premature deaths stood at 220 in 2012 and 250 in 2014.

The premature deaths estimated in the latest report represent more than 710 years of life lost.

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