Malta needs to be doing more to get cars off the roads, the ADPD has said.

“Fifty per cent of trips with private cars are for journeys of under 15 minutes. If we address this alone, with a more efficient public transport system, we can remove half the cars from the road,” Carmel Cacopardo, the chairman of the Green Party, said.

He argued that a Bus Rapid Transit system that would turn lanes currently used by cars into bus-only ones would contribute greatly to solving this problem.

Simply shifting to less polluting vehicles, such as electric cars, without reducing car use, may still present problems as it may create a dependency on electricity, which is unsustainable, he argued.

Cacapardo was speaking just days after a global climate change report warned of dire consequences in the future unless countries rapidly decarbonise their economies. 

ADPD also proposes that all new developments should be carbon-neutral, with clean-energy production made a requirement for development permits.

“We’ve been talking about this for years but it still hasn’t happened. We shouldn’t be eating into our open land to make solar farms. All development permits should require clean-energy generation technology,”

Also, the country should restructure the tourist sector to attract quality tourism, rather than mass tourism, he said. “The country and the environment can’t cope with the three million tourists it receives annually.”

There should be a shift away from simply looking at numbers. Marketing the island to tourists who come here for culture, for example, could be more sustainable, as they tend to stay longer and spend more money.

This could enable the country to reduce the number of tourists visiting annually without impacting revenue generated from the sector, he said.

The ADPD chair said decarbonising the economy was especially important for Malta, given that as a small island, it was especially vulnerable to climate change. The destruction of beaches, flooding of harbours and seaside towns and villages will become a reality in Malta if global carbon reduction targets are not met, he warned. 

“Sea levels are expected to rise by as much as two metres and even more by the year 2100 if things continue as they are, which will mean the disappearance of many of our beaches, and coastal towns and villages,” Cacopardo said.

He added that food prices would also increase as food security both in Malta and abroad is threatened by climate change.

“Groundwater will continue to become saltier as sea level rises and this will add to the strain on agriculture, already struggling from cumulative pressures linked to climate change, such as extreme temperatures, low rainfall and shifting seasons,” he said.

The electricity infrastructure would also be put under pressure, becoming less effective or breaking down because of intense heat or extreme weather.

And Cacopardo also pointed to an increased risk of conflict within the Mediterranean, as well as the rest of the world, as countries struggle to cope with climate change.

He explained that despite being small, Malta needed to fulfil its obligations when it came to climate change if it expected other countries to do the same.

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