It would be “unacceptable” for the EU not to propose exemptions for small island states like Malta when deciding on an upcoming climate change law, MEP Cyrus Engerer has warned.

“It seems that the commission, many times when it proposes laws, cannot understand the realities of those citizens coming from... small island states at the periphery of the European Union,” the MEP told Times of Malta on the sidelines of a European Parliament plenary session.

The MEP’s comments came ahead of the expected Europe-wide adoption of the revised Energy Taxation Directive (ETD), part of a wider package called ‘Fit for 55’, which aims to reduce emissions in the EU.

Under the plans, customers in Malta could end up paying more for flights, though the final terms of the package are yet to be confirmed pending further negotiations.

Cyrus Engerer said he is frustrated by the Commission's approach.

“Our only way to travel from Malta to mainland Europe is via air or boat... therefore, we have to make sure our citizens are not at a disadvantage when it comes to this green transition,” he said.

“We all must shoulder part of the burden but there shouldn’t be an imbalance in the burden that different people need to carry and, therefore, it is... unacceptable for the commission not to propose derogations for island states.”

Under the plans, customers in Malta could end up paying more for flights

In August, Times of Malta reported that the price of an average ticket for a return flight from Malta within the EU would rise by about €45 by 2030 should the ‘Fit for 55’ package be approved. 

At the time, Air Malta warned that the plans to gradually increase taxes on kerosene-based aviation fuels while granting sustainable aviation fuels a tax rate of zero per cent to increase their uptake would increase fuel prices by around 90 per cent by 2033, leading to negative economic effects and isolating the country. 

According to the EU’s sustainable transport think tank Transport and Environment (T&E), a leaked EU report from 2018 showed that imposing a fuel tax on departing flights to all destinations in the EU would cut emissions by 11 per cent, reduce aviation noise levels by eight per cent and increase government revenues by €17 billion. 

While the report showed that ticket prices would rise by 10 per cent, the overall impact on EU jobs and GDP is estimated to be zero.

While the upcoming ETD is yet to be finalised, Engerer pointed to previous successes lobbying for Malta on environmental laws.

“We fought hard to make sure that ferries linking islands to the mainland of a member state are left outside of the scope of the ETS legislation,” he said, in reference to an emissions trading law that places a price on greenhouse gas emissions.

A study by BirdLife Malta conducted in 2021 revealed high levels of pollutants in the air.A study by BirdLife Malta conducted in 2021 revealed high levels of pollutants in the air.

Environmental impacts

The revised ETD will phase out tax exemptions and incentives for fossil fuels over 10 years, targeting kerosene and heavy oil in particular.

Kerosene is a key component of aviation fuel while heavy fuel oil (HFO) is considered a mainstay of the maritime industry.

The burning of aviation fuel contributes to global warming by emitting CO2 while HFO produces sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, pollutants that are both linked to respiratory disease.

The European Commission estimates that emissions from aviation made up 3.8 per cent of total CO2 emissions in the EU in 2017. 

In October 2021, BirdLife Malta published the results of a study revealing levels of ultrafine particles in Valletta and Senglea were 100 to 200 times higher than the air levels expected of areas not exposed to any pollution sources.

Ultrafine particles are known to be particularly dangerous to human health due to how easily they are absorbed into the body’s bloodstream.

According to the European Commission, air pollution is estimated to lead to around 300,000 premature deaths each year in the EU.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us