She led negotiations at EU level on CO2 vehicle emissions, and as the Social and Democrats’ vice president for the European Green Deal, she called on the European Commission to step outside the Brussels bubble. MEP Miriam Dalli answers Sarah Carabott’s questions about climate change. 

Are you happy with the proposed climate law?

The European Commission’s commitment to introduce into EU legislation a 2050 carbon neutrality target is just a first step, and while it is in the right direction, it lacks a proper pathway on how we will get there. The climate law should be about setting a framework that ensures that future EU measures are put in place by all the member states so that they comply with the 2050 target.

My main concern is that 2050 is far away, and without clear intermediate targets for 2030 and 2040, the EU will not be incentivising all sectors to concretely act now. Instead, it will leave room for postponing the required action. Unfortunately, the European Commission in its proposal does not commit itself with intermediate targets.

To achieve carbon neutrality the EU needs to completely overhaul the way it thinks and acts. Every member state, sector and industry need to rethink their business model. The transition needs to happen within an economic, environmental and social framework.

Will you be pushing for any changes?

I prepared my group’s main ‘asks’, which we are confident can make a positive difference. They include a CO2 reduction target of at least 55 per cent by 2030, and a 2040 reduction target of greenhouse gas emissions enshrined into law and based on impact assessments.

We want to see proper carbon budgeting with the aim of meeting the EU targets set for 2030, 2040 and 2050, and regu­lar reports on progress that do not take more than two years. We will also be pushing for the proper financing of the transition to a climate neutral economy. This must be achiev­ed through a combination of public financing at national and EU levels and by creating the right conditions for private financing.

I will be pushing for an adaptation framework specifying measures for the member states that are worst affected. I will be pushing for this strongly because small islands like Malta are particularly vulnerable to climate change.

The Intergovernmental Pa­nel on Climate Change itself identified the Mediterranean as one of the most vulnerable regions to the impacts of global change. For countries like ours it is not only a matter of mitigation but also a matter of adaptation measures that can help us adapt to climate change.

You’ve said that economic growth has sometimes come at the cost of decent living conditions, good working conditions and wages. Protecting the environment should not come at the expense of other priorities.  Can you elaborate?

Economic growth is important and needs to be sustained. But it can’t come at the cost of social and environmental dimensions. I am working towards a new economic mo­del that is built on economic, environmental and social pillars. Economic growth is useless if the environment is destroyed. Economic growth is useless if people do not have jobs with good wages and working conditions.

Economic growth is useless if the environment is destroyed

When we speak about deve­lopment, we need to make sure it is aesthetically pleasing, leaves enough green spaces for people to wind down mentally and physically, and that it does not destroy the heart and soul of our villages.

When we speak about buildings, we need to ensure they are built according to standards where efficiency is given priority not only on paper but in real life. Existing buildings can be retrofitted to ensure they consume less energy. This would benefit consumers in the longer-term and create quality jobs that can be done by skilled people.

We need jobs that provide workers and families with good income and where working conditions are truly decent. That’s why we require a vision on where our country is going – it would help us identify the sectors we want to tap into and ensure we have the skilled workers for it.

What do you think of claims that current infrastructural development in Malta is coming at the cost of environmental protection?

Long-term planning is key. Standards should always be kept, and any development must consider the environment around it. I can never agree with uncontrolled development that does not consider our citizens’ needs and health. Our priority should always be quality of life and we need to ensure that any decision taken keeps that as a priority.

Doesn’t widening roads to be able to cater for more cars defy efforts aimed at reducing traffic, and therefore cutting pollution?

Smart, clean mobility is the answer. This requires efficient public transport services, combining together different modes of transport, including ferry services. We must provide proper bicycle paths that help people commute in an efficient and effective way and protect their safety at all costs.

We need to incentivise scooters and ensure their safety. We need to properly incentivise car-pooling. We must invest in smart transport technology, including platforms that provide real-time information, and we need to invest in proper electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

This should go hand-in-hand with an ambitious plan to increase renewable energy and generating electricity through cleaner sources. There is a huge opportunity for the EU and Malta to partner with neighbouring countries in North Africa to invest in renewable energy plants and import clean electricity.

All this requires a long-term, ambitious plan that can deliver positive change, and I am confident we can reduce pollution if we have the policies to help us arrive there.

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