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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Malta

Climate change mitigation (Malta)

Why should we care about this issue

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Climate Change is currently one of the principal threats facing nations worldwide, although the impacts of climate change will differ depending on relative vulnerabilities. Human activities, such as the combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation, have from the start of the industrial revolution led to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere than was previously the case. These gases trap heat within the atmosphere, resulting in a general increase in global temperatures, with associated changes in climatic conditions. Indeed, the Fourth Assessment Report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has indicated that 11 of the 12 years between 1995 and 2006 have been amongst the warmest since 1850.[1] In Europe, the temperature is currently 1.4 °C warmer than pre-industrial levels.[2]

 

Climate Change

For a small island state situated in the southern European area of the Mediterranean, Malta is considered to be very vulnerable to the predicted impacts of climate change. Whilst Malta is not considered to be a significant contributor to global GHG emissions, it has taken on the responsibility to curb such emissions, illustrating that everyone is capable of taking a degree of mitigating action comparable to the nation’s capacity and capability.


[1]               IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 2007. Climate Change 2007: Synthesis report, Summary for Policymakers, IPCC.

[2]               EEA (European Environment Agency). 2007. Europe’s Environment: The fourth assessment, EEA, Copenhagen.

 

 

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Drivers for climate change mitigation

The key drivers of GHG emissions are socio-economic: demography, economic development, transport, etc. Malta’s 2008 Environment Report (www.mepa.org.mt/ter08-drivingforces) indicates that, while Malta’s population has largely met its basic material needs, the population continues to place unsustainable demands on the environment, putting strains on natural resources and processes. It also notes that the number of vacant properties on the Islands has continued to rise, with 22.4 % of all dwellings lying permanently vacant in 2005. Urgent measures, including economic instruments and reorientation of the construction industry towards rehabilitation, are needed to address this issue in ways that do not place undue pressures on affordability and availability of housing, and take into account social and economic implications.

The 2008 Environment Report also states that tourism is an important economic sector in terms of GDP, but that it puts significant pressure on the environment due to additional consumption of resources, increase in waste generation and land take for tourism infrastructure. The report suggests that the industry will need to focus on ensuring a quality product that prevents undue pressure on Malta’s natural resources such as by spreading tourism intake more evenly throughout the year, and penetrating those niche markets that are generally more sensitive and supportive towards conservation.

Importantly for this topic, the Report notes that Malta’s environmental targets and objectives related to air pollution and climate change can only be met by decoupling its growing total energy demand from economic growth.

The Islands remain far from reaching EU renewable energy and energy efficiency targets. In order to reach these targets, Malta will need to reduce consumption and develop widespread use of alternative technologies. Malta’s continued rise in vehicle numbers is a matter of concern due to the environmental and social impacts of private motor vehicle use. The high percentage of imports of older and more polluting second-hand vehicles is also of concern. There is an urgent need to renew Malta’s car fleet with smaller and more efficient vehicles and to make public transport alternatives at least as reliable and attractive as private car use.

Although it is small in terms of employment and contribution to GDP, the agriculture sector is a major environmental player. Agricultural practices may have serious impacts in terms of pollution on the countryside. However good farming practices can positively influence countryside and landscape quality, and sustain key environmental resources such as biodiversity, soil and water.

 

Malta’s GHG emissions are low when compared to those of other EU Member States, reflecting the small size of the country in geographic, demographic and economic terms.[1] Total GHG emissions increased by 49 % between 1990 and 2007. The flattening observed in Chart 3.4 could be the switch from coal for energy generation. The energy sector (including the energy industry, and transport and fuel combustion in the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors) is the principal contributor (89 %[2] of total emissions in 2007) to Malta’s GHG emissions. While in 1990, emissions from energy stood at 1,855 Gigagrams (Gg), by 2000 they had reached 2,328 Gg, to increase to 2,692 Gg in 2007. The second most significant contributor to Malta’s GHG emissions in 2007 was the waste sector (6.6 % of overall emissions).[3] The contribution of agriculture and industrial processes is limited, both contributing approximately 2 %[4] of total emissions in 2007, while solvents and other product use contributed 0.09 % of total emissions. The category Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LUFLUF) indicates estimates of carbon dioxide emissions and removals by particular vegetation types. This sector is estimated to contribute a removal of 2 % of Malta’s emissions, with a mean figure of -58.2 Gg CO2 sequestered annually between 1990 and 2007.[5]

In terms of emissions per unit GDP (in billion euro at 2000 prices), there was an overall decrease of 18 % between 1990 and 2007 falling from approximately 812 to 662 thousand tonnes per billion euro respectively. The decrease in GHG emissions per unit GDP may possibly reflect a degree of decoupling of emissions from economic development over the whole time period, although there are significant fluctuations when comparing shorter time ranges (for example between 2000 and 2005, when the trend was increasing).[6] With respect to per capita emissions, these grew by 33 % between 1990 and 2007, from approximately 5.47 tonnes per capita to 7.25 tonnes per capita respectively, although this trend seems to be stabilising over recent years.[7] At the EU level, ten Member States reported increasing per capita emissions between 1990 and 2006.[8] Despite this increase, Malta still had a relatively low GHG emission rate per capita in 2006 when compared to the EU-27 average, which in that year stood at 10.4 tonnes per capita.[9] 

 Fuel imports

 

Source: NSO; NSO (National Statistics Office). 2006. Gross Domestic Product: Q3/2006. News Release No. 277/2006, 7 December 2006; NSO (National Statistics Office). 2008. Gross Domestic Product for 2007. News Release No. 39/2008, 10  March 2008; NSO (National Statistics Office). 2009. Gross Domestic Product for 2008. News Release No. 40/2008, 10  March 2009.

Chart 3.5: Fuel imports, GDP at 2000 prices and energy intensity of the economy as a percentage of the base year 2000 (2000–2008)

 

It is pertinent in this context to examine changes to the energy intensity of the economy, which is a measure of the energy Malta uses to create a unit of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This indicator is calculated on the basis of a ratio between total energy produced and GDP.[10] Total energy produced in the Maltese Islands can be estimated using net fossil fuel import values.[11] The overall trend since 2000 has been for the energy intensity of the economy to decrease slightly; should this trend continue, it may point towards a shift towards a relative[12] decoupling of energy consumption from economic activity. There is an urgent need to achieve an absolute decoupling of economic activity from energy use in the Maltese Islands.



[1]               MEPA (Malta Environment & Planning Authority). 2009. National Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report for Malta 1990 – 2007, March 2009, MEPA, Floriana.

[2]               As calculated in terms of CO2 equivalents for CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs and SF6 ‘without’ Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LUFLUF).

[3]               As calculated in terms of CO2 equivalents ‘without’ Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LUFLUF).

[4]               As calculated in terms of CO2 equivalents ‘without’ LUFLUF.

[5]           MEPA (Malta Environment & Planning Authority). 2009. National Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report for Malta 1990 – 2007, March 2009, MEPA, Floriana.

[6]               MEPA (Malta Environment &  Planning Authority). 2009. National Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report for Malta 1990 – 2007,  March 2009, MEPA, Floriana.

[7]               MEPA (Malta Environment &  Planning Authority). 2009. National Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report for Malta 1990 – 2007,  March 2009, MEPA, Floriana..

[8]               EEA (European Environment Agency). 2008. Greenhouse Gas Emission Trends and Projections in Europe 2008: Tracking progress towards Kyoto targets,  EEA Report No. 5/2008, EEA, Copenhagen.

[9]               EEA (European Environment Agency). 2008. Greenhouse Gas Emission Trends and Projections in Europe 2008: Tracking progress towards Kyoto targets,  EEA Report No. 5/2008, EEA, Copenhagen.

[10]             EEA (European Environment Agency). 2005. The European Environment: State and Outlook 2005, EEA, Copenhagen.

[11]             In Malta almost all energy is generated from imported fossil fuels.  Amounts used are net of bunkering but include Jet-A1 and aviation gasoline.

[12]             Relative decoupling occurs when environmental damage increases at a slower rate than GDP, while absolute decoupling occurs when environmental damage decreases while GDP increases.

The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 26 Nov 2010

The IPPC’s fourth Assessment Report[1] states that small islands have characteristics that make them especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, sea-level rise, and extreme events. Indeed, based on UN benchmarks, Malta is expected to suffer moderate impacts from climate change,[2] mainly related to drought, deterioration of freshwater quality and availability, increased risk of floods, soil and coastal erosion, desertification, changes in sea level and biodiversity loss and degradation.[3] As noted above, these impacts are expected to have an effect on human health, as well as on agriculture and fisheries due to the decreased period of rainfall, increase in flood intensity and reduction of soil nutrients as a consequence of run-off. It is also likely that fisheries may be affected by an increase in algal blooms resulting in a decrease in oxygen and changes in sea-water circulation.[4] Furthermore, due to Malta’s dependence on coastal activities, its economic vulnerability is expected to be moderate to moderately high.[5] However, as noted previously, these expectations are based on vulnerability assessments that to date may not have gone into sufficient depth and could be subject to significant changes if different approaches are taken. In order to address the uncertainties associated with the impacts of climate change in Malta, studies based on climate projections and impact scenarios relating to the islands are required, particularly since Malta’s small island characteristics make it especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, sea-level rise and extreme events. Indeed, Malta will need to adapt to climate change impacts and ensure sustainable development and economic growth within a changing climatic regime.

National sectoral projections with respect to GHG emissions in the years 2010, 2015 and 2020 have now been prepared on the basis of existing and planned measures.[6] These measures are detailed below in the section on mitigation. In the energy sector (including transport), emissions are projected to decrease from 2,696 Gg CO2e in 2007 to 1,936 Gg CO2e in 2020 on the basis of existing measures, while with additional measures, a decrease to 1,782 Gg CO2e is expected. In the industrial processes sector, emissions are projected to increase from 69 Gg CO2e in 2007 to 70 Gg CO2e in 2020. A decrease from 74 Gg CO2e in 2007 to 69 Gg CO2e in 2020, and an increase from 170 Gg CO2e in 2007 to 279 Gg CO2e in 2020 are expected in the agriculture and waste sectors respectively.



[1]               IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 2007. Climate Change 2007: Synthesis report. An Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,  IPCC.

[2]               MRAE (Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment). 2004. The First Communication of Malta to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,  Report prepared by the University of Malta Physics Department (Sammut, C.V. and Micallef, A.) for the Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment, April 2004.

[3]               Such assessments are dependent on a number of factors such as the approach taken, when the assessment was carried out, the level of detail.

[4]               MRAE (Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment). 2004. The First Communication of Malta to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,  Report prepared by the University of Malta Physics Department (Sammut, C.V. and Micallef, A.) for the Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment, April 2004.

[5]           MRAE (Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment). 2004. The First Communication of Malta to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,  Report prepared by the University of Malta Physics Department (Sammut, C.V. and Micallef, A.) for the Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment, April 2004.

[6]               MEPA (Malta Environment &  Planning Authority). 2009. Malta’s Biennial Report on Policies and Measures and Projected Greenhouse Gas Emissions, 2009, March 2009, MEPA, Floriana.

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 26 Nov 2010

Responses to climate change address either mitigation or adaptation, although mitigation measures currently exceed those related to adaptation. In the area of mitigation, a raft of policies and measures has been initiated at a global, EU and national level. As an EU Member State, Malta is obliged to take on board all Community legislation that could result in the reduction or limitation of greenhouse gas emissions, including the EU Emissions Trading Scheme,[1] through which Member States determine respective caps for emissions of greenhouse gases from relevant installations in their territory.[2] For the period 2008 to 2012 Malta proposed an allocation of 14.8 million tonnes of CO2e,[3] but this was later revised to 10.7 million tonnes of CO2 following a decision of the European Commission. In the context of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)[4] under the Kyoto Protocol, WasteServ (Malta) Ltd has proposed to extract and use landfill gas from Ta’ Żwejra, delivering annual emissions savings of 19,000 tons of CO2e. The project is at validation stage and is pending registration with the CDM Executive Board.

At the national policy level, there has been much activity regarding the promotion of energy efficiency and RES: draft Renewable Energy[5] and National Energy[6] policies were published in 2006, while a National Energy Efficiency Action Plan[7] and a revised draft Energy Policy for Malta[8] were published in 2008 and 2009 respectively. A Climate Change Committee also issued its consultation report in January 2009.[9] The 2008 EU climate-energy package[10] envisages a substantial increase in the use of RES for Malta by 2020.[11] In order to achieve this, Malta will need to invest in research and development, as well as commission a range of renewable energy technologies. The draft RES policy[12] identifies wind energy as one of the most cost-effective solutions, and as of end 2008, Government was assessing the viability of both onshore and offshore wind farms.

The principal climate change mitigation measures are documented in Malta’s biennial programme and measures report (Table 3.1).[13] They originate from a number of sectors, including energy, waste and land use, and make use of various mechanisms such as technical, regulatory, economic, voluntary and informational instruments. In the energy sector, four technical measures address energy supply,[14] while a mix of economic, technical, regulatory and information/education/research tools address energy demand and RES. The energy demand and RES measures have targeted a number of sectors: while economic instruments have been used in the residential[15] and industrial[16] sectors, voluntary measures have been taken in state schools and social housing, and technical[17] and educational[18] measures have been used at waste management facilities. The informational[19] and regulatory[20] measures did not target any particular sector.

 

 

           

Measure Number

Description

Measure

type

Status

Energy Supply

1

Plant loading and fuel switching

Technical

Implemented

2

Installation of new and efficient generating capacity (100MW at Delimara Power Station) to partly replace existing inefficient plant at Marsa Power Station

Technical

Adopted

3

Submarine electrical interconnection to European network (200MW underwater cable) to further replace generating capacity at Marsa Power Station.

Technical

Adopted

4

Future installation of further new and efficient generating capacity

Technical

Planned

Energy Demand  and RES

5

Energy Performance in Buildings Regulations

Regulatory

Implemented

6

Intelligent metering and demand side reduction measures

Economic

Implemented

7

Energy-efficiency measures in street lighting

Technical

Adopted

8

ERDF Energy grant scheme for industry

Economic

Implemented

9

Rebates on energy-efficient domestic appliances

Economic

Expired

10

Promotion of solar water heaters

Economic

Implemented

11

Grants on the purchase of micro RES generation equipment

Economic

Implemented

12

Distribution of energy-saving lamps in the domestic sector

Economic

Adopted

13

Energy saving measures in water production and distribution

Technical

Implemented

14

Energy saving and RES measures in state schools

Voluntary

Implemented

15

Energy saving measures in Social Housing

Voluntary

Implemented

16

Information campaign on energy efficiency

Information

Implemented

17

Installation of steam recovery turbine at Marsa Thermal Treatment Facility

Technical

Implemented

18

Installation of photovoltaic and wind turbine technologies at Waste facilities

Education; Research

Planned

Waste

 

 

 

19

Aerial emissions works at closed landfill sites

Regulatory, economic

Implemented

20

Gas management at Ta’ Żwejra and Għallis Non-hazardous landfills

Regulatory, economic

Implemented

21

Sant’ Antnin Biological Treatment Plant

Regulatory, economic

Implemented

22

Biogas from urban waste water treatment

economic

Implemented

Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry

 

 

23

Afforestation Projects

Voluntary, Planning, Education

Implemented

Cross-cutting

24

Policy on national research

Research

Implemented

Source: MEPA 2009 (MEPA (Malta Environment &  Planning Authority). 2009. Malta’s Biennial Report on Policies and Measures and Projected Greenhouse Gas emissions 2009, MEPA, Floriana.)

Table 3.1 Policies and measures considered most effective in reducing GHG emissions (December2008)

Various measures are in the pipeline for the transport sector,[21] while four regulatory and economic measures in the waste sector mainly target emissions and RES.[22] In the land use sector, afforestation projects should increase Malta’s area covered by permanent vegetation, while MEPA guidance[23] encourages energy conservation measures and the possibility of energy audits for major projects. However, the important role of development planning as a tool for mitigating and adapting to climate change needs to be recognised further. In this respect, mitigation and adaptation measures will need to be integrated within development plans and related subsidiary policies and regulations. Meanwhile energy and environment have become national research priorities,[24] while the University of Malta has developed a capacity in climate modelling.

There is still need, however, to sustain efforts towards achieving absolute decoupling of economic activity and GHG emissions. In this context, it is  important to initiate both supply-side measures, such as investing in a range of cleaner and more efficient energy technologies, including renewables and high-efficiency cogeneration, as well as demand management measures. These would include measures such as energy efficiency in buildings, and in the transport sector. These mitigation efforts, which are being carried out in the absence of specific scenarios, need to be in line with sustainability.

 



[1]               Directive 2003/87/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 2003 establishing a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community and amending Council Directive 96/61/EC.

[2]           This cap, notified under a National Allocation Plan and covering a specified period of years, is distributed as allowances (emissions rights or permits) to the participating installations. This flexible approach, through the possibility of trading the allowances, allows for emissions to be reduced where it is less costly to do so, with installations that experience a growth in emissions over and above their allocation being allowed to acquire allowances from installations with excess allowances due to emission levels being lower than their initial allocation.

[3]               MRAE (Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment). 2006. National Allocation Plan for Malta (2008 – 2012), Submission to the EU Commission, September 2006.

[4]               This mechanism allows both Kyoto Protocol Annex I countries with a greenhouse gas reduction commitment, and non-Annex I countries to invest in projects that reduce emissions either in their own countries (if they are non-Annex I countries such as Malta) or in developing countries (in the case of Annex I countries). The reduced emissions may be claimed as credits that the country can use in order to reach its compliance target or sell to other countries. 

[5]               Government of Malta 2006. A Draft Renewable Energy Policy for Malta, Malta, August 2006.

[6]               MRES (Ministry of Resources and Infrastructure). 2006. A proposal for an Energy Policy for Malta.   

[7]               Government of Malta. 2008. National Energy Efficiency Action Plan, Malta, November 2008.

[8]               MRES (Ministry of Resources and Rural Affairs). 2009. A proposal for an Energy Policy for Malta, Malta, April 2009.

[9]               Climate Change Committee. (2009). National Strategy for Policy and Abatement Measures Relating to the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Consultation Report, Climate Change Committee, January 2009 [http://mrra.gov.mt/htdocs/docs/climatechange_eng.pdf] accessed on 5th February 2009.

[10]             CEC (Commission of the European Communities). 2008. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions:  2020 by 2020: Europe’s climate change opportunity COM (2008) 30 final, Commission of the European Communities, Brussels.

[11]             Indeed, the impact assessment on the EU Climate-Energy Package envisages a 10 percent RES target for Malta (CEC 2008x) (CEC (Commission of the European Communities). 2008. Commission Staff Working Document: Impact Assessment, Document accompanying Package of Implementation Measures for the EU’s objectives on Climate Change and Renewable Energy for 2020, SEC (2008) 85/3, Commission of the European Communities, Brussels).

[12]             Government of Malta 2006. A Draft Renewable Energy Policy for Malta, Malta, August 2006.

[13]             MEPA 2009 (MEPA (Malta Environment &  Planning Authority). 2009. Malta’s Biennial Report on Policies and Measures and Projected Greenhouse Gas emissions 2009, MEPA, Floriana.

[14]             These focus on more efficient energy generation at the power stations, including the installation of more efficient generating capacity, as well as a submarine cable interconnection to the European network.

[15]                    The latter include rebates on energy-efficient domestic appliances, promotion of solar water heaters, grants on purchase of micro RES generation equipment, and distribution of energy-saving lamps in the domestic sector.

[16]             This concerns a €10 million Malta Enterprise ERDF grant scheme to assist industry with projects, among them ones related to energy efficiency and use of RES.

[17]             Efficiency-related technical measures include improved energy efficiency in street lighting, energy saving in water production and distribution, and the installation of a steam recovery turbine at the Marsa Thermal Treatment Facility.

[18]             In order to raise awareness about RES with citizens using civic amenity sites, micro RES systems have been installed at these sites, and a RES centre will demonstrate various options at the closed Magħtab landfill.

[19]             The SWITCH campaign was launched in 2009.

[20]             LN 238 of 2006 under the Malta Resources Authority Act (Cap. 423) (Minimum Requirements on the Energy Performance of Building Regulations, 2006),.Revised regulations that take on board further provisions of the Directive were approved in October 2008 (LN 261 of 2008).

[21]             These include reform of the public transport system, an intelligent traffic management system, and promoting fuel-efficient vehicles through a revised vehicle registration system.

[22]             Waste-related measures include the combustion of methane generated by the Magħtab and Qortin landfill, gas management at the new non-hazardous managed landfills at Ta’ Żwejra and Għallis, The digestion process at the Sant’ Antnin Waste Treatment Plant, which will recover of biogas, the methane portion of which will be used for the generation of clean electricity, and anaerobic sludge digestion facilities with biogas production at the Malta South Sewage Treatment Plant.

[23]             Policy and Design Guidance 2007.  [http://www.mepa.org.mt/Planning/factbk/policies/DC%202007%20_MEPA%20approved.pdf, accessed 3rd June 2009].

[24]             Under the National Strategic Plan for Research and Innovation (Government of Malta. 2006. National Strategic Plan for Research and Innovation 2007-2010: Building and sustaining the R&I enabling framework, compiled by the Malta Council for Science and Technology for the Government of Malta.

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