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Malta Declares Climate Emergency As Prime Minister Pledges Strong Anti-Plastic Enforcement

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Malta officially declared a climate emergency last night, with all government and Opposition MPs voting in favour.

A motion was moved last week by Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi but the government presented a counter-motion after warning Azzopardi’s motion included nonfactual statements.

However, after some political bickering, Environment Minister Jose Herrera met up with the National Youth Council and moved a new motion, which Azzopardi and the PN agreed with.

The motion binds the government to declare a cut-off date for the importation of cars which run on petrol and diesel by mid-2020, something Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has already committed to.

The government will also have to draw up a programme by the middle of next year where it will list the measures it intends to take to combat climate change, following consultation with the Climate Action Board.

Extinction Rebellion Malta, a new climate action lobby, hailed the vote was a victory for young people and Maltese society as a whole.

“In the coming months we will hold political authorities to their word,” it said. “We have consensus that climate change is an emergency, as 92% of people in Malta believe. Let’s turn words into action.”

Ahead of the vote, Joseph Muscat referred to the government’s recent pledge to ban the sale of single-use plastics by 2022 and pledged to enforce this legislation when it is introduced.

“To its credit, a previous government had tried to ban plastic bags but it didn’t manage because of the lack of market surveillance,” he said. “Everything kept flowing in from Sicily and nothing was done about it until the government eventually gave up. We’re now giving people two years to adapt and helping shops adapt, but after this date we won’t accept the use of plastic in this country.”

The Prime Minister described climate action as a primarily economic challenge, noting that banning the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles will mean that governments worldwide, including in Malta, will have to make up for the lost revenue from fuel excise taxes.

Moreover, Malta has scrapped registration taxes for zero and low emission vehicles, and Muscat said the government has no plans to reintroduce these taxes after the eventual cut-off date for petrol and diesel vehicles. 

“The point of the [Climate Action Board] isn’t merely to give cut-off dates for the importation of diesel and petrol cars but to discuss huge policies, which I am convinced Malta can take the lead in.”

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