“While raising awareness remains important, we do not have the time and luxury to wait. Climate change is a real, immediate threat and we need to act now.” Konrad Pirotta, Biology Head of Department within the Secretariat for Church Schools, one of Malta’s recently-appointed Climate Ambassadors in the context of the European Climate Pact, does not mince his words when sharing his views on the reality of climate change and the challenges faced by our country.
“We need to act decisively, while at the same time ensuring that actions which are implemented serve to continue creating exposure on the challenges and possible solutions,” added Mr Pirotta. He shared his views together with a number of stakeholders at the first-ever Peer Parliament held in Malta, hosted by VisMedNet Association and the European Parliament office in Malta. The event focused on the European Climate Pact.
This event, organised in the wider democratic process of the Conference on the Future of Europe, brought together various stakeholders from all walks of life who exchanged success stories and best practices, while exploring possible new initiatives in the fight against climate change. This theme, which perhaps has been on the Maltese backburner for decades, now tops Maltese citizens’ concerns, as confirmed by a recently-published Eurobarometer survey.
Mr Pirotta’s keen interest in nature and the wider environment is certainly not new, having been a marine expert and scientific diver for over thirty years. For a long time, he has strived to nurture a love for the environment among, students and young people, particularly by encouraging outdoor education, including through field trips in Malta and abroad, which provide first-hand experiences of nature to a generation which is increasingly urbanised. “Learning by doing is an effective way to get the young people involved and interested in doing what’s necessary for our planet”, he explains.
However, the recent COP26 climate conference has instigated a sense of urgency in his drive for change. In his mind, the fight against climate change needs to be two-fold. Firstly, a level of mitigation: this implies acknowledging that climate change is here, that some changes are irreversible, and that therefore we all need to adapt to a new reality.
He suggests, as an example, focusing on the urgent need to devise new ways of making more freshwater available especially during the summer months when trees and plants suffer most, while trying to protect the soil from excessive dryness. On a second level, there are reversal efforts which we can undertake to try to roll-back some of the negative effects of this phenomenon, particularly through more aggressive afforestation.
Mr Pirotta’s current efforts revolve around getting educators and students aware of the perils of climate change, through practical experiences including through collaborative efforts with other island territories, facilitating experiences abroad. However, his concern is that while young people can be strong conveyors of change, they will struggle to succeed on their own. “All levels of society need to be involved. While young people are able to put their message across – and need to be well-equipped and determined to do so – it is hard to bring effective change if they learn one thing at school and then they experience the complete opposite the moment they get home.”
A second challenge he observes is that while Malta does have a growing number of experts in the field, many times their genuine efforts could be detached from the general public. “It is therefore imperative to bridge this gap, which also needs to be supported through enhanced scientific literacy”, he argues.
Through his new role of Climate Ambassador, Mr Pirotta says that he will strive to help bridge that gap to make sure that there is a true understanding of the challenges that climate change poses, the immediate threats, and what effective action can be taken – not solely at national, industrial or enterprise level, but even in our own homes.
This reflects the spirt of the European Climate Pact, which is the key citizen engagement component of the European Green Deal, seeking to accelerate action and allow people to learn about climate change by showing them solutions from a bottom-up perspective.
Maltese citizens can have their say – through the organisation of Peer Parliaments or through direct submissions on the future of Europe. Further information is available on https://futureu.europa.eu.
This article was first published by The Malta Independent.