The European Climate Pact is uniting people from all corners of the continent around a common cause. Launched by the European Commission, the Pact is part of the European Green Deal and is helping the EU to become the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050. One person who is determined in pushing for effective change is GABRIELLA BORDA, a Maltese sustainable advisor. Her sights are set on some deep-rooted changes in the way we go about things in the years ahead.
The COP27 climate conference has come to an end, where once again we have witnessed several declarations. What is your earlier assessment, are we likely to see tangible action this time round?
In my opinion, there weren’t any declarations which differed from what we already witnessed in the past. This time the parties agreed on the loss and damage deal, reaching agreement on an outcome that established a funding mechanism to compensate vulnerable nations for loss and damage from climate-induced disasters. I think that this was the highlight of this year’s COP. We need to see how this will be implemented and how effective and efficient it will be implemented. With regard to other commitments, such as reducing emissions and keeping alive the Paris Agreement, this year’s COP seems to have ignored it as we have not really witnessed anything new with regard to this.
Reducing emissions from road transport is a key government objective to combat climate change. Do you feel that policies on the ground actually helps achieve this objective?
Emissions from road transport are definitely a sore point for the Maltese Islands. This is a very sensitive sector, as we will have to manage a change in mindset to achieve results in this area. I do not think that the solution should only be based on incentivising the electrification of vehicles, but instead I am of the opinion that we should change the mobility model to one relying on services. Public transport should play an important role in this, however, by now we know that the model as it is does not appeal to the majority of the population. Maybe it is time to address this, assess and find a solution on how to improve this service. We should also consider sea transport, complementing what is already in place. At some point in time, important decisions will have to be taken as we need to get to a point where road sharing will become the order of the day. This will not happen overnight, but it is important to start managing this from now if we really want to decarbonise road transport.
What are the bottlenecks for Malta to truly achieve a green transition?
In my opinion, we still need to bridge the knowledge gap. We need to acknowledge that so far whatever we have done did not leave a large positive impact, as we are still lagging behind in tapping into green markets. Although education and knowledge sharing play an important role in this transition, one has to monitor progress to evaluate results from any investments in this area and take appropriate action if desired goals are not achieved. Another challenge is to convince key stakeholders to work as a team rather than in siloes. We need to join forces to create the required synergies if we want to tap into a piece to the green pie.
Lots of firms are keen to claim their green credentials, even within the wider context of ESG. In practice, are you seeing a tangible change, or at least a will to change on a business level?
I am definitely seeing a will to change and not necessarily only from businesses who fall within scope to disclose due to new regulations coming into place. Smaller businesses are taking this very seriously too. We are still in the initial stage to talk about tangible results, but I am confident that very soon we will be seeing and feeling the results of the actions that are being implemented. There are a lot of businesses who are aware that to remain relevant they need to step up, especially since important stakeholders within their value chain will be required to look holistically into their system and work with businesses that are aligned with their green strategy.
Over the past few years, we have seen the first feeble attempts by credit institutions to promote green financing. Is this what businesses need? What alternatives would you propose?
Sustainable finance, in my opinion this is the key to transformation. Money makes the world go round and we need to ensure that we convert money into green, so that we can make a green world go round. When I refer to sustainable finance, I am not only referring to the local market. Annual net-zero investments have to grow significantly by 2030, and in developing countries this need is even greater. To close this gap, we need to take a system-wide approach based on social dialogue and stakeholder engagement. To decarbonise our economies, actions must be significant and to achieve this, finance must raise its game. In my opinion, even here we need to be innovative and creative when designing new financial products. We need to analyse the instruments that are already available and come up with new solutions to bridge the gap that exists to attract investment in green solutions. Malta can also play an important role here and although we missed some opportunities, I believe that we can still create an ecosystem to decarbonise specific industries. Partnerships are key to achieving this.
In view of the limitations in size, resource availability and similar constraints, can you foresee a true green future for the Maltese islands?
I prefer to look at this from another perspective and focus on how we can turn the challenges above mentioned into opportunities. In my opinion, smaller countries can be more agile in adapting and I believe that there can be a green future, but I acknowledge that the road ahead is challenging for various reasons. A combination of effective policies, economic incentives and educational channels need to be implemented to overcome existing barriers and for Malta to tap into opportunities related to the green transition.
This interview was first published on Newsbook.com.mt.