Oil guzzling Malta proposes climate change law

New law would set up Climate Action Fund and carry prison sentences for those breaking its obligations

Pic: Andrea Santoni/Flickr

Pic: Andrea Santoni/Flickr

By Sophie Yeo

Malta has proposed a new climate law, creating a legal obligation for the country to hit its emission reduction targets.

The bill, which is in the consultation phase, will require the government to draw up national strategies for low carbon development and adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

It also sets up an independent Climate Action Fund, which will be used to back domestic climate action and provide donations to developing countries.

“We feel we will be better equipped to address climate change issues both from a national perspective, regionally, and on a multilateral basis,” Leo Brincat, Malta’s minister for environment, sustainable development and climate change told RTCC.

Malta is a member of the EU, and therefore bound by its regional carbon reduction target of 40% by 2030. Under the EU’s current targets, Malta’s emissions can grow 5% on 2005 levels by 2020.

However, according to the country’s latest submission to the UN, emissions rose 7% between 2005 and 2011.

Malta relies heavily on oil imports for 99% of energy consumption, while its use of renewables is the smallest in the EU, according to 2013 data.

Between 1990-2012 energy demand rose 64%, the highest leap in the EU, although per-capita consumption is still among the lowest in the region.

A recent EU review of progress reported that Malta was one of the countries furthest from hitting its 2020 targets, and would require additional policies to help it hit this goal.

The new law, if passed, would set a framework in which this can be achieved. Breaking the law would lead to up to four years in prison and a fine of up to one million euros.


As a small and remote island, Malta is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It faces faces extreme freshwater scarcity, while rising sea levels threaten to erode its coastal areas.

An EU report found that the country’s limited financial resources and high population density will limit its ability to adapt to the effects of global warming.

The Maltese government intends to discuss the bill in Parliament before it breaks for Christmas recess in December.

The country follows in the footsteps of the UK and Mexico, who have succeeded in creating national climate change acts.

The GLOBE climate legislation study, published this year in its fourth edition, found that almost 500 laws have now been passed in 66 countries.

Brincat said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the law would be passed, since his party has the majority in Parliament to push it through – although he stressed he was working towards a “consensual approach” with the opposition.

But he added: “In my opinion, what will make or break the implementation of the law is whether we will be successful in mustering the necessary capacity building to be able to address these challenges.

“Just having some legislating basis is an important step forward but not enough.”

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