Malta should support a cleaner Mediterranean through an emissions control area – BirdLife
A proposal to make the Mediterranean an area where ships need to switch to cleaner fuel has so far received the support of various Mediterranean countries, with Malta still not expressing its position on the request, BirdLife Malta said in a statement on Saturday .
Environment ministry officials attending COP22 – the meeting of the parties to the Barcelona Agreement – held in Antalya next week (December 7-10) are urged to support the designation of an Emissions Control Zone (ECA) for sulfur emissions .
A Mediterranean Emissions Control Area (MedECA) is at the center of the longstanding campaign by various partners in the Mediterranean region. Establishing such an area would mean that all ships (from cargo ships to cruise lines) crossing the Mediterranean Sea or calling at ports such as Malta’s Grand Harbor and Freeport use fuel with a lower sulfur content, with the consequent benefit of lower emissions of sulfur oxides (SOx) in the air. Sulfur emissions into the air have been linked to negative effects on the human respiratory system, as well as negative effects on vegetation, freshwater, soils and the general state of ecosystems.
The proposal put to the vote is an amendment to rule 14 of MARPOL Annex VI, a regulation that is part of an international convention for the prevention of pollution from ships under the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The end result would be a Sulfur Emission Control Area (SECA) – the first step in a gradual shift to cleaner fuels from the shipping industry, which is likely to result in further shifts towards lower nitrogen levels, such as the establishment of Sulfur and. the case was nitrogen emission control areas in the North and Baltic Seas in Europe.
Malta has one of the largest shipping registers in the world and is located south of the main shipping routes between the Suez Canal and Gibraltar and has a very influential position both in the Mediterranean and on a global scale. Meetings with representatives of the Ministry of Environment asking Malta to support the application have so far remained non-binding on this matter and concerns have been raised about the economic impact of such a measure.
However, experts at Together Against Air Pollution from Ships group, which includes BirdLife Malta, have denied such claims, stating that any increase in shipping costs caused by switching to cleaner fuel would be negligible on the consumer side, with health benefits in terms of air pollution-related diseases, such a shift far outweighs even economically. For emissions controls in the Mediterranean, the monetized benefits are estimated to be up to EUR 10 billion / year in 2030 and increase to almost EUR 30 billion / year in 2050. A combined ECA in the Mediterranean could prevent 3,100 to 4,100 premature deaths annually in 2030. BirdLife Malta re-addressed the issue earlier this week in a letter to Minister Aaron Farrugia, although Malta’s position on the matter appears to have remained unchanged.
Commenting on the matter, Mark Sultana, CEO of BirdLife Malta, âAlthough the vote on the Mediterranean as a sulfur emission control area is likely to have the support of most Mediterranean countries, we want Malta to be on the right side of history when it comes to our ports and clean air off our coasts. We urge Minister Farrugia to support this motion without hesitation, while keeping an eye on the thousands of citizens who live near our ports. ”
The vote on the MedECA for sulfur is expected to take place on December 8th. The Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Center for the Mediterranean (REMPEC), an IMO-managed facility, released a video on the matter earlier this year highlighting Malta’s unsupportive stance on the request.