The Environment and Resources Authority recently published the State of Environment Report which provides scientific data on the status of the environment in Malta between 2009-2015.
Some important findings in the report include that Malta’s population density is significantly higher than the EU average, which stand at 1,450.2/km2 and 118/km2 respectively and that despite a 49% increase in environmental expenditure between 2008-2015, the country is still finding it hard to decouple economic growth from waste generation.
Indeed, in 2015, Malta's production of waste was at an all-time high, which is very worrying when one considers that Malta only recycles 7% of all its waste.
Malta also saw an all-time high in the consumption of billed electricity in 2015. During the same year, 35.6% of the development permits were granted on virgin land, thus increasing the cumulative impact of such development over the years. In the meantime, the stock of licensed motor vehicles reached almost 350,000 by the same year.
The State of the Environment Report reveals that while some progress has been made on biodiversity between 2009 and 2015, the other areas of the environment highlighted show a negative state of affairs.
One must keep in mind that in the recent years, Government has intensified its economic model. This is resulting in significant environmental impacts which will likely feature in the next State of Environment Report.
In particular, one should refer to the rapid population growth through the importation of workers, excessive dependency on construction and lack of foresight on economic, social and environmental impacts beyond the current political cycle. Whilst the Nationalist Party welcomes the contribution of workers and their families to the Maltese economy and society, we believe that there should be a rethink of Government’s fast-lane economic model to one which is based on sustainability: Social, environmental and economic needs should be reconciled through an evidence-based policy method that looks at short-term, medium-term and long-term opportunities, impacts and risks.
Partit Nazzjonalista is therefore highlighting a number of proposals related to the greening of government, more community involvement in environmental protection, and a European Union that listen’s to the environmental needs of small islands.
For example, we are proposing incentives for start-ups in the circular economy and a green innovation fund to adapt and innovate green technologies specific to the Maltese context.
We are proposing better environmental enforcement and green community officers. We are proposing that residents should be incentivised to participate in green activities, such as local funds for tree planting schemes and community activities. We are also proposing the increased availability of academic opportunities at tertiary level for research and education.
Government should be less bureaucratic and should have less top-down requirements for environmental NGOs and other civil society exponents (e.g. artists, academics) for green funding opportunities. Concurrently, environmental NGOs and local councils should be assisted through funds for appeals against major projects.
Partit Nazzjonalista agrees with the proposal of the Church Environment Commission to transform the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development into the Malta Council for Sustainable Development. We also agree that sustainable development should be mainstreamed in all the public sector, under the responsibility of the Prime Minister.
Partit Nazzjonalista is proposing clear implementation so that all government run entities and buildings should be zero carbon. We also believe that mandatory greening should form part of public sector development projects. The Green Leaders initiative should be effectively in place: All government entities should have an officer responsible for green initiatives, and the green procurement clause in public contracts should be strengthened.
As regards Malta’s EU membership, we believe that there should be better monitoring and reporting of environmental standards to ensure better application of directives. We also believe that small islands should have special clauses to protect the environment and to enhance sustainability. For example, Environment Impact Assessments should also be applicable to small-scale development with cumulative impacts on localities.
In the near future, specific policy proposals in areas such as land development, transport, pollution and waste management will also be announced by Partit Nazzjonalista. We are consulting with stakeholders through an ongoing process so as to have the best evidence-based policies possible.