Il-PN jgħatti x-xemx bl-għarbiel ?

Voting Rationalisation YES

(nota : ir-ritratt hu estratt mill-minuti tal-Parlament li juri l-ismijiet tal-Membri Parlamentari li vvutaw favur l-estensjoni tal-limiti tal-iżvilupp, rationalisation, fl-2006 ) 

 

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista ippubblika l-proposti tiegħu dwar l-ambjent fi ktejjeb intitolat  : A Better Quality of Life for You.  Dan hu bla dubju pass ‘il quddiem, kienu x’kienu r-raġunijiet li wassluh għal dan il-pass.

Fid-daħla għad-dokument ippubblikat, il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni jagħmel dikjarazzjoni importanti. Jgħid: “Bnejna l-istituzzjonijiet u b’mod ġenerali fassalna politika tajba – imma bosta drabi ma assigurajniex li din tkun implimentata, inkella qgħadna nduru mal-lewża u ħloqna wisq eċċezzjonijiet.”

Dan, fil-fehma tiegħi ifisser, li, wara kollox,  hu ċar għal kulħadd li mhux biss hu meħtieġ li tfassal il-politika t-tajba, imma li huwa essenzjali ukoll li l-istituzzjonijiet li jkunu fdati bl-implimentazzjoni ta’ din il-politika jkunu f’posizzjoni li jistgħu jwettqu r-responsabbiltajiet tagħhom. Għax kif jistgħu jiffunzjonaw dawn l-istituzzjonijiet jekk f’posizzjonijiet ta’ tmexxija kruċjali jkollhom persuni partiġjani jew persuni ta’ fiduċja tal-Ministru, flok persuni mħarrġa u teknikament kompetenti?

Wara kollox, it-twettieq tal-politika ambjentali jiddependi fuq tmexxija tajba (good governance) li ilha nieqsa mill-istituzzjonijiet għal perjodu mhux żgħir.

X’jiswa’ li jkollok il-politika tajba dwar l-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art biex imbagħad il-Gvern immexxi mill-PN iċedi għall-pressjoni tal-spekulaturi tal-art meta mexxa ‘l quddiem proposta imsejħa skema dwar ir-razzjonalizzazzjoni li permezz tagħha l-limiti tal-iżvilupp ġew estiżi b’mod orizzontali?  Biex tkompli tgħaqqadha, fl-istess ħin, il-PN fil-Gvern estenda ukoll il-limiti tal-iżvilupp f’direzzjoni vertikali. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan, il-PN fil-Gvern injora l-poltika dikjarat tiegħu kif ukoll l-informazzjoni miġbura fid-diversi ċensimenti li kienu juru ċar li l-bini vojt kien qed jiżdied.

Il-politika ambjentali hi intrinsikament marbuta ma diversi oqsma oħra. L-estensjonijiet bl-addoċċ għal-limiti ta’ żvilupp ħolqu ħafna diffikultajiet lil diversi residenti Maltin li jridu jiġġeneraw l-enerġija alternattiva permezz tal-pannelli foto-voltajċi fuq il-bjut. Waqt li l-Ministru responsabbli mill-politika dwar l-enerġija alternattiva kien qed ifittex li jħajjar lin-nies biex jistallaw il-pannelli foto-voltajċi, min-naħa l-oħra l-Ministru għall-Ippjanar tal-Użu tal-Art kien mehdi jilgħab bl-għoli permissibli tal-bini f’diversi lokalitajiet. Kif nistgħu nippjanaw sewwa għal ġenerazzjoni ta’ enerġija alternattiva jekk l-aċċess għax-xemx f’diversi lokalitajiet m’huwiex garantit b’għoli permissibli ta’ bini li ma jinbidilx?

Nitkellmu ukoll dwar il-ħtieġa li nassiguraw titjib fil-kwalitá tal-arja, imma fl-istess ħin ma hemm l-ebda ħeġġa biex ikun indirizzat in-numru ta’ karozzi fit-toroq tagħna li qed jikber b’mod astronomiku. Dawn il-karozzi huma l-kawża ewlenija ta’ kwalitá tal-arja li sejra dejjem għall-agħar, f’uħud mil-lokalitajiet tagħna. Minflok ma nindirizzaw din il-problema reali, gvern wara l-ieħor ipprefera li jagħmilha iktar faċli biex il-karozzi jibqgħu jiddominaw it-toroq tagħna u dan billi jroxxu l-miljuni fi proġetti infrastrutturali għal toroq mhux meħtieġa. Dawn il-proġetti jservu biss biex iżidu l-karozzi fit-toroq, meta l-oġġettiv ta’ gvern serju għandu jkun l-oppost: li dawn jonqsu.

Marbuta ma dan kollu hemm in-nuqqas ta’ attenzjoni lit-trasport pubbliku tul is-snin. Filwaqt li għandna nirrikonoxxu li matul dawn l-aħħar sitta u tletin xahar kien hemm titjib fis-servizz, dan xorta għadu ferm ‘il bogħod minn dak mistenni f’pajjiż żgħir fejn id-distanzi bejn il-lokalitajiet huma minimi. Dan ukoll kien falliment ieħor fit-twettiq ta’ “politika tajba”.

Il-politika ambjentali hi dwar għażliet u deċiżjonijiet. Tul is-snin Alternattiva Demokratika, il-partit ekoloġiku f’Malta, fittex li jqiegħed dawn l-għażliet fuq l-agenda nazzjonali biex il-Maltin ikun f’posizzjoni li jiddeċiedu.

Wara ħafna snin, il-Partit Nazzjonalista stenbaħ għar-realtá ambjentali ta’ madwarna. Waqt li dan, minnu innifsu hu sinjal tajjeb, nistennew li l-PN  jibda l-proċess biex jirrevedi l-bqija tal-politika tiegħu u jġibha konsistenti mal-proposti ambjentali mħabbra. Meta dan iseħħ, forsi nkunu f’posizzjoni li niffurmaw opinjoni dwar jekk il-proposti ambjentali tal-PN humiex frott ta’ konvinzjoni inkella jekk għal darba oħra humiex jippruvaw jgħattu x-xemx bl-għarbiel.

ippubblikat fuq Illum : 5 ta’ Frar 2017

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Environmental policy is about political decisions

The Nationalist Party has recently published its proposals for the environment in a document entitled A Better Quality of Life for You. This is a step forward, irrespective of the reasons motivating it.

In the foreword to the published document, the Leader of the Opposition makes a very important declaration. He states: “We built the necessary institutions, and generally put in the right policies – but all too often we did not ensure they were fully implemented, or we circumvented them, and made too many exceptions.”

This signifies a recognition of the fact that, at the end of the day, the real issue is not just the identification of the “right policies”,  but of ensuring that the institutions entrusted to implement them are in a position to carry out their responsibilities. How can these institutions function when key posts are filled with partisan cronies, or so-called “persons of trust” instead of competent technical people?

At the end of the day, the successful implementation of environmental policy is dependent upon a favourable climate of good governance which has been conspicuous by its absence for quite a long time.

What purpose does it serve to have the “right policies” on land use planning when, as a result of pressures from the land speculation lobby, the PN in Government adopted a rationalisation scheme extending the limits of development in a horizontal direction? To make matters worse, simultaneously the PN in government also extended the limits of development in a vertical direction. As a result it ignored both its own sanctimonious declarations as well as the clear indications from data collected and analysed by official bodies that the net result of its actions was a continuous increase in the number of vacant properties.

Environmental policy is intrinsically linked to various other policy areas. The haphazard extensions of the limits to development – the horizontal ones as well as the vertical ones – have, and still are, wreaking havoc on the capacity of Maltese households to generate alternative energy through the placing of photo-voltaic panels on the rooftops of their homes. While the Energy Minister advocates the need to generate alternative energy through the installation of photo-voltaic panels, the Minister responsible for land-use planning has been playing around with flexible permissible building heights in various localities. How can we adequately plan the generation of alternative energy if solar rights are not guaranteed through rigid height limitation regulations?

Similarly, we speak of the need to ensure an improvement in air quality but simultaneously there is a reluctance to address the spiralling number of cars on our roads – the major contributor to poor air quality in a number of areas. Instead of addressing the matter head-on, successive governments have sought to make it easier for car owners to dominate our roads by sprinkling millions of euros on the unnecessary development of the road infrastructure. In my view, such developments are unnecessary, as the end result will be a further increase in the number of cars when the real and only solution is an immediate reduction.

Linked to all this is the lack of importance given to public transport. While acknowledging that there has been an improvement in the use of public transport during the past 36 months, this is still considerably way off what it should be in a small country where distances between localities are minimal. This, too, is a failure to implement the “right policies”.

Environment policy is about making choices and taking decisions – some of which may be difficult and contentious. Over the years, it has been the objective of Alternattiva Demokratika, the Green Party in Malta, to place these choices on the national agenda so that our citizens are in a position to consider them and decide.

After many years, the Nationalist Party has woken up to the environmental realities around us. While this is positive, I await the revision of the PN’s other policies, which are inconsistent with their environmental proposals. When that happens, we may be able to form a definite opinion as to whether the publication by the Nationalist Party of its environment proposals is for real, or else another green-washing exercise in which matter the Nationalist Party has accumulated considerable experience.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 5 February 2017

Konrad Mizzi tfixkel f’ilsienu

Konrad Mizzi

Hemm ħafna x’jeħtieġ li jkun iċċarat fil-kuntratt dwar il-pannelli fotovoltajiċi li ssemma fil-Parlament il-ġimgħa l-oħra mill-Ministru Konrad Mizzi.

Il-kuntratt jikkonċerna t-tqegħid tal-pannelli fotovoltajiċi fuq bini pubbliku. Dan il-kuntratt, li ngħata qabel l-elezzjoni ta’ Marzu 2013, kien jipprovdi biex isir ħlas għall-elettriku ġġenerat  permezz tal-pannelli għal 25 sena bir-rata garantita ta’ 23 ċenteżmu-il unit. Rata li mad-daqqa t’għajn tidher ftit għolja.

Fil-Parlament il-Ministru Konrad Mizzi qal li saret investgazzjoni mill-IAID (Internal Audit and Investgations Department). Il-Pulizija intalbet tinvestiga dak li rriżulta lill-IAID. Din it-talba lill-Pulizija saret  kemm minn Konrad Mizzi kif ukoll minn George Pullicino.

Fid-diskussjoni li issa ilha għaddejja kważi ġimgħa ġew indikati uħud mill-irregolaritajiet. Fosthom dokument “stramb” maħruġ minn Bank Spanjol : document mhux iffirmat. Dan id-dokument kien jiċċertifika li l-kumpanija Spanjola li kienet involuta fit-tender bħala waħda b’saħħitha finanzjarjament. Issa qiegħed jingħad ukoll li l-Bank Spanjol li suppost ħareġ id-dokument kien diġa ġie assorbit minn Bank ieħor meta ħareġ dan id-dokument u li allura, meta suppost ħareġ dan id-dokument ma kienx għadu jeżisti bħala entita’ separata.

Min kellu x’jaqsam mal-produzzjoni ta’ dan id-dokument? Min aċċettaħ bla ma kien iffirmat?

Dawn u ħafna mistoqsijiet oħra forsi jiġu mwieġba mill-Pulizija wara li jkunu investigaw il-każ. Ta’ l-inqas hekk hu ittamat.

Imma hemm ħaġa waħda li ma nistax nifhem. Kif tista’ tinkariga lill-Pulizija biex tinvestiga u bagħad waqt li l-Pulizija tkun għaddejja b’xogħolha tippubblika biċċa mill-istorja waqt dibattitu jaħraq fil-Parlament?

Kien ikun ferm għaqli kieku Konrad għalaq ħalqu sakemm il-Pulizija ikkonkludiet xogħolha.

X’ser jikkonkludu l-Pulizija ħadd m’għandu idea, mhux biss minħabba li l-investigazzjoni għadha fil-bidu imma ukoll għax ir-rapport tal-investigazzjoni oriġinali għadu mhux ippubblikat. Nafu biss biċċiet mill-istorja, l-biċċiet li Konrad ħassu komdu li jisvela. Dan għamlu biex ikun jista’ jattakka lill-avversarji politiċi għax ħassu skomdu ħafna jiddefendi ruħu dwar il-fatt li l-wegħda biex il-Power Station bil-gass tkun lesta sa Marzu 2015 mhux ser tkun imwettqa.

Għalija m’huwiex ċar jekk hux każ ta’ korruzzjoni inkella ta’ amministrazzjoni ħażina. It-tnejn huma ta’ gravita u jeħtieġ li jkunu indirizzati b’severita’. (Dan kollu apparti dak li ġara biex ġie prodott id-dokument mhux iffirmat!) Mill-kummenti li għadda fil-Parlament donnu li Konrad diġa iddeċieda x’ġara u min hu responsabbli!

Is-serjeta’  kienet titlob li l-Ministru jaġixxi b’mod li jħalli lill-Pulizija spazju biex jagħmlu xogħolhom sewwa. Ħaġa li l-Ministru Konrad Mizzi sfortunatament ma kienx kapaċi jagħmel. Konrad tfixkel f’ilsienu.

 

Iktar dellijiet, inqas enerġija mix-xemx

solar rights

Qed jipproponu li lukandi li jeħtieġu iktar spazju jkollhom il-possibilita’ li jibnu żewġ sulari oħra. Nifhem li dawn ser ikunu żewġ sulari iktar milli l-pjan lokali preżentement jippermetti.

L-iskuża hi li bidla bħal din tgħin lit-turiżmu u lill-ekonomija.

Fil-fehma tiegħi bidla bħal din m’hiex meħtieġa. La tgħin lit-turiżmu u l-anqas lill-ekonomija. Toħloq chaos iktar milli hawn bħalissa fil-qasam tal-ippjanar fl-użu tal-art. Għax jekk ir-regoli jinbidlu għal settur wieħed, ġustament ser iqumu setturi oħra u jippretendu trattament ugwali.

Għax għandek tippermetti għoli addizzjonali għat-turiżmu u mhux għoli addizzjonali għall-uffiċini jew għar-residenzi?

Imbagħad hemm argument addizzjonali dwar l-enerġija solari. Il-bini eżistenti madwar dawn il-lukandi ser ikun effettwat ħażin. Ser ikun hemm diversi minn dan il-bini li fih sar investiment f’apparat li jagħmel użu mix-xemx. Dan l-apparat  (pannelli foto-voltaiċi u solar water heaters) li issa ser ikun fid-dell ser ikun investiment moħli.

Tiftakru lill-Labour Party jitkellem fuq solar rights?  Leo Brincat, 5 snin ilu kien qalilna: MLP calls for solar rights as civil rights. M’ilux ħafna li qalulna dan, iżda konvenjentement ġja insew!

Snippets from AD’s electoral manifesto: (39) Solar energy from the Sahara Desert

A general view shows the PS10 solar plant at "Solucar" solar park in Sanlucar la Mayor

The following extract is taken verbatim from Chapter 13 of AD’s Electoral Manifest

Malta should be involved in efforts to harness solar energy from the Sahara desert, bearing in mind the rights of residents where such developments take place and the social aspects affecting the populations of the area. Saharan populations should have the right to access the created energy and take part fully in the local committee..

L-Estratt segwenti hu meħud kelma b’kelma mill-Kapitlu 13 tal-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika

Malta għandha tappoġġja u tinvolvi ruħha b’mod attiv fl-idea tal-iżvilupp ta’ sistemi ta’ energija solari fid-deżert tas-Saħara fl-Afrika ta’ fuq, sakemm jitħares l-aspett soċjali tal-popolazzjoni lokali, inkluż id-drittijiet ta’ residenti f’żoni fejn isir żvilupp,

id-drittijet tar-residenti li jkollhom aċċess ekwu għall-enerġija li tiġi prodotta u parteċipazzjoni sħiħa ta’ komunitajiet lokali.

Snippets from AD’s electoral manifesto: (5) Development and Land Use

construction_site_img_9716

The following extract is taken verbatim from Chapter 14 of AD’s Electoral Manifesto

Development and Land Use.

The results of the 2011 Census have not yet been published. It is however very clear that when the result is known the number of vacant residential properties shall be well in excess of the 53,000 vacant dwellings documented in the 2005 Census. This clearly shows how the building industry was given a free rein, building in an uncontrolled manner with substantially more land being built up.

The Census results should be taken note of and lessons should be learnt. It should not be ignored as the 2005 Census was in relation to building and land use.

In view of this large number of vacant residential units AD insists that there is no need of large scale residential projects and it shall thus propose a moratorium on this type of development. It is also necessary that the rationalisation exercise through which additional land for development was identified in 2006 should be reversed in all those cases where land so identified has not yet been developed.

The increase in permissible heights for development in various localities which was brought into effect by the Local Plans approved in 2006 should be reversed. In these cases land speculators are placing in the shade various residential areas and as a result they are ruining investments which Maltese families have made in solar energy technology.

The construction of penthouses should be discouraged in order that roofs can be better used for the generation of solar energy.

L-Estratt segwenti hu mehud kelma b’kelma mill-Kapitlu 14 tal-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika

Il-Bini u l-Użu tal-Art

Ir-rizultat taċ-ċensiment tal-2011 għadu mhux ippubblikat. Iżda huwa ċar li meta ser joħroġ dan ir-riżultat in-numru ta’ postjiet residenzjali vojta ser ikun ferm ikbar mit-53,000 li kienu irriżultaw fiċ-ċensiment tal-2005. Dan juri kemm l-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni tħalliet għal riħha, tibni bl-addoċċ u bir-riżultat li iktar art inbniet.

Ir-riżultat taċ-ċensiment irridu nieħdu l-lezzjonijiet minnu, mhux kif ġara bir-riżultat taċ-ċensiment tal-2005 li prattikament ġie injorat fil-qasam tal-bini u tal-użu tal-art.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan in-numru ta’ postijiet vojta, Alternattiva Demokratika tinsisti illi ma hemmx ħtieġa ta’ proġetti residenzjali ġodda fuq skala kbira u għaldaqstant qed tipproponi moratorju fuq dan it-tip ta’ żvilupp. Hemm ħtieġa ukoll li l-proċess li bih żdiedu bosta artijiet għall-iżvilupp fl-2006, magħruf bħala l-proċess tar-razzjonalizzazzjoni, safejn ma bediex il-proċess ta’ bini fuq dawn l-artijiet għandu jitreġġa’ lura.

Għandu jitreġġa’ lura l-għoli ta’ bini permissibli f’diversi partijiet ta’ Malta li sar permezz tal-Pjanijiet Lokali approvati fl-2006 u li bħala riżultat tagħhom spekulaturi qed jidfnu diversi żoni residenzjali fid-dell u jagħmlu ħerba minn investimenti tal-familji Maltin fit-teknoloġija tal-enerġija solari.

Il-bini tal-penthouses għandu jkun skoraġġit u dan biex il-bjut ikunu jistgħu jintużaw għall-ġenerazzjoni ta’ enerġija solari.

Malta’s Nine Ghost Towns

The 2005 Census had revealed that 53,136 residential units in Malta were vacant. This was an increase of 17,413 units over the 35,723 vacant residential units identified during the 1995 Census. Faced with an increase of over 48 per cent in 10 years, a responsible government would have contained the development boundaries as existing supply can satisfy the demand for residential accommodation for many years to come.

In 2006, just nine months after the 2005 Census, the Nationalist Party-led Government defied common sense and, instead of applying the brakes, it further increased the possibilities for building development through three specific decisions. Through the rationalisation process, the PN-led Government extended the boundaries of development in all localities. Then it facilitated the construction of penthouses by relaxing the applicable conditions. If this were not enough, it increased the height limitations in various localities, intensifying development in existing built-up areas.

As a result of increasing the permissible heights, sunlight was blocked off low-lying residential buildings in the affected areas.

These residences were using sunlight to heat water through solar water heaters or to generate electricity through photovoltaic panels installed on their rooftops.

They can now discard their investments in alternative energy thanks to the PN-led Government’s land use policies!

The result of these myopic land use planning policies further increased the number of vacant properties, which is estimated as being in excess of 70,000 vacant residential units. (Mepa chairman Austin Walker, in an interview in June 2010, had referred to an estimated 76,000 vacant residential properties.)

The estimated total of vacant residential properties is equivalent to nine times the size of the residential area of Birkirkara, the largest locality in Malta, which, in 2005, had 7,613 residential units.

These ghost towns over the years have gobbled up resources to develop or upgrade an infrastructure that is underutilised. Spread all over the Maltese islands, these ghost towns have required new roads, extending the drainage system, extending the utility networks and street lighting as well as various other services provided by local councils.

The funds channelled to service ghost towns could have been better utilised to upgrade the infrastructure in the existing localities over the years.

The above justifies calls for an urgent revision of development boundaries through a reversal of the 2006 rationalisation exercise where land included for development in 2006 is still uncommitted.

Similarly, the relaxation of height limitations and the facilitated possibility to construct penthouses should be reversed forthwith.

All this is clearly in conflict with the efforts being made by the Government itself, assisted with EU funds, to increase the uptake of solar water heaters and photovoltaic panels.

I am aware of specific cases where decisions to install photovoltaic panels have had to be reversed as a result of the development permitted on adjacent property subsequent to the 2006 height relaxation decisions.

In its electoral manifesto for the forthcoming election, AD, the Green party, will be proposing a moratorium on large-scale development in addition to the reversal of the above policies as it is unacceptable that the construction industry keeps gobbling up land and, as a result, adding to the stock of vacant property.

The market has been unable to deal with the situation and, consequently, the matter has to be dealt by a government that is capable of taking tough decisions in the national interest.

Neither the PN nor the Labour Party are capable of taking such decisions as it has been proven time and again that both of them are hostages to the construction industry.

The slowdown of the activities of the construction industry is the appropriate time to consider the parameters of its required restructuring. It is clear that the construction industry has to be aided by the State to retrain its employees in those areas of operation where lack of skills exist.

There are three such areas: traditional building trades, road construction and maintenance as well as marine engineering.

Traditional building skills are required primarily to facilitate rehabilitation works of our village cores and to properly maintain our historical heritage. Our roads require more properly-trained personnel so that standards of road construction and maintenance are improved and works carried out in time. Our ports and coastal defences require a well-planned maintenance programme and various other adaptation works as a result of the anticipated sea-level variations caused by climate change.

The construction industry employs about 11,000 persons. It is imperative that its restructuring is taken in hand immediately.

In addition to halting more environmental damage, a long overdue restructuring will also serve to mitigate the social impacts of the slowdown on the families of its employees through retraining for alternative jobs both in the construction industry itself and elsewhere.

The so-called ‘social policy’ of the PN and the PL have neglected these families for years on end.

 

published in The Times on 29 September 2012

It is time to ride the waves

Continue reading

Linking energy and democracy

 
The Times Logo
Saturday, June 18, 2011 ,
by

Carmel Cacopardo

 

Last weekend, Italian voters said no to nuclear energy for the second time since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 25 years ago.

Italy is not alone in refusing to handle nuclear energy. The Fukushima incidents have driven home the point that, even in a country that is very strict on safety standards, nuclear energy is not safe. Fukushima has proven that no amount of safeguards can render nuclear energy 100 per cent safe. Though accidents are bound to happen irrespective of the technology used, the risks associated with nuclear technology are such that they can easily wipe out life from the affected area in a very short time.

Last weekend’s no has a particular significance for Malta as this means an end to plans for the construction of a nuclear power plant at Palma di Montechiaro on Sicily’s southern coast, less than 100 kilometres from the Maltese islands.

Germany’s Christian Democrat/Liberal coalition government, faced with the resounding victory of the Greens in the Länd of Baden-Württemberg, has made a policy U-turn. As a direct effect of the Greens-led opposition to Germany’s nuclear programme, Germany will be nuclear-energy free as from 2022, by which date all existing nuclear power installations will be phased out. In doing so, the Merkel government has, once and for all, accepted the Green-Red coalition agreement on a complete nuclear phaseout.

Even Switzerland is planning not to make use of its existing nuclear plants beyond their scheduled projected life. The Swiss government will be submitting to Parliament a proposal not to replace existing nuclear plants. The process is scheduled to commence in 2019 and will conclude with the closure of the last Swiss nuclear reactor in 2034.

After the Tunisian revolution, Abdelkader Zitouni, the leader of Tunisie Verte, the Tunisian Green party, has called on Tunisia’s transitional government to repudiate the Franco-Tunisian agreement for the provision of nuclear technology by France. Hopefully, the same will happen when the Administration of Libya is back to normal.

There are other Mediterranean neighbours that are interested in the construction of nuclear plants. Libya and Tunisia were joined by Algeria, Morocco and Egypt in reacting positively to Nicolas Sarkozy, the peripatetic nuclear salesman during the past four years.

Malta could do without nuclear energy installations on its doorstep. Italy’s decision and the policy being advocated by Mr Zitouni are a welcome start. It would be wishful thinking to imagine Foreign Minister Tonio Borg taking the initiative in campaigning for a Mediterranean free of nuclear energy even though this is in Malta’s interest.

It is a very healthy sign that Malta’s neighbours together with Germany and Switzerland are repudiating the use of nuclear energy. Their no to nuclear energy is simultaneously a yes to renewable energy. This will necessarily lead to more efforts, research and investment in renewable energy generation as it is the only reasonable way to make up for the shortfall between energy supply and demand.

A case in point is the Desertec project, which is still in its infancy. The Desertec initiative is based on the basic fact that six hours of solar energy incident on the world’s deserts exceeds the amount of energy used all over the globe in one whole year. Given that more than 90 per cent of the world’s population lives within 3,000 kilometres of a desert, the Desertec initiative considers that most of the world’s energy needs can be economically met through tapping the solar energy that can be captured from the surface of the deserts.

The technology is available and has been extensively tested in the Mojave Desert, California, in Alvarado (Badajoz), Spain and in the Negev Desert in Israel where new plants generating solar energy on a large scale have been in operation for some time. The Desertec project envisages that Europe’s energy needs can be met through tapping the solar energy incident on the Sahara desert. The problems that have to be surmounted are of a technical and of a geopolitical nature.

On the technical front, solutions are being developed to address more efficient storage and the efficient transmission of the electricity generated.

The Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt and, hopefully, the successful conclusion of the Libyan revolution will address the other major concern: that of energy security. The movement towards democracy in North Africa can contribute towards the early success of the Desertec project in tapping solar energy in the Sahara desert for use in both Northern Africa and in Europe.

While Malta stands to gain economically and environmentally through the realisation of such a project, I have yet to hear the government’s enthusiasm and commitment even if the project is still in its initial stages.

Malta is committed in favour of the pro-democracy movements in Egypt, Tunisia and Benghazi. Being surrounded by democratic neighbours is a definitely positive geopolitical development. If properly nurtured, this would enhance Malta’s economic development, energy security and environmental protection concerns.

Green Icing on half-baked cake

times_of_malta196x703published on 15 November 2008

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by Carmel Cacopardo

 

 

The budget environmental initiatives can best be described as green icing on the cake. However,once you cut through the icing there is not much to be overjoyed with. These initiatives could be considered as a declaration of intent: the good intentions being severely hampered by the government’s lack of action in the past, even the very recent past. As a result it is very difficult for these initiatives to yield positive results at the present time.

A number of initiatives are linked to transport. While the proposal to refund 15.25 per cent of a bicycle’s cost is welcome, it lacks the support of the necessary infrastructure thereby severely diluting its significance and possible impact. There are very few cycle lanes on our roads, and those that exist are frequently obstructed or else end abruptly. Few bicycle racks were installed in our towns and villages, the most notable being the ones in Birkirkara installed by the local council on the initiative of Green local councillor Mario Mallia during his term of office some years ago.

Others exist in Attard, a credit to Attard Green councillor Ralph Cassar. But very few exist elsewhere. AD is insisting through its local councillors in Attard (Ralph Cassar), Sliema (Michael Briguglio) and Ta’ Sannat (John Mizzi) for more initiatives which would make our roads bicycle friendly. It is only thus that the budget bicycle initiative could make any sense. What about some action by ADT?

The new car tax regime (both registration tax and circulation tax) could have been designed in a better manner. The age of a car, for example, is not necessarily conducive to increased environmental impacts.

The actual emissions as resulting from the VRT test would have been a much better point of reference than vehicle age in determining car taxation. This would encourage and reward those who keep their cars in good working order.

The budget also increased the licence fees (circulation tax) to be paid relative to cars currently on the road. When viewed within the context of the practical inexistence of a reliable public transport service, in the short term this is bad policy.

In the long term, however, it could be an adequate policy tool to encourage the reduction of the 295,000 cars currently on the road. In order to function properly eco taxation requires the existence of an alternative to what is being taxed: the alternative in this case being public transport. In the absence of an alternative the end result will be socially regressive: reduced accessibility to those at the lower end of the social ladder. If the real objective of the new car licence rates (circulation tax) is environmental, it would have been much better for all if they were not applicable immediately. Their applicability should be linked to the reform of the public transport system.

Government’s encouragement of photovoltaic panel installation is very limited. It is generous but due to financial constraints it will be limited to around 200 households.

It is also hampered by other issues which have not yet been addressed. Issues of ownership of airspace have to be examined and new concepts as to its use have to be developed. Likewise from a land use planning point of view any future increase of permissible building heights has to be balanced against the right of access to solar energy.

The direct subsidy of photovoltaic panel purchase is not the only way to encourage installation. The government should explore schemes through which the purchase price is paid through the electrical energy generated. An initiative such as this would render solar energy accessible to those who do not have the required capital outlay readily available.

The eco tax applicable to incandescent light bulbs and the increase in eco tax payable on plastic bags were long overdue. However, the government must explain how it will tackle its major loophole in this respect. It is a known fact, at times documented in the media, that the manner in which eco taxes are being evaded is through overland supplies from neighbouring Sicily. It is eco tax versus the free movement of goods. Will checks be introduced at the border to control blatant and obvious tax evasion?

It is also amusing to note that the government is a late convert to the applicability of eco taxation in the tourism sector. The rate to be applied as from 2010 is insignificant but at last this green principle, which was under attack on the eve of the 2004 European Parliament elections, has now been accepted. Tourism has to date been excluded from the applicability of the polluter pays principle. Hopefully it will slowly come in line. Next to follow should be MTA encouragement of eco and agro tourism. These are forms of tourism with substantially lower environmental impacts than conventional tourism.

The green icing may be fine, but if the cake is half-baked what’s the use?