Beyond the trees

The public debate of the Central Link project is currently concentrated on the manner in which it will impact the tree population along its route. It is an important discussion because it is concentrating on one of the visible impacts of the project. The trees should definitely by protected and preferably increased in number.

However the number of trees impacted is just an (important) detail. There are other “important details” which need to be considered, amongst which the agricultural land to be taken up, the emissions – which need to be reduced, in particular the minute particulate matter- as well as noise pollution.

Little discussion has, however, ensued on the basic question: do we need the proposed improvement of the road network?

To answer this basic issue, we need to consider the different options available to facilitate sustainable mobility around our islands. These are options that are available to each and every one of us, but do we make use of them?

Why do we make use of private cars for very short distances? Are we aware of the fact that around 50 per cent of journeys in private cars on our roads are of under 15 minutes duration?

To answer the basic question we cannot just focus on traffic congestion. Traffic congestion is, in reality, the effect and not the cause of our transport problems: it means that our roads are bursting at the seams. We need to consider the issue in depth and in a holistic manner.

The National Transport Master Plan for the Maltese Islands does just that. When considering the proposals listed in the Master Plan, it is not a question of pick and choose: it is an integrated plan. Some of the proposals are easy to implement, others are tough as they strike at the real cause of our transport problems: our behaviour. Little effort is being expended in this direction.

The operational objectives for road transport in the Master Plan place great emphasis on the need to reduce the role of the car in the busy congested urban areas as well as on the provision of alternatives to private vehicular demand in these areas.

Unfortunately, instead of implementing these basic operational objectives Transport Malta is focusing on increasing the capacity of the road network in order to address traffic congestion. As a result, it is addressing the effects and ignoring the cause of the miserable state of our road network.

Government’s policy of massive investment in the road network, will, in the long term, be counter-productive as it will only serve to increase the number of vehicles on our roads and, consequently, cause more congestion.

Just throwing money at problems in the form of substantial subsidies of public transport is not as effective as we would like. The positive impacts of these and other subsidies are being cancelled out through the massive road network investment: a declaration that the private car is the preferred mode of transport of the policy maker.

As a result, the clear message of Malta’s transport policy is that public transport is only tolerated as life is only made easy for the users of private vehicles. It should, in fact, be the other way around.

The National Transport Master Plan clearly emphasises that the lack of importance given to long-term planning means that a long-term integrated plan based on solid analysis with clear objectives and targets is lacking. This has resulted in the lack of strategic direction and the inherent inability to address difficult issues such as private vehicle restraint.

It is about time that the government starts implementing its own Master Plan which so far it has consistently ignored.

published in The Independent on Sunday : 24 June 2018

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L-iskandlu tal-Volkswagen fit-toroq Maltin

BBC.VW cheating

 

In-numru ta’ karozzi fit-toroq tagħna hu wieħed kbir, anzi hu kbir ħafna. It-toroq ma jesgħux daqstant karozzi tant li f’xi ħinijiet dawn ikunu ġġammjati bħalma rajna dal-għodu, issa li reġgħu bdew l-iskejjel. Skond iċ-ċifri uffiċjali, sa l-aħħar ta’ Ġunju fit-toroq tagħna kellna 340,981 karozza, inkluż dawk ta’ użu kummerċjali. Jiġifieri 802 karozza għal kull 1000 ruħ li hawn f’Malta u Għawdex.

Hemm ħtieġa li jonqsu l-karozzi fit-toroq. Dan jista’ jseħħ biss kemm-il darba t-trasport pubbliku jagħmel il-qabża tant meħtieġa fil-kwalità, biex ikun użat iktar u b’hekk joffri alternattiva kredibbli u prattika għall-użu tal-karozzi privati.

Sadanittant bosta jibqgħu jagħmlu użu minn karozzi privati, b’numru li qiegħed dejjem jiżdied u li qed ikompli jħassar il-kwalità tal-arja ta’ pajjiżna. Il-posizzjoni dejjem qed tmur għall-agħar meta uħud minn dawk li jimmanifatturaw il-karozzi, minn fuq, jabbużaw mill-posizzjoni tagħhom.

Fi tmiem il-ġimgħa li għaddiet tħabbar li l-Iżviżżera waqqfet temporanjament il-bejgħ tal-mudelli tal-karozzi li jaħdmu bid-diesel li tipproduċi l-Volkswagen u li sal-lum hu magħruf li huma effettwati mill-iskandlu tal-emmissjonijiet moħbija. L-iskandlu tal-Volkswagen.

Il-karozzi effettwati, mudelli li jaħdmu bid-diesel li ġew immanifatturati bejn l-2009 u l-2015 huma VW Jetta, Beetle u Golf, il-mudell Passat tal-2014-15, u l-mudell Audi A3 ta’ bejn l-2009 u l-2015. Minn dawn jidher li hemm ħdax-il miljun karozza imxerrda mat-toroq tad-dinja.

F’Malta sadanittant l-informazzjoni għadha qed tinġabar. Għax nhar is-Sibt tħabbar li Transport Malta fl-aħħar bdiet tiċċaqlaq u talbet l-informazzjoni lill-aġenti lokali biex tkun tista’ tagħmel il-verifiki meħtieġa.

X’qed tistenna Trasport Malta biex bħall-Isvizzera temporanjament twaqqaf il-bejgħ ta’ dawn il-karozzi billi żżommilhom il-ħruġ tal-liċenzja? X’qed tistenna Transport Malta biex tissospendi temporanjament il-liċenzji ta’ dawn il-karozzi diġa fit-toroq tagħna u mgħammra b’dan l-apparat li jaħbi t-tniġġiż rejali li jikkawżaw?

It-tniġġiz li qed jikkawzaw dawn il-karozzi huwa wieħed sostanzjali. Skond dak li diġa ntqal fil-media dan it-tniġġiż ivarja bejn 20 darba u 35 darba dak li hu permess.

L-istorja ħarġet fil-media l-ġimgħa l-oħra, imma r-riżultati tat-testijiet li saru ilha magħrufa 18-il xahar. Imma f’dawn it-18-il xahar ma sar xejn la mill-kumpanija Volksvagen u l-anqas mill-Gvern Ġermaniż, bit-tama li l-istorja tintesa.

Minflok, matul dawn it-18-il xahar inbiegħu iktar karozzi. B’hekk żdiedu iktar il-karozzi fit-toroq li jniġġsu ħafna iktar milli hu permess.

Hemm bżonn li Transport Malta tfittex tieħu passi billi tneħħi mit-toroq tagħna dawn il-karozzi li qed iniġgsu ħafna iktar milli hu permissibli. Irid jieqaf ukoll immedjatament il-bejgħ ta’ dawn il-karozzi sakemm isirulhom l-aġġustamenti neċessarji biex it-tniġġis li jikkawzaw jinġieb f’livell aċċettabbli.

Huma f’dawn il-mumenti li jkollna l-provi dwar kemm l-awtoritajiet f’Malta jaħdmu fl-interess tagħna lkoll.

kummentarju imxandar fuq RTK – It-Tnejn 28 ta’ Settembru 2015

L-iskandlu tal-Volkswagen

Volkswagen. Das Cheater

 

Id-dettalji tal-iskandlu tal-Volkswagen  fl-iStati Uniti tal-Amerika għadhom ħerġin. L-istorja kollha, forsi, għadha mhux magħrufa s’issa.

Jidher li dan l-iskandlu jinvolvi madwar nofs miljun karozza li taħdem bid-diesel (qed issemma ukoll iċ-ċifra ferm ikbar ta’ 11-il miljun karozza) kif ukoll żieda ta’ madwar miljun tunellata ta’ emmissjonijiet ta’ NOx li jniġġzu l-arja u li  fil-parti l–kbira tagħhom huma ta’ ħsara għas-saħħa.

Dan jidher li seħħ minħabba li diversi karozzi prodotti mill-kumpanija Volkswagen kellhom apparat elettroniku stallat li kien inaqqas it-tniġġiz meta l-karozzi jkunu qed jiġu ittestjati liema apparat iżda ma kienx jaħdem f’ħin ieħor. Jidher li l-logħba kienet permezz ta’ software li kien istallat biex meta l-karozza tkun qed tiġi misjuqa b’mod normali l-kontrolli tal-emmissjoniiet kienu jintfew awtomatikament b’mod elettroniku. Dawn il-kontrolli iżda, kienu jerġgħu jinxtegħlu awtomatikament meta jkun għaddej xi test tal-emmissjonijiet.

Il-karozzi effettwati, mudelli li jaħdmu bid-diesel li ġew immanifatturati bejn l-2009 u l-2015 jidher li huma VW Jetta, Beetle u Golf, il-mudell Passat tal-2014-15, u l-mudell Audi A3 ta’ bejn l-2009 u l-2015.

Volkswagen qed tikkalkula li dan l-iskandlu ser jiswielha €6.5 biljuni fi ħsarat u possibilment mat-$18-il biljun f’multi fl-iStati Uniti tal-Amerika fejn ġie identifikat dan l-abbuż. Dan aparti multi f’pajjiżi oħra, kif ukoll, possibilment, proċeduri kriminali kontra d-diriġenti tal-kumpanija.

Il-ħsara lir-reputazzjoni tal-kumpanija, ukoll, diġa hi kbira ħafna.

Iktar tard illum, il-Kumitat tal-Ambjent tal-Parlament Ewropew ser jikkonkludi d-diskussjoni dwar abbozz ta’ leġislazzjoni li taġġorna r-regolamenti dwar it-tniġġiz mill-karozzi Euro 5 u Euro 6 applikabbli fl-Unjoni Ewropeja. Fi stqarrija li ħareġ il-bieraħ,  il-kelliemi tal-Ħodor Ewropej Bas Eickhout qal li ilu magħruf li l-manufatturi tal-karozzi fl-Unjoni Ewopeja qed iduru mar-regoli tat-tniġġiz tant li m’humiex josservawhom. L-iskandlu tal-Volkswagen fl-Istati Uniti għandu tiftaħ beraħ għajnejn kulħadd dwar dak li fil-fatt qed jiġri.

Nistennew li nkunu infurmati jekk ġewx mibjugħa minn dawn il-karozzi f’Malta u x’passi ser jittieħdu dwarhom.

Delimara għall-Kabinett

Sirna nafu illi l-Ministru tal-Ambjent (jiġifieri Lawrence Gonzi) iddeċieda illi l-appell li l-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Marsaxlokk ippreżenta dwar il-permess li jikkonċerna l-estensjoni tal-Power Station ta’ Delimara għandu jkun deċiż mill-Kabinett u mhux mill-Bord tal-Appell dwar l-Ippjanar.

Din m’hiex proċedura komuni u ftit li xejn ġiet użata fil-passat.

Sal-lum hi proċedura regolata mill-artiklu 15A tal-Att dwar l-Ippjanar ta’ l-Iżvilupp li ġie introdott  9 snin ilu permezz tal-Att XXI tal-2001 bl-emendi li kien introduċa George Pullicino, dakinhar Segretarju Parlamentari responsabli mill-Awtorita’ tal-Ippjanar (l-ambjent kien għandu ma żdiedx mar-responsabbiltajiet tagħha).

Din il-proċedura tagħti d-dritt lill-Gvern li jirreferi appell għal deċiżjoni mill-Kabinett wara li l-Bord tal-Appell dwar l-Ippjanar ikun ġabar il-provi w iffinaliza rakkomandazzjoni dwar il-kaz meta :

1)      l-applikant ikun Dipartiment tal-Gvern jew korp imwaqqaf b’liġi u

2)      l-applikazzjoni kollha sinifikat strateġiku, jkollha x’taqsam mas-sigurta’ nazzjonali, teffettwa l-interessi ta’ xi Gvernijiet oħra jew tirrikjedi studju tal-impatt ambjentali.

Din il-proċedura fiha innifisha ma fiha xejn ħażin u naħseb li teżisti f’diversi pajjiżi oħra ukoll. Id-diffikulta m’hiex għalhekk fid-dover tal-Kabinett li jieħu deċiżjoni imma l-fatt li f’Malta l-Gvern sa l-istadju tal-appell diġa huwa mdaħħal sa għonqu fid-deċiżjoni.

Kif ?  forsi jistaqsu uħud.

Il-membri kollha tal-Bord tal-MEPA li ddeċidew il-każ huma kollha appuntati mill-Gvern. L-ebda wieħed minnhom ma kien kritiku la ta’ din l-applikazzjoni u l-anqas ta’ kwalunkwe’ applikazzjoni oħra li ssottometta l-Gvern jew xi entita’ oħra tiegħu. B‘żieda ma dan, il-każ kien wieħed ikkargat b’deċiżjonijiet politiċi li dwarhom mhux dejjem kien hemm spjegazzjoni li tikkonvinċi. L-iktar importanti fosthom it-tibdil fir-regolamenti dwar x’tip ta’ emissjonijiet huma permissibli. Żid l-involviment tal-Lehmayer International bħala konsulenti tal-Enemalta minkejja li l-Bank Dinji poġġihom fuq il-Black List minħabba korruzzjoni ippruvata.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan kollu l-proċedura użata għalkemm skond il-liġi tista’ tkun inġusta.

Nawgura lill-Kunsill ta’ Marsaxlokk li appella mid-deċiżjoni tal-estensjoni tal-Power Station f’Delimara illi jsib soluzzjoni li biha jkun jista’ jsemma’ leħnu b’mod effettiv.

Reflections on Transport Policy

 
published on Sunday August 24, 2008

by Carmel Cacopardo
__________________________________________________________________________
 

 
 
 

 

It is not often that different issues, which could possibly lead to the formulation of one coherent policy, crop up simultaneously. Three such issues all dealing with transport policy are currently (and separately) under discussion. If adequately coordinated it could be possible to formulate one coherent transport policy that facilitates our mobility and simultaneously leads to less congested roads and a cleaner air.

The reduction of sulphur and lead in the fuels we used way back in the 1980s and the recent introduction of bio-diesel on the market were significant steps forward which unfortunately were not followed up with the formulation of a clear and coherent transport policy. Likewise the subsidies dished out by the State for the modernisation of the public transport fleet were limited to issues of accessibility (low floor).

Environmental indicators published recently by Mepa clearly show the main traffic arteries as the most densely polluted ones. The pollution levels in St Anne Street, Floriana sticks out, as do other residential areas, which have to put up with through traffic. Notably Msida, Fgura and Hamrun.

The reform of car registration taxation was triggered by EU infringement procedures as well as ECJ decisions relative to other European States. Car registration taxes, which in Malta are substantial, have, to date, not been a sufficient deterrent to placing 292,000 cars on Malta’s roads.

The issue of transport reform has been neglected for decades that it has now developed into a time bomb. The inefficient public transport is indirectly the cause of a large number of cars on the road and consequently is contributing to the further deterioration of the air we breathe.

These three issues are being dealt with separately, with Mepa analysing the effects, the Ministry of Finance seeking to retain taxation at its present levels and the Ministry for Transport facing the music.

Instead of being separate issues, the government should have taken this once in a lifetime opportunity of formulating a coherent transport policy with the Minister for the Environment taking the lead. This is the policy advocated by the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, which though approved by Cabinet after extensive consultation with stakeholders over a long time frame, seems to have been placed in hibernation.

The Sustainable Development Strategy for the Maltese Islands in fact considers it necessary to promote a sustainable transport system and calls for the formulation of an “integrated transport strategy”. Transport policy, the strategy says, has an important role in nurturing sustainable communities.

As indicated in the document issued by the Ministry of Transport some weeks ago, it is envisaged to overhaul public transport such that an integrated network is created making more of Malta accessible. When this is achieved one of the contributors to social exclusion would have been tackled.

The reform of public transport is crucial in the implementation of a transport policy because if reasonable accessibility were guaranteed, as it should be, through an efficient and punctual public transport, more custom would be attracted thereby reducing the number of cars on our roads. In such circumstances most of us would consider seriously making use of public transport more often.

In the short term this would have the effect of reducing the number of cars temporarily our roads. In the long term it could reduce the purchase of cars.

The most important effect on our families would be substantial improvements in the quality of the air we breathe coupled with fewer expenses.

In these circumstances car registration tax assumes the function of an environmental tax. In fact, the few details known so far indicate that emissions and car size would be the criteria on the basis of which the quantum of car registration tax payable would be determined. The splitting of the tax due into two, part due on registration and the rest payable throughout the car’s lifetime is also reasonable and an effective manner in which to apply the polluter pays principle. This would assist in the determination of impacts that vary throughout the lifetime of a car. Varying emissions could be determined through the VRT test, which should henceforth be used as a tool for determining the environmental impacts of cars currently on the road.

This is a long-term view of transport. It will undoubtedly not be to everybody’s liking. Car dealers, panel beaters, car mechanics would not be amused if fewer cars were our roads as it would reduce their work. Fewer cars on the road would also reduce government’s income because fewer taxes would be collected. But on the plus side it would be a bonus to our health.

Large communities living in those areas, which, year in year out are identified as having low air quality, would heave a sigh of relief. Those who over the years have developed respiratory diseases, most notably asthma, would welcome any improvements as these would be a boost to their quality of life.

Costing our Mobility

published 19 April 2008

by Carmel Cacopardo

Later this year a proposal for the overhaul of the car taxation regime in Malta will be up for discussion. This has already been indicated in a pre-budget document. It was then stated that the matter was an issue to be viewed within the longer term.

At present, car taxation in Malta is geared towards revenue generation, even if with a slight environmental flavour. Subject to a number of exceptions, the tax a new car is subject to on registration varies between 50.5 per cent and 75 per cent charged on its value and increasing with engine capacity (Motor Vehicles Registration Tax Act – First Schedule). Used cars are subject to different rates. Charges payable for the renewal of car licences also vary with engine capacity.

Any change in car registration taxation could well commence by defining objectives. Change is being triggered by the need to tackle the discriminatory nature of the tax when applied to new and used cars. A second objective is the urgent need to define environmental credentials in the very early days of this Administration. A third objective would most probably be the achievement of a neutral effect in car taxation revenues, namely that changes made would produce no net increase in the quantum of car taxes collected.

A green objective would be to reduce the hidden costs of car use which are being paid by the whole community. Costs incurred are not just financial: environmental and social costs have to be factored into the equation too. A truly green reform would ensure that environmental costs are discouraged through eco taxation while ensuring that changes do not bring about undesirable social effects.

The environmental costs would be reduced through making the polluter pay at such a rate that he would prefer not polluting to paying up. Car registration taxes and renewal of car licences can be used as eco taxes to discourage the use of cars and encourage patronage of public transport.

An efficient public transport system in Malta and Gozo would also indirectly address the negative environmental impacts generated by cars. It would provide a reliable cost-effective alternative, hence also satisfying the social need of effective mobility for all, with reduced costs. I do not aim in this short space to discuss reforms to public transport but it should suffice for the time being to state that it is imperative that investments made in public buses give returns to the community whose taxes are financing it year in year out. Public transport should not be limited to public buses but should also include other forms like sea transport (in Grand Harbour and Marsamxett).

Within this context I would suggest a different objective for changes required to fiscal/environmental/transport policies: introducing efficient and effective mobility by encouraging the reduction of cars from our roads, improving air quality while simultaneously ensuring that the public transport system is really efficient and effective.

Obviously, car importers, car dealers and all those involved in car repair and maintenance as well as car insurance would not be too enthusiastic about such a proposal. A reduction of cars on the road will affect their business. A reduction of emissions will also improve our health through a reduction of respiratory diseases.

Transport has been identified by the 2005 State of the Environment Report (the last to date, published in early 2006) as one of the major areas negatively impacting our environment – in particular the quality of the air we breathe. Yet, in the last five years only one policy initiative has been taken on the matter: congestion charging (CVA – Controlled Vehicular Access) for cars entering Valletta. On its own, the positive impact of this initiative is minimal. Within the context of a general overhaul of transport policy its effect could be increased exponentially.

So the time is ripe to consider all the issues relating to our mobility in a holistic manner. Reform car taxation, encourage the reduction of cars from the road but, at the same time, ensure that our mobility is increased through an efficient public transport system in both Malta and Gozo. While having cleaner air to breathe we will be in a position to reclaim our streets and cut back on costs borne by the community! A radical overhaul of our transport policies is required. Reforming car taxation is just one building block in the whole exercise.

On March 11, a few minutes after the commencement of his new term of office, the Prime Minister invited all those having a genuine interest in the environment to cooperate with the government “to find the best way (forward) in favour of sustainable development”. Positive words which, though late in the day, can be an adequate foundation for the development of environmental policy in Malta. They can also serve to neutralise past mistakes which have derailed many a positive vision.

Hydrogen fuel stations for cars land in Britain

Reġistrazzjoni tal-karozzi – bdil fit-taxxa

Il-Ministru tal-Finanżi Tonio Fenech qal lis-Sunday Times li m’hemmx għalfejn noqgħodu lura milli nixtru l-karozzi. Dan qalu fil-kuntest ta’ rapport li kien hemm tnaqqis sostanzjali fil-bejgħ ta’ karozzi minn Novembru li għadda meta sar magħruf illi l-Gvern kien fi ħsiebu jirrevedi t-taxxa tar-reġistrazzjoni tal-karozzi. Issa fir-realta’ r-riforma ser tindiriza tlett affarijiet.

L-ewwel ser tindirizza t-twissija mill-EU li ma jistax ikun hemm ħlas ta’ VAT fuq it-taxxa tar-registrazzjoni. M’hemmx taxxa fuq taxxa.

It-tieni ser tindirizza d-diskriminazzjoni fir-rati tal-ħlas bejn karozzi ġodda u karozzi second hand. Biex dan ikun jista’ jsir il-Gvern ħabbar illi ser jorbot ir-rata tal-ħlas mal-emissjonijiet tal-karozzi. Kif dan ser isir għadu mhux magħruf. Hemm iżda bosta modi kif jista’ jsir. L-ewwel irid jiġi stabilit x’inhu l-oġġettiv : jiġifieri jekk huwiex wieħed finanzjarju jew inkella wieħed ambjentali. Inkella jekk għandux mit-tnejn. Minn dan jiddependi x’ser jipproponi l-Gvern.

Fix-xhur li ġejjin inkunu nafu għax ġa tħabbar illi fid-dokument ta’ qabel il-budget li normalment jiġi ppubblikat f’nofs is-sena ser tibda konsultazzjoni pubblika.

It-taxxa tar-registrazzjoni tal-karozzi

exhaust1.jpg

 

Kulħadd f’daqqa waħda qed jitkellem favur l-ambjent. Din m’hiex xi ħaġa ħażina. Pero jekk dan ifisssirx li ser nimxu il-quddiem jew le għad irridu naraw. Irridu naraw kif il-kliem ser jinbidel f’fatti.

Għalissa, 4 ġimgħat wara l-elezzjoni għadu ftit kmieni.

It-Times illum f’artiklu intitolat Car Tax Reform Gathers Speed ħabbret li mhux il-bogħod li jkunu magħrufa l-proposti tal-Gvern għal riforma tat-taxxa dwar ir-registrazzjoni tal-karozzi. Il-Ministru Tonio Fenech ġie rappurtat li qal li din it-taxxa ser tkun ibbażata fuq l-emmissjonijiet (tal-karozzi).

Dettalji iktar għalissa m’hemm xejn ħlief il-kumment tat-Times li din ir-riforma tista’ twassal għal karozzi li jkunu iktar irħas fil-prezz. Jekk dan li jkollna karozzi iktar irħas iseħħx jew le m’huwiex faċli li tgħidu f’dan l-istadju. Għax dan ser jiddependi mid-dettalji tar-riforma kif ukoll minn jekk it-taxxa titħallasx f’daqqa meta tinxtara l-karozza, inkella jekk tkunx waħda li titħallas kull sena skond kif tvarja l-emissjoni tal-karozza!

Il-Gvern kien ħabbar din ir-riforma fid-diskussjoni ta’ qabel il-budget madwar tlett snin ilu. Minn dakinnhar lil hawn kien hemm pressjoni mill-Unjoni Ewropea dwar il-ħlas ta’ registrazzjoni in konnessjoni ma’ karozzi second hand. Ir-rati li jitħallsu illum huma meqjusa diskriminatorji meta tqabbilhom ma dawk li jitħallsu dwar karozzi ġodda.

Minn dak magħruf s’issa ħareġ punt posittiv. Li r-riforma li ser issir m’hiex ser tkun limitata għall-aspett fiskali iżda ser tindirizza ukoll l-aspett ambjentali. Dan hu tajjeb għax l-aħħar rapport dwar l-istat tal-ambjent f’Malta iqiegħed lit-transport fuq nett fil-lista ta’ dak li huwa problematiku f’pajjiżna.

Dan l-eżerċizzju hu sfida kbira. Nittama li jirnexxi.