Leo Brincat w iċ-chewing gum

chewing gum 2

 

Leo Brincat kellu raġun meta nhar it-Tnejn 7 ta’ Lulju 2014 fil-Parlament emfasizza li għal bosta l-iżvilupp sostenibbli huwa bħaċ-chewing gum. Iġebbdu u jmeċilqu u meta jispiċċaw, la huma u wisq inqas min jismagħhom ma jkollu idea x’qalu. Id-diskussjoni ta’ nhar it-Tnejn fl-opinjoni tiegħi, kienet waħda minn dawn it-tip tad-diskussjonijiet.

Leo Brincat għamel tajjeb li emfasizza kemm huma meħtieġa l-istrutturi biex titfassal u titwettaq il-politika tal-iżvilupp sostenibbli.

L-Istrateġija Nazzjonali għall-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli ilha li tfasslet. L-obbligu li jinħolqu l-istrutturi meħtieġa biex din l-istrateġija tibda titwettaq ilu magħna mill-2007. Kien ikun għaqli kieku l-kelliemi tal-Opposizzjoni spjega għaliex ma sar xejn matul il-perjodu 2008-2013 minkejja li l-PN fil-Gvern poġġa l-iżvilupp sostenibbli bħala mira ewlenija tiegħu. Imma sfortunatament ma kienx kapaċi jagħmel dan. Il-kwalita’ tal-kontribut (jew in-nuqqas tiegħu) li jagħtu l-kelliema diversi fil-Parlament ħafna drabi hi rifless tal-importanza li l-partiti jagħtu lill-materja. Il-faqar tal-kontribut ta’ l-Onor Charlo Bonnici jirrifletti n-nuqqas tal-importanza li l-PN dejjem ta’ lill-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Nifhem li bħall-predeċessur tiegħu, Simon Busuttil m’għandux minnfejn jagħżel. Irid jaħdem b’dak li għandu. M’hemmx x’tagħmel.

Carmelo Abela min-naħa tal-Gvern ukoll qagħad idur mal-lewża. Meta tagħsar dak li qal ma issib xejn. Robert Arrigo ipprova jimla ftit minuti billi tkellem fuq it-turiżmu, iġebbed ftit l-argumenti bħaċ-ċhewing gum.

Ryan Callus miss punt importanti meta emfasizza li l-fatt li l-iżvilupp sostenibbli ma jiffurmax parti mill-Uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru m’huwiex pass tajjeb. Dan minħabba li l-politika tal-iżvilupp sostenibbli tmiss l-oqsma kollha tal-politka u huwa biss il-Prim Ministru li għandu l-awtorita’ politika li jiddirieġi u jikkordina bejniethom dawn l-oqsma.

Għoġobi l-aħħar kumment ta’ Leo Brincat. Li l-iżvilupp sostenibbli jwassal għal iggvernar tajjeb. Kejl tajjeb illi kieku nagħrfu nużawħ nirrealizzaw kemm għadna lura.

 _______________

 

Għal iktar informazzjoni dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli, fuq dan il-blog tista’ taqra s-segwenti:

30/6/2014 : Green Talk but no more.

04/01/2014: Tomorrow may be too late.

14/12/2013: Tackling the Green skills gap.

02/11/2013 : Towards a Circular Economy.

01/12/2012 : Sustainable water policy required.

17/10/2009   : Sustainable Development Politics.

29/06/2009: The politics of Sustainable Development.

02/05/2009 : Tackling Sustainable Development

21/06/2008 : Sustainable localities & regionalisation.

 

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Green talk but no more

four_pillar-sustainable  development

 

When push comes to shove it is always the rights of future generations which are ignored and thrown overboard. This is done repeatedly as governments tend to give greater value to the rights of present generations, in the process discounting the rights of the future.

It is a recurring theme in all areas of environmental concern. Whether land use planning, water management, resource management, waste management, climate change, biodiversity or air quality,  procrastination is the name of the game. With 101 excuses governments postpone to tomorrow decisions which should have been implemented yesterday.

Future generations have a right to take their own decisions. It is pretty obvious that they will not be able to take adequate decisions as their options will be severely curtailed as a result of the implementation of present and past decisions.

The politics of sustainable development aims to address this deficiency.

On a global level it all started in Stockholm in 1972 as a result of the sensitivities of the Nordic countries which set in motion the UN Human Environment Conference. After the publication of the Brundtland Report in 1987, the Rio Summits (1992 and 2012), as well as the Johannesburg Summit (2002), we can speak of charters, international conventions, declarations and strategies all of which plot out in detail as to what is to be done. However as pointed out by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at the UN Rio+20 Summit (2012) in his report entitled “Objectives and Themes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development” institution building has lagged behind. This signifies that the integration of policymaking and its implementation is nowhere on target, Malta not being an exception.

The Sustainable Development Annual Report 2013 presented in Parliament by Minister Leo Brincat on the 27 May 2014 indicates that not much progress has been made to date on the matter, notwithstanding the number of meetings as well as the appointment of coordinating officers and focal points in each of the Ministries.

Way back in 2008 Malta had a National Sustainable Development Commission which through the inputs of civil society, in coordination with government involvement, had produced a National Sustainable Development Strategy. This was approved by Cabinet at that time but never implemented. So much that to try and justify its inertia the then government tried to divert attention in 2012 by proposing a Sustainable Development Act. This essentially transferred (with changes) some of the proposed structures and institutions identified in the National Sustainable Development Strategy to the legislation and used the process as a justification for not doing anything except talk and talk. The changes piloted through Parliament by then Environment Minister Mario de Marco included the effective dissolution of the National Commission for Sustainable Development (which had been dormant for 5 years). The justification which  the responsible Permanent Secretary uttered as an excuse was that the Commission was too large and hence of no practical use.

It has to be borne in mind that sustainable development is also an exercise in practical democracy whereby policy is formed through capillarity, rising from the roots of society, and not through filtration by dripping from the top downwards. For sustainable development to take root the strategy leading to sustainability must be owned by civil society which must be in the driving seat of the process.

Readers may remember that the President’s address to Parliament  way back on 10 May 2008 had emphasised that : “The government’s plans and actions are to be underpinned by the notion of sustainable development of the economy, of society and of the environment. When making decisions today, serious consideration will be given to the generations of tomorrow.”

This was not manifested in the government’s actions throughout its 5 year term. Not just in its approach to sustainable development but also in its dealing with the individual issues of environmental concern: be it land use planning, water management, resource management, waste management, climate change, biodiversity or air quality.The politics of sustainable development is an uphill struggle. It signifies a long term view in decision making, that is, considering carefully the impacts of today’s decisions on tomorrow. It requires much more than chatter.

As the report tabled by Minister Leo Brincat states in its conclusion, we are in for more chatter as the emphasis in the coming year seems to be the revision of a strategy which has never been implemented. The strategy is worded in such general terms that it is difficult to understand what this means, except that there is no practical interest in getting things done. It would have been much better if some effort was invested in the Action Plans which the different Ministries have to draw up in order to implement the strategy in the various departments/authorities under their political responsibility.

This, it seems, is unfortunately the Maltese long term view.

Published in The Times of Malta, Monday June 30, 2014

Żvilupp Sostenibbli fil-Parlament

Il-bieraħ fil-għaxija fil-Parlament ġiet fit-tmiem l-ewwel parti tad-diskussjoni dwar l-abbozz ta’ liġi fuq l-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Ikkonkluda id-diskussjoni Mario de Marco li wieġeb il-kritika li saret matul id-diskussjoni.

F’dan l-istadju tajjeb li nfakkar li din hi liġi li ma kienitx meħtieġa għax il-parti l-kbira ta’ dak li fiha ġja qiegħed fl-istrateġija nazzjonali dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Li qed jagħmel il-Gvern hu li joħloq liġi issa flok parti mill-istrateġija biex jipprova jiġġustifika li f’dawn il-ħames snin ftit li xejn l-iżvilupp sostenibbli ittieħdet bis-serjeta’. U dan minkejja d-dikjarazzjoni li saret favur l-iżvilupp sostenibbli fid-diskors mit-tron tal-President tar-Repubblika f’Mejju 2008 fl-ewwel seduta tal-Parlament tas-sessjoni kurrenti.

Fost il-punti negattivi li hemm fil-liġi hemm li ser tispiċċa l-Kummissjoni Nazzjonali dwar l-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli. Hu punt negattiv għax il-kummissjoni kien tiġbor lis-soċjeta’ ċivili fuq issues ambjentali flimkien ma rappresentanti tal-Ministeri u awtoritajiet pubbliċi għal diskussjoni utli. Kien forum ambjentali li l-Gvern qatlu matul dawn il-ħames snin.

Fost il-punti importanti posittivi tal-abbozz hemm l-introduzzjoni tal-Gwardjan għall-Ġenerazzjonijiet Futuri. Jiena dejjem insistejt li Gvern li jagħmel proposti fuq livell internazzjonali b’ċerta pompa għandu jkollu l-konvinzjoni li dak li jippretendi mill-komunita’ internazzjonali jkun lest li jimplimentah f’Malta stess. Għalhekk ipproponejt il-ħolqien tal-kariga ta’ Gwardjan għall-Ġenerazzjonijiet Futuri. Proposta li Mario de Marco għan-nom tal-Gvern aċċetta u inkludiha fil-liġi. Seta fassalha b’mod aħjar.

Issa l-abbozz jgħaddi biex ikun diskuss fid-dettall tiegħu u imbagħad forsi jkun implimentat.

The future we want

During the current Parliamentary debate on the Sustainable Development Bill various government spokesmen have emphasised that they consider it essential to ensure that there is a balance between protecting the environment  and economic policy. In so doing they are stating that measures that may be required to protect the environment  are to be embraced only if there is little or no economic impact.

Sustainable development is no longer a matter of choice. It is rather an issue of survival. Balancing acts do not form part of the equation!

A former Minister of the Environment during the Parliamentary debate stated that a defininiton of sustainable development is required as an integral part of the Bill. If this Hononourable gentleman is not capable of embracing Bruntland’s definiton in the report she penned as Chairperson of the World Commission on Environment and Development then it is about time that someone explains what his tenure as Minister for the Environment has achieved except the widespread environmental destruction which has been amply documented throughout the years.

Gro Harlem Brundtland had stated that “Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable – to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Brundland’s definition is the mildest possible and has been drafted in that form specifically to ensure the widest adoption possible. Taking decisions in such a manner as not to prejudice future generations is the least we can say about the politics of sustainable development.

It signifies first and foremost that policy decisions  are not postponed in order to avoid or minimise loss of votes. It also means calling a spade by its proper name and getting on with the business of proper management of  resources without delay.

The adoption of sustainable development as a basic building block of government policy should lead to the logical conclusion that the economy should not be viewed as an objective but rather as a tool: the economy should be the servant rather than the master! The point of departure should be the alignment of policies with the ecosystem of which we form part.

Policy needs to be approached in a holistic manner, focusing simultaneously on social, environmental and economic considerations. It is not a question of an artificial balance between the three but of acting correctly each and every time. A policy, which is economically sound but socially and/or environmentally wobbly, is of no use. The reverse side is already common practice as socially and environmentally sound policies are rarely applied if they do not pass the test of economic viability.

The politics of sustainable development is concerned with redirecting economic activity such that this is compatible with ecological and social requirements. The environment, the economy and social needs are thus all factored in when decisions are taken. Throughout the years economic decisions have generally taken into consideration their social impacts. As a result, various measures have been introduced to mitigate and/or prevent negative social effects. The politics of social solidarity as developed has assisted in the transition from a free market economy to a social market economy.

The politics of sustainable development is the means leading to the next transition: to an economy which respects the ecology. The environmental impacts of social and economic policy require attention at the drawing board rather than mitigation after they have occurred. In order for this to occur, it is required that instead of facing the effects we direct our energies to tackle the causes.

It was for this purpose that the Environment Protection Act of 2001 provided in Section 8 for the setting up of a National Commission for Sustainable Development entrusted with the drafting of a National Strategy for Sustainable Development for the Maltese Islands. The Commission laboured between 2002 and 2006 to produce a draft, which was concluded and presented to Cabinet for approval in December 2006. Cabinet approved it late in 2007.

The National Commission for Sustainable Development was representative of society in that it was made up of representatives of Ministries and civil society. The Sustainable Development Bill is proposing the dismantling of the Commission and replacing it with a network, a smaller team in the interests of efficiency! The two frameworks are not incompatible. In fact when the Commission was functioning (even though its Chairman Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi never found time to participate in its workings) it had in fact selected a small group to coordinate its work.

While I understand that the government’s objective in creating the network is to facilitate implementation I submit that the existence of this newly proposed network is not incompatible with retaining the National Commission, which, through its wide-ranging composition was and can still be an effective sounding board for formulating the nuts and bolts of the politics of sustainable development.

It has to be borne in mind that sustainable development is also an exercise through which wide-ranging policy is formed through capillarity, rising from the roots of society, and not through filtration by dripping from the top downwards. It is hence essential to embrace structures which are representative of society. This is not sufficient but it is an essential element to be complemented by reaching out to those sectors of society which are vulnerable yet are still unorganised.

The UN Secretariat of the  Rio + 20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development due to be held next June has produced a draft document for discussion aptly referred to as the zero draft. It is entitled “The Future We Want”.

For sustainable development to take root, the strategy leading to sustainability must be owned by civil society, which must be in the driving seat of the process. This is “the Future we Want”. It has primarily to be a future which we can shape. A future which all of us can influence as it will impact not just those at the top of the pyramid but more so those at the very bottom.

Sustainable Development is not just an issue of environment but also one of justice, of dealing with issues of poverty and the distribution of wealth.

The future we want cannot exist without fulfilling the need of a fundamental change in  relationships. A change in the relationship between man and the earth. A change in the relationship between man and his/her fellow human beings.

This need for change can be fulfilled if we focus on the need to respect nature and fellow human beings. This is the balance to be achieved. This is the basis of sustainable development.

This article was published in The Independent on Sunday – Environment Supplement 25 March 2012

…………. u bdew id-diskussjoni ……………

 

Nhar l-Erbgħa fil-għaxija bdew id-diskussjoni fil-Parlament dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli.

Smajt lil Mario de Marco jitkellem madwar siegħa u nofs. Leo Brincat tkellem siegħa u kien għadu ma spiċċax.

Mario mexa ma text ippreparat. Għal ħinijiet twal qara diskors miktub. Xi drabi tfixkel ftit huwa u jitkellem dwar materji li għadu m’huwiex familjari magħhom biżżejjed.  Leo ukoll ipprepara u kien iktar ċar f’dak li kellu xi jgħid.

Mario irrefera għal konsultazzjonjijiet wiesgħa li għamel. Ħaġa tajba. Avvanz fuq ta’ qablu li mhux biss kien selvaġġ talli fuq kollox kien inkompetenti. 

Jiena ukoll kelli laqgħa twila ma Mario dwar l-abbozz ta’ liġi. L-ewwel reazzjoni tiegħi kienet li m’hemmx bżonn li jressaq liġi. Dak li ried jagħmel : li jibni fuq pedamenti sodi l-infrastruttra amministrattiva għall-iżvilupp sostenibbli seta jsir b’mod faċli u inqas ikkumplikat mingħajr il-ħtieġa ta’ liġi.

Imma din, Mario u dawk ta’ madwaru ma jistgħux jifhmuha.  Huwa u jitkellem Mario ftaħar li ftit hemm pajjiżi bħalna li għandhom liġi dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Ma nafx jekk irrealizzax li l-fatt li ftit li xejn hemm pajjiżi b’din it-tip ta’ liġi ifissirx li ħadd ma ħass il-ħtieġa tagħha!

Il-parti l-kbira tal-proposti fil-liġi diġa jeżistu fl-istrateġija nazzjonali dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Li qed jagħmel il-Gvern hu li qiegħed jittrasferihom mill-istrateġija għall-liġi. Dan m’hu xejn ħlief logħob. Imma l-anqas dan il-logħob ma jiġġustifika l-fatt li l-Gvern żamm il-Kummissjoni Nazzjonali dwar l-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli milli tiffunzjona għal snin twal.

U dan hu l-Gvern li fid-diskors programmatiku tal-President tar-Repubblika f’Mejju 2008 qalilna illi li ser jagħti importanza kbira lill-iżvilupp sostenibbli.

Għall paroli veru jieħu l-ewwel. Imma bejn il-kliem u l-fatti ………. hemm il-baħar jikkumbatti!

Mario de Marco irrefera għad-diskussjoni li kellna jiena u hu dwar l-abbozz. Jiena dejjem insistejt li Gvern li jagħmel proposti fuq livell internazzjonali b’ċerta pompa għandu jkollu l-konvinzjoni li dak li jippretendi mill-komunita’ internazzjonali jkun lest li jimplimentah f’Malta stess. Għalhekk ipproponejt il-ħolqien tal-kariga ta’ Gwardjan għall-Ġenerazzjonijiet Futuri. Proposta li Mario de Marco għan-nom tal-Gvern aċċetta u inkludiha bil-mod kif ħaseb hu fil-liġi.

Leo Brincat fil-kritika tiegħu, li ser ikompli nhar it-Tnejn, tefa’ botta dwar jekk il-Gvern huwiex qiegħed jagħti l-impressjoni li qed jagħti każ dak li tgħid Alternattiva Demokratika biex forsi jnaqqas mill-kritika indirizzata lejh minn AD!  Leo m’għandix dubju li kien qed jiġbed is-saqajn. Għax jaf li l-kritika ta’ AD m’hiex ser tieqaf. La lejn il-Gvern u l-anqas lejn l-Opposizzjoni li flimkien huma responsabbli għall-istat li jinsab fih il-pajjiz.

Dwar dan kollu ktibt u tkelllimt fit-tul matul dawn l-aħħar snin. Li l-Gvern ta’ Lawrence Gonzi m’huwiex kapaċi.  Ma jridx jimxi fit-triq li twassal lejn is-sostenibilita’.  Kieku kien jinteressah kien jimxi mod ieħor fl-oqsma kollha.

Il-prietki waħedhom mhux biżżejjed.

Wara kollox mhux Gonzi innifsu talabna biex ma niġġudikawħx fuq dak li jgħid iżda fuq dak li jagħmel?  U hekk qed nagħmlu. Niġġudikawħ fuq il-ħerba ambjentali li ser iħalli warajh.

 Il-futur tagħna u ta’ uliedna jixraqlu xi ħaġa aħjar.  Li la Gonzi u l-anqas Muscat ma jistgħu joffru.

Għalhekk qegħdin fil-politika aħna ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika.

Exercise in Practical Democracy

 

 

One of the two themes that the Rio+20 summit, to be held next June, will be focusing on will be the institutional framework for sustainable development.

 

In his report entitled Objectives And Themes Of The United Nations Conference On Sustainable Development, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon discusses institution building at all levels ranging from the local to the international. The objective, he emphasises, is to integrate policymaking and implementation.

He goes on to state that on a national level the integration challenge has been responded to by the creation of new institutions (such as national councils), in many cases with disappointing results. Malta is one such case. The institutional framework for sustainable development in Malta has so far not been able to deliver.

The government will soon be in its final year in office in this legislature and, so far, all it has achieved is the demolition of sustainable development institutions.

 

The National Commission for Sustainable Development was disbanded at the same time that the President of the Republic was delivering the Speech from the Throne during this Parliament’s first sitting held on May 10, 2008. The President, on behalf of the government, had then declared that the government’s plans and actions will be underpinned by sustainable development. When taking decisions today, we were told, the government will give serious consideration to tomorrow’s generations.

 

In addition to disbanding the National Commission for Sustainable Development, the government ignored the provisions of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, which Cabinet had approved on the eve of the 2008 general election. This strategy, which was the result of extensive consultations with civil society, laid down not only the targets to be achieved but also the structures to be set up in each ministry in order to proceed with its implementation.

 

All the deadlines laid down in the National Sustainable Development strategy were ignored by the government.

 

On the eve of another general election, the government has now presented proposals for a Sustainable Development Bill. This is intended to mainstream sustainable development across the workings of government.

 

The Bill seeks to create structures within the Office of the Prime Minister and the various ministries to take ownership of the National Sustainable Development Strategy.

 

The Bill confirms the abolition of the national commission and in its stead proposes the creation of a network made up of eight persons, these being a mix of public officers and representatives of civil society.

 

The national commission was much larger and had the advantage of being composed of a wider cross section of civil society together with representatives of all the ministries.

 

While I understand that the government’s objective in creating the network is to facilitate efficiency I submit that this is not incompatible with retaining the national commission, which, through its extensive reach, was and can still be an effective sounding board where the politics of sustainable development is moulded.

 

It has to be borne in mind that sustainable development is also an exercise in practical democracy whereby policy is formed through capillarity, rising from the roots of society, and not through filtration by dripping from the top downwards.

 

For sustainable development to take root, the strategy leading to sustainability must be owned by civil society, which must be in the driving seat of the process. The Bill goes on to draw on the National Sustainable Development Strategy by reproducing the implementation structures that the strategy had determined.

 

During the month of August, on behalf of the Greens in Malta, I had the opportunity to discuss the Bill with Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco who was carrying out a consultation exercise. During our meeting, I suggested the creation of a Guardian for Future Generations as part of the institution building for sustainable development.

 

I am pleased to note that the proposal of the Greens was taken on board by the government even if in a different format from that intended.

 

The Bill provides for the creation of a commission to be known as the Guardian for Future Generations, which is to be made up of a president appointed by the Prime Minister and three other members hailing from environmental NGOs, business fora and social and community NGOs.

 

The Guardian for Future Generations will be assigned extensive duties related to sustainable development, ranging from sustainable development advocacy across national policymaking to encouraging NGOs and the private sector to participate in sustainable development initiatives.

 

Given the functions and role of the Guardian I think that it would be more appropriate and effective if instead of a commission it is just one person appointed by the Head of State rather than by the Prime Minister.

 

My participation in the consultation process was another opportunity through which the Greens in Malta have contributed positively to the formation of policy and initiatives.

 

The Greens are always available for cooperation in initiatives of this nature. We sincerely hope that the publication of the Bill indicates that government intends to act soon because we have been waiting for far too long.

published in The Times- December 10, 2011

Increasing environmental awareness

 

 

 

The publication of the draft National Environment Policy (NEP) is a useful exercise irrespective of Government’s intentions, which, to put it mildly, are not always clear.

Government’s intense rhetoric coupled with action motivated primarily by the need to overcome threats of EU infringement proceedings is not the best way to move forward in environmental issues. Labour would certainly be no better. Past experience indicates that Labour are on the same wavelength as the PN even though their policies on a number of issues are not yet spelt out, in public at least.

In April 2010 Ernst & Young had concluded a Public Attitudes Survey on environmental issues commissioned by MEPA. The analysis of the results, available on the MEPA website makes interesting reading.

Of central importance are the conclusions relative to the inter-relationship between the environment and the economy: 69% of respondents held that the environment was as important as the economy, 23% held that the environment was more important than the economy whilst only 8% held that the economy is of over-riding importance.   

Air quality, waste management and land use top the list of the environmental concerns of the Maltese. In fact these are the most worrying issues, though certainly not the only ones.

The draft NEP collects in one document a detailed list of government’s environmental responsibilities, primarily resulting from the EU environmental acquis. There are also some areas covered by the draft NEP in respect of which the EU has no role. Government has erroneously described these as an indication of its determination to go beyond EU requirements.

A logical and down to earth reaction to the draft NEP is that we have been there before. A National Sustainable Development Strategy approved by Cabinet in late 2007 had approved practically a similar (although less detailed) document. It even had some specific targets all of which have been ignored by the Cabinet Minister who was responsible for their implementation: the Honourable Lawrence Gonzi whose portfolio of political responsibilities included and still includes Sustainable Development .

Is it ethical, I ask, for the Prime Minister to approve a strategy (through Cabinet)  with specific targets, ignore them, abolish the Commission which drew up the strategy and then re-present substantially the same strategy and proposals in a different form? Would you believe him if he now says that he is serious about implementation of strategies and proposals originally proposed in 2007 but ignored  by the government which he has led uninterruptedly since 2004?  Speaking for myself I don’t believe one word of what he says on the subject.       

The National Sustainable Development Strategy identified various targets. Most were undated, but some basic ones had a specific timeframe by which they had to be delivered.

Among the specific targets which Dr Gonzi as Prime Minister first approved but subsequently ignored are the following :

  1. By 2008 draw up a strategy to enhance the use of economic instruments (eco-taxation strategy),
  2. By 2008 put in place a permanent structure appropriately staffed and funded to monitor and review the implementation of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development,
  3. Within 18 months of the adoption of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development (that is by mid-2009) Ministries had to prepare their action plans on the implementation of the strategy in their portfolio of responsibilities,
  4. By 2010 draw up an integrated Spatial Development Plan to take forward the Sustainable Development Strategy, with the participation of major stakeholders.

None of the above targets have been met.

 Among the general targets approved in 2007 (4 years ago), before the re-election of Dr Gonzi as Prime Minister he had promised : 

  1. the drawing up and implementation of a policy addressing the issue of light pollution,
  2. the drawing up and implementation of a dust-control policy,
  3. a nationwide public footpath policy which delineates paths that the public can use,
  4. promotion of a culture of Corporate Social Responsibility by major firms,
  5. enhancing enforcement and monitoring to reduce the destabilising  effects on society of construction and quarrying activities.

  None of the above targets have been addressed.

 All the above nine proposals and many others originally forming part of the National Sustainable Development Strategy have re-surfaced in the draft NEP after being ignored for a number of years. Dr Gonzi’s proposals have a habit of hopping from one policy document to the other.

This is not a serious way of doing politics. Those who like Dr Gonzi proposed strategies and failed to implement them should have the decency of explaining why they failed in their mission. Instead of doing so Dr Gonzi organised a media circus at Xrobb l-Għaġin to explain to the media the “greening of his government”. Unfortunately no record is available of any of the journalists present taking him to task for trying to hide his failures.

 Notwithstanding the above some benefit will surely arise out of the debate on the draft NEP: even if we have been there before and discussed it not once, not twice but many times over without any tangible result to date. The public’s sensitivity to environmental issues is on the rise. Its environmental awareness is increasing rapidly.  Just 18 months before a general election I do not think that anyone can be deceived anymore on green issues.

Like the PL before it the PN in government has had its chance to deliver and failed.

 

 Published in the Independent n Sunday – Environment Supplement

October 2, 2011 

Paroli, Paroli u iktar Paroli. Il-Politika ta’ Gonzipn dwar l-Ambjent

 

   paroli, paroli u iktar paroli.

Ftit siegħat ilu għadu kif ħareġ għal konsultazjoni pubblika l-abbozz tal-politika Nazzjonali dwar l-Ambjent.  Dan id-dokument huwa primarjament ġabra tar-responsabbiltajiet akkumulati ta’ Malta fil-qasam ambjentali li ġew injorati bil-goff matul is-snin. Kien biss bħala riżultat tas-sħubija ta’ Malta fl-Unjoni Ewropea fl-2004 kif ukoll bħala riżultat tal-influwenza dejjem tiżdied tal-moviment ambjentali f’Malta li l-Gvern beda jiċċaqlaq fuq miżuri ambjenti. Xi drabi dan seħħ ukoll bħala reazzjoni għal-theddid ta’ passi legali mill-Unjoni Ewropea.

L-politika proposta hija prinċipalment ezercizzju ta’ retorika minn Gvern li wiegħed ħafna u falla bil-kbir. Bil-politika proposta l-Gvern qed jipprova jpatti għall-abolizzjoni tal-Kummissjoni Nazzjonali għall-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli li ilha ma tiltaqa’ sa mill-2006. Il-Kummssjoni Nazzjonali għall-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli fl-Istrategija li pproponiet għall-Gżejjer Maltin indirizzat diversi oqsma intersettorjali li illum qed jiġu indirizzati ukoll mill-Politika Nazzjonali għall-Ambjent. Kienet stabiliet ukoll miri għall-implimazzjoni ta’ proposti speċifiċi bħat-taxxi ambjentali u l-Pjani ta’ Azzjoni fil-Ministeri differenti. Id-dati stabiliti ġew u marru u minflok ma twettaq dak imwiegħed ġejna ippreentati b’dan l-abbozz.

Just lip service and cold feet

                                             published Saturday August 13, 2011

The year 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit held in June 1992. The Rio Earth Summit itself was held on the 20th anniversary of the 1972 UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, which is credited with introducing the environment in the contemporary political lexicon.

In fact, it was as a result of the Stockholm conference that various countries started appointing an environment minister. In 1976, in Malta, Dom Mintoff appointed Vincent Moran as Minister for Health and the Environment. The emphasis at that stage was environmental health. His primary environmental responsibilities being street cleaning, refuse collection and the management of landfills in addition to minor responsibilities on air quality. The serious stuff came later when Daniel Micallef was appointed Minister for Education and the Environment in 1986.

In 1992, the international community met in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the conflicts between development and the environment. This was brought to the fore by the 1987 UN report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, headed by former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. The report, entitled Our Common Future, referred to as the Brundtland report, is generally remembered for its definition of sustainable development. Development was defined as sustainable if, in ensuring that the needs of present generations are met, it did not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The 1992 Rio Earth Summit produced the Rio Declaration on the Environment, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Framework Convention on Biodiversity, the Statement of Forest Principles and Agenda 21. Each one of these assumed a life of its own, addressing various issues.

I think it is essential to focus on the relevance of Agenda 21, which was, way back in 1992, drafted to serve as a global action plan for the 21st century.

Agenda 21 emphasises that sustainable development is not spearheaded by economics. It does not seek to balance profits with other considerations. Based on respect for people and the planet in the carrying out of our activities, it links the environment with social and economic policy.

It is indeed regrettable that some countries, Malta included, loudly proclaim adherence to the objectives of Rio 1992 yet fail miserably in translating them into the requirements of everyday life.

It is necessary to reiterate that Malta, through its present government, has paid lip service to issues of sustainable development. The Environment Protection Act of 2001, now in the process of being superseded, had established a National Commission for Sustainable Development headed by the Prime Minister. This was tasked with the preparation of a National Strategy for Sustainable Development, which was finalised and approved by the commission in December 2006. It was presented to Cabinet, which approved it in the weeks prior to the March 2008 election.

Soon after the 2008 election, during Parliament’s first session on May 10, 2008, Malta’s President proclaimed on behalf of the government that its policies will be underpinned by adherence to the principles of sustainable development. We were then told that when formulating decisions today serious consideration would be given to their impact on the generations of tomorrow.

I doubt whether there was ever any intention to implement such a declaration. I am informed that the National Commission for Sustainable Development, which, in terms of the Environment Protection Act, is still entrusted with the implementation of the National Sustainable Development Strategy, has not met since December 2006. Consequently, the procedures laid down in section 5 of the strategy as a result of which the different ministries had 18 months to prepare and commence the implementation of an action plan based on the strategy in their areas of competence were transformed into a dead letter.

The government has now gone one step further. It is formulating a National Environment Policy. This initiative has been undertaken by the same ministry responsible for issues of sustainable development – the Office of the Prime Minister.

From what is known on the contents of this policy it substantially duplicates the areas addressed by the National Sustainability Strategy. Consequently, it is discharging down the drains four years of discussions with civil society that had given the strategy its shape and content. It is clear that on the issue of sustainable development this government is very rich in rhetoric but when it comes to implementation it gets cold feet. It’s all talk, meetings, documents and consultations. And when a document is finally produced it is back to the drawing board to start the process for another one! This is lip service at its worst.

While the international community meeting in Rio in 2012 will take stock of its modest achievements in implementing the conclusions of Rio 1992 and its follow-up meetings, including those of Johannesburg in 2002, in Malta we are still awaiting a lethargic government to take the first steps.

_____________

Other posts on sustainable development during the past 12 months

2011, July 23                Living on Ecological Credit.

2011, June 5                 Government’s Environment Policy is Beyond Repair.

2011, March 5              Small is Beautiful in Water Policy.

2011, January 22        Beyond the  Rhetorical declarations.

2010, October 23        Time to realign actions with words.

2010, October 17        Reflections on an Environment Policy.

2010, October 3          AD on Government’s Environment policy.

2010, September 17  Lejn Politika tal-Ambjent.

2010, September 4     Environment Policy and the Budget.

2010, August 14          Thoughts for an Environmet Policy.

2010, August 2            Bis-serjeta ? Il-Politika Nazzjonali dwar l-Ambjent.

The two faces of Janus

In Roman mythology the god Janus was depicted as having a head with two faces. One looking eastwards and the other westwards. One symbolically looking into the future  and the other into the past.  

Unfortunately it is not Janus who overlooks the entrance to the Ministry for the Environment in Valletta. Janus could symbolically motivate environmental policy through learning through past mistakes and applying the lessons learnt into the future.  Janus could however symbolise the two political faces of government. One compatible with its declarations and rhetoric. The other with its actions.

Consider this government’s commitments in favour of sustainable development. In May 2008 the Head of State reading the speech from the throne on behalf of Gonzipn promised  one and all that :

The government’s plans and actions are to be underpinned by the notion of sustainable development of the economy, of society and of the environment. When making decisions today, serious consideration will be given to the generations of tomorrow.

Sustainable development has three main dimensions – economic, social and environmental. Our challenge is to ensure continuous economic development, promoted by education, social development, with particular attention to environmental protection.  When we evaluate our activities in view of these three inter-related dimensions, we would be placing every person at the heart of the Government’s actions.”

The member of Cabinet responsible for issues of sustainable development is the Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi. Dr Gonzi’s commitment towards sustainable development is not to be gauged by his rhetoric but through his actions. He excels in rhetoric but he fails miserably in implementation.

The Commission for Sustainable Development set up in terms of the Environment Protection Act has not met for almost five years, since December 2006. Its Chairman is Dr Gonzi. During its last meeting it had approved the final version of the National Sustainable Development Strategy, which it then submitted to Cabinet for approval. The main function of the commission now is to oversee the implementation of the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Maltese Islands, approved by Cabinet prior to the March 2008 election and having a 10-year lifespan (2007-2016). The strategy is half way past its lifespan and the process for its implementation is nowhere in sight.

This fact on its own speaks volumes as to government’s strategy. The National Sustainable Development Strategy was drafted after years of discussions with civil society. The Commission which in terms of the Environment Protection Act had to be chaired by the Prime Minister hardly ever met in the presence of Dr Gonzi. He delegated his responsibilities to others. When the National Sustainable Development Strategy was finalised government ignored it and commenced the formulation of another document dealing with a National Environment Policy. The information available to date about this National Environment Policy is substantially a duplication of what’s been said and written on the Sustainable Development strategy.

All this leads to one conclusion. The current government is primarily interested in talking about sustainable development and environmental issues. But when the time comes for implementation it goes back to square one. More talk and more documents.

Well it seems that the Minster for the Environment, Dr Lawrence Gonzi, needs some images of Janus at his office. It would remind him constantly that in the long run having two faces on the same head is only suited to mythology.      

 Published Sunday 7th August 2011

The Independent on Sunday – Environment Supplement