Il-legat ta’ Arvid Pardo: niskopru mill-ġdid il-vokazzjoni marittima

“Aħna għandna interess naturali u vitali fil-baħar ta’ madwarna li permezz tiegħu ngħixu u nieħdu n-nifs.” Dan hu kliem Arvid Pardo, dakinnhar ambaxxatur ta’ Malta għall-Ġnus Magħquda, kliem li qal meta kien qed jindirizza  l-Assemblea Ġenerali fuq il-proposta ta’ Malta dwar qiegħ il-baħar u r-rizorsi tiegħu bħala l-wirt komuni tal-umanità.

Il-baħar hu ħajjitna, iżda ftit li xejn jingħata prominenza fil-prijoritajiet politiċi tal-pajjiż. Bħala gżira stat,   il-baħar u dak kollu marbut miegħu, għandu jkun fuq nett fl-aġenda politika tal-pajjiż.  Hu ghalhekk ta’ tħassib li lokalment ma ntqal prattikament xejn mill-Gvern dwar trattat fuq l-ibħra internazzjonali konkluż iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa fil-qafas tal-istrutturi tal-Ġuns Magħquda. Ftehim li hu ta’ importanza storika u riżultat ta’ negozjati li ilhom sejrin sa mill-2004.  Dan hu ftehim li hu mibni fuq il-legat tal-Konvenzjoni tal-Ġnus Magħquda dwar il-Baħar li dwarha, permezz ta’ Arvid Pardo, Malta tat sehem kruċjali.

Malta teħtieġ li tiskopri mill-ġdid il-vokazzjoni marittima tagħha u li tkun fuq quddiem nett f’dawn l-inizjattivi fid-dibattitu marittimu internazzjonali. Biex inkunu proattivi jeħtieġilna li jkollna Ministeru iffukat fuq il-politika Marittima li jiġbor taħt saqaf wieħed il-politika marittima kollha ta’ relevanza għall-gżejjer Maltin: mill-ekonomija l-blu, is-sajd u l-akwakultura għall-ħarsien ta’ zoni marittimi estensivi anke fl-ibħra internazzjinali, il-ħarsien aħjar tal-kosta kif ukoll li nimplimentaw sewwa l-liġi dwar id-Dimanju Pubbliku bla dewmien u dan biex ikun assigurat l-aċċess pubbliku għall-kosta, u b’hekk, fuq perjodu ta’ żmien tkun ikkontrollata l-kummerċjalizzazzjoni tal-kosta li ilha sejra s-snin.

Darba kellna Segretarjat Parlamentari għall-Affarijiet Marittimi. Illum il-ġurnata l-politika marittima hi linja waħda fil-lista ta’ responsabbiltajiet tal-Kabinett taħt il-Ministeru tat-Trasport. Fir-realtà, imma, l-politika marittima hi frammentata  u dwarha hemm responsabbiltajiet f’diversi Ministeri.  Fil-prattika dan ifisser li ma hemm ħadd li għandu responsabbiltà politika diretta u konsegwenza ta’ hekk il-koordinazzjoni politika f’dan il-qasam hi waħda limitat ħafna.  Din hi ħasra għax dan hu qasam li għandu ħafna potenzjal li jkun ta’ ġid għall-pajjiż.

It-trattat il-ġdid ser ifittex li jindirizza l-ħarsien tas-saħħa tal-oċejani mhux biss fil-present, imma iktar importanti fuq medda ta’ żmien: dan hu il-wirt li ser inħallu warajna lill-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri.   Kif ġie emfasizzat mill-kelliemi għas-Segretarju Ġenerali tal-Ġnus Magħquda Antonio Guterres, dan it-trattat il-ġdid ser ifittex li jindirizza il-kriżi li qed tiffaċċja id-dinja fuq tlett fronti: it-tibdil fil-klima, it-telfien tal-bijodiversità u t-tniġġiż.

In-negozjati dwar it-trattat intemmu fil-lejl bejn l-4 u l-5 ta’ Marzu. Ser iservi biex titwettaq il-wegħda miftehma fil-konklużjonijiet  tal-Konferenza dwar il-Bijodiversità li saret f’Montreal f’Diċembru li għadda u li hi magħrufa bħala  30×30.   Din hi wegħda bl-iskop li tistabilixi fuq sisien legal sodi il-mira ta’ protezzjoni ta’ terz tal-bijodiversità fuq l-art u l-baħar u dan sas-sena 2030. In-negozjati dwar it-trattat fasslu l-qafas legali meħtieġ biex tkun tista’ tibda t-triq twila ħalli jkunu implimentati l-wegħdiet, il-konklużjonijiet u inizjattivi ta’ Montreal.

L-ibħra internazzjonali jibdew fejn jispiċċaw iż-żoni ekonomiċi esklussivi tal-pajjiżi differenti, ġeneralment madwar 200 mil nawtiku (390 km) mill-kosta. Dawn l-ibħra jammontaw għal 60 fil-mija tal-oċejani globali u ma huma tal-ebda pajjiż, u allura huma ta’ kulħadd! Dawn l-ibħra huma taħt theddida kontinwa ta’ ħsara mill-ħidma akkumulata tal-bniedem tul is-snin. Għalhekk il-ħtieġa li l-komunità internazzjonali taġixxi illum qabel għada.

Meta it-trattat jidħol fis-seħħ, forsi, inkunu pass eqreb lejn il-ħolqien ta’ zoni ta’ protezzjoni marittima fl-ibħra internazzjonali. Din, meta isseħħ tkun kisba storika kbira.

Arvid Pardo jkun kburi li wasalna sa hawn. L-aħjar mod kif nikkommemorawh ikun kull darba li nkunu kapaċi nidħlu għar-responsabbiltajiet internazzjonali tagħna dwar l-ibħra. Jeħtieġilna li niftakru kontinwament li bħala gżira, il-baħar hu ħajjitna: il-baħar hu dak li għamilna dak li aħna illum.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 13 ta’ Marzu 2023

Arvid Pardo’s legacy: rediscovering a maritime vocation

“We are naturally vitally interested in the sea which surrounds us and through which we live and breathe.” This was stated by Arvid Pardo then Malta’s UN Ambassador when addressing the United Nations General Assembly in November 1967 on Malta’s seminal proposal on the seabed and its resources as the common heritage of mankind.

The sea is our lifeline, yet it does not feature prominently in our policy priorities. As an island state, all issues relative to the sea should be at the very top of the country’s political agenda. It is with regret therefore that very little was said locally by government on the High Seas Treaty concluded within the UN framework earlier this week. This agreement, of crucial importance, is the culmination of negotiations which started in 2004 and builds on the legacy of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in respect of which Malta had a pivotal role through Ambassador Arvid Pardo.

Malta needs to rediscover its maritime vocation and be at the forefront of such international maritime initiatives and debate. In order to be proactive, we need a focused Ministry for Maritime Affairs which groups under one political head all maritime politics of relevance to the Maltese islands: ranging from the blue economy, fisheries and aquaculture to marine protected areas, the protection of coastal areas as well as ensuring that the Public Domain Act is implemented the soonest to ensure public access all along the coast and over time to reverse the commercialisation of the coast which has been going on for ages.

Once upon a time we had a Parliamentary Secretariat for Maritime Affairs. Nowadays maritime policy is a footnote to the list of Cabinet responsibilities, listed under the Ministry for Transport,  but in reality, it is fragmented over a multitude of Ministries. In practice this means that direct political responsibility and policy coordination in maritime policy is rather limited. This is a pity as it is a policy area which has so much potential!

The new treaty seeks to counter the destructive trends which is faced by the health of the oceans, not just at present, but also, more importantly, for generations to come. As emphasised by the spokesperson for United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the new treaty seeks to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

The treaty, concluded during the night between the 4 and 5 March, is crucial for implementing what is known as the 30×30 pledge of the Montreal Biodiversity Conference held last December. This is intended to protect a third of the biodiversity on land and at sea by the year 2030. This treaty establishes the legal framework required to start the long road towards implementation of the Montreal pledges, conclusions and initiatives.

The high seas begin where the exclusive economic zone of the different countries end, generally some 200 nautical miles (390 km) from the coastline. Comprising more than 60 percent of the world’s oceans they belong to no particular country. They are however under continuous threat from anthropogenic activity.

When the treaty enters into force, maybe, we will be a step closer to creating marine protected areas in international waters. That would be a historic achievement.

Arvid Pardo would be proud of such a moment. The best way of honouring his memory would be if we shoulder our international responsibilities, continuously protecting the marine environment which has contributed so much to what we are.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 12 March 2023

Snippets from the EGP Manifesto: (9) Greening Agriculture

organic agriculture

The European Parliament now has equal responsibility for the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. It is time to make our farming climate-smart, sustainable, fair and ethically sound. We want resilient, biologically diverse, healthy and robust agro-ecosystems that not only adapt to climate change but mitigate it.

We want to see a system which allows for a much fairer distribution of public funds, including more support for small farmers, for organic farming, for conventional farmers who want to green their production methods and for local production and sale, which brings farmers closer to consumers.

Farmers deserve a decent price for their products and corporate buyers should not be allowed to drive down farm-gate prices below sustainable levels.

We need to increase soil fertility, drastically cut the inputs of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, eliminate harmful export subsidies and move away from intensive industrial farming. We will continue our campaign for fair and unrestricted access to plant breeding material and against the patenting of plants and animals. We oppose the further privatisation of seeds and plant material in EU rules on seeds and we will keep fighting against the corporate control of the seed industry which makes farmers reliant on seed designed specifically for use with chemical fertilisers and pesticides, instead of allowing them to save and breed their own seed and adapt their crops to changing local conditions.

Biodiversity loss and excessive pesticide use has meant habitat destruction and led to a massive decline in bee and other insect populations, which disturbs natural pollination of many plants and crops. If we want healthy local fruit and vegetables, we must ‘give bees a chance’.

(EGP 2014 Manifesto section entitled  : Greening Agriculture)

Tackling the green skills gap

green skills 3

Launching the public consultation on the Green Economy last month, Ministers Leo Brincat and Evarist Bartolo emphasised the need to address the green skills gap in the process leading to a Green Economy strategy and action plan.

It is estimated that 20 million jobs will be created in the Green Economy between now and 2020 within the European Union. Capacity building is the greatest challenge: ensuring that more working men and women are adequately equipped with green skills.

The Green Economy includes activities in different sectors. It is possible to go about activity in these sectors in a manner which reduces their environmental impacts, is socially inclusive and economically rewarding.

Various sectors have been identified as being of key importance in the transition to a Green Economy. The basic characteristics which distinguish the Green Economy are a reduction of carbon emissions, the reduction of all forms of pollution, energy and resource efficiency, prevention of biodiversity loss  and the protection of eco-system services.

The United Nations Environment Programme  has repeatedly emphasised that the transition to a Green Economy enables economic growth and investment while increasing environmental quality and social inclusiveness. A Green Economy is one which respects the eco-system and recognises that there are natural limits  which, if exceeded, endanger the earth’s ecological balance. In effect it means that the transition to a Green Economy signifies addressing all of our environmental impacts in all areas of activity. Addressing impacts in one area would still signify progress although this would be of limited benefit.

An agriculture which forms part of the Green Economy is one which works with nature, not against it. It uses water sustainably and does not contaminate it. Green agriculture does not seek to genetically modify any form of life nor to patent it.

Energy efficient buildings, clean and renewable energy together with the sustainable use of land are also basic building blocks of the Green Economy. We cannot speak of the Green Economy whilst simultaneously tolerating  large scale building construction. Having a stock of 72,000 vacant dwellings, (irrespective of the reasons for their being vacant) signifies that as a nation we have not yet understood that the limited size of the Maltese islands ought to lead to a different attitude. The green skills of politicians and their political appointees on MEPA is what’s lacking in this regard.

Maritime issues are of paramount economic importance to Malta’s economy. The depleted fish stock and the quality of sea water are obvious issues. But the impacts of organised crime through the dumping of toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in the Mediterranean Sea is not to be underestimated as has been evidenced time and again in the exploits of the eco-mafia reign to our north.

Heavy industry is fortunately absent in Malta. New industries like the pharmaceutical industry are more eco-conscious. However we still require more inputs on resource efficiency and eco-design.

Greening tourism is essential in order to ensure that more of tourism’s environmental impacts are addressed.  The consumption of tourism is 50% more per capita than that registered for a resident, indicating that there is room for considerable improvements.

Public transport is still in shambles. The effects of this state of affairs is evident in the ever increasing number of passenger cars on our roads which have a major impact on air and noise pollution in our communities. Greening transport policies signifies that the mobility of all is ensured with the least possible impacts.  Still a long way to go.

Waste management has made substantial improvement over the years even though it is still way  behind EU targets. It is positive that the draft waste management strategy has established the attaining of a Zero Waste target by 2050. However we still await the specifics of how this is to be achieved. It is achievable but the commitment of all is essential.

Our water resources have been mismanaged, year in, year our. Discharging millions of litres of treated sewage effluent into the sea is just the cherry on the cake. The contaminated and depleted water table which still contributes around 40% to Malta’s potable water supply is in danger of being  completely lost for future generations if we do not act fast.

All the above have been dealt with in various policy documents. One such document is the National Sustainable Development Strategy which establishes the parameters for the action required. Implementing the National Sustainable Development Strategy is the obvious first step in establishing a Green Economy.  It is here where the real green skill gap exists. Decision makers lack green skills. This skill gap exists at the level of Cabinet, Parliament, the top echelons of the civil service and in the ranks of the political appointees to Boards and Authorities where decisions are taken and strategies implemented.

When this skill gap is addressed, the rest will follow and we will be on the way to establishing  a green economy.

published in The Times of Malta, Saturday 14 December 2013