Planning for the foreseeable future

Human nature has always been preoccupied with the future. However, at times we tend not to realise that we mould a substantial part of the future through our actions today. Unfortunately, sometimes our actions today and the future we want, point towards completely different directions.

Our future is necessarily a common one, as explained in the 1987 report of the UN Commission on Environment and Development -, the Brundtland report – aptly entitled Our Common Future. Drafted by an international commission led by former Norwegian Socialist Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, this report placed sustainable development on the global discussion platform, emphasising that we are responsible not only for each other’s welfare today but also for that of future generations. We need to consider carefully that our actions today have a considerable impact and can possibly limit the choices that future generations would have to make.

The impact of our behaviour on the climate is one such example. The impact of climate change is causing havoc in weather patterns and consequently also impacting on all areas of human activity. The patterns and intensity of rainfall is unpredictable. Our road infrastructure never coped, and now it is getting worse.

Earlier this week The Guardian reported that the planet has just a five per cent chance of reaching the Paris climate goals. Rather than avoiding warming up by more than 2oC by the end of the century, it is more likely that Mother Earth will heat up to around 5oC beyond the pre-industrial era.

The predicted consequences are catastrophic. Another report published in April this year had informed us that there are worrying signs for Greenland ice sheet which covers 80 percent of its 1.7 million square kilometres surface area: it has been observed melting faster than ever before. On its own, this factor could potentially cause a rise of many meters in sea level – as many as seven metres.

This is certainly not the future we want. Any rise in sea level rise, even if minimal, would threaten the functionability of all coastal areas and facilities. It would also wipe out entire coastal communities and islands worldwide would disappear. It would be a future of climate- change refugees pushed to higher ground by a rising sea-level. This will not only have an impact low-lying islands in the Pacific Ocean: it will also hit closer to home.
Take a look at and consider the places along the Maltese coast: Msida, Ta’ Xbiex, Pietá, Sliema, Marsaskala, Marsaxlokk, San Pawl il-Baħar, Burmarrad, Birżebbuġa, Marsalforn, Xlendi and many more.
Readers will remember the occasional rise in sea-level at Msida. In one such instant – on 11 May last year – the change in sea level was of more than a metre as a resulting flooding the roads along the coast. This phenomenon is known as seiche (locally referred to as “Il-Milgħuba”) and reported in this newspaper under the heading “Phenomenon: sea-water level rises in Msida, traffic hampered.” It also occurs at St George’s Bay in Birżebbuġa – on a small scale but on a regular basis, causing quite a nuisance to car users.

Now this phenomenon only occurs temporarily, yet it still substantially affects traffic movements when it does. Imagine if the rise in sea level rise is of a permanent nature?

Large parts of our coast are intensively developed – with roads and residential properties, as well as substantial sections of the tourism infrastructure and facilities. In addition, there is also the infrastructure of our ports which we have developed as a maritime nation over the centuries. All this points to the need for adequate planning to implement urgent adaptation measures in order to reinforce Malta’s coastal infrastructure. If we wait too long it may be too late.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 6 August 2017

L-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli

Environment

Illum il-ġurnata, diversi jitkellmu dwar “sostenibilitá” u dwar “l-iżvilupp sostenibbli”. Sfortunatament, bosta drabi ma jkunux jafu x’inhuma jgħidu. Bħala riżultat jispiċċaw iwasslu messaġġi żbaljati.

Mela, ejja nibdew minn hawn. Meta nitkellmu dwar sostenibilitá inkunu qed nirriferu lejn dak li nagħmlu. Dan ikun sostenibbli kemm-il darba, d-deċiżjonijiet tagħna ma jippreġudikawx lil ġenerazzjonijiet futuri milli huma ukoll ikunu jistgħu jieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet tagħhom. Min-naħa l-oħra, l-iżvilupp sostenibbli hi t-triq li permezz tagħha nistgħu noqorbu u eventwalment naslu viċin li nkunu sostenibbli.

Fi ftit kliem is-sostenibilitá tħares fit-tul.

Dan kollu ma jikkonċernax biss l-ambjent. Imma jiġbor flimkien kemm il-politika ambjentali, kif ukoll dik ekonomika, il-politika soċjali kif ukoll il-politika kulturali. Ifisser li f’dak kollu li nagħmlu irridu nħarsu fit-tul u rridu nassiguraw li l-ħarsien ambjentali, l-iżvilupp ekonomiku u soċjali jimxu id f’id u b’rispett għall-kisbiet kulturali.

Dan iwassal għal numru ta’ konklużjonijiet loġiċi li jiffurmaw il-bażi tal-politika għall-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Kienet Gro Harlem Brundtland, soċjal demokratika Norveġiża li serviet kemm bħala Prim Ministru kif ukoll bħala Ministru għall-Ambjent ta’ pajjiżha li fasslet it-triq meta fl-1987 mexxiet il-ħidma tal-Kummissjoni Dinjija għall-Ambjent u l-Iżvilupp tal-Ġnus Magħquda u ippreżentat ir-rapport intitolat Our Common Future.

B’mod prattiku, l-iżvilupp sostenibbli għandu jwassal għal deċiżjonijiet konkreti li permezz tagħhom, l-iżvilupp li jseħħ ikun wieħed li jirrispetta lin-nies, lin-natura u l-kultura. Fi ftit kliem, il-profitti li tiġġenera l-ekonomija ikunu ibbażati fuq kriterji etiċi. Kien għal din ir-raġuni li sa mis-snin disgħin, meta l-iżvilupp sostenibbli issemma l-ewwel darba fil-liġijiet Maltin, dan kien responsabbiltá diretta tal-Prim Ministru. Ta’ l-inqas fuq il-karta.

Għax il-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli tmiss l-oqsma kollha tal-ħajja pubblika u allura teħtieġ politiku ta’ esperjenza. Sfortunatament l-ebda wieħed mill-Prim Ministri li kellna s’issa ma mexxa hu f’dan il-qasam għax dejjem iddelegah lill-Ministru (jew lis-Segretarju Parlamentari) responsabbli għall-Ambjent. Dan hu żball għax il-Ministru responsabbli mill-Ambjent rari ħafna jkun f’posizzjoni li jagħti direzzjoni lill-Ministri l-oħra, li ngħiduha kif inhi, ftit li xejn ikollhom interess fl-iżvilupp sostenibbli.

B’eżempju forsi ninftehmu aħjar dwar kemm f’Malta, l-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli hi biss logħob bil-kliem.

Inħarsu ftit lejn l-infrastruttura tat-toroq tagħna, inkluż it-trasport pubbliku. B’mod mill-iktar ċar din mhiex sostenibbli u ilha hekk għal ħafna żmien.

Marbuta mal-infrastruttura tat-toroq hemm il-mobilitá u l-kwalitá tal-arja. Dan flimkien mal-konġestjoni tat-traffiku, l-impatti fuq is-saħħa prinċipalment minħabba l- kwalitá fqira tal-arja kif ukoll l-impatti fuq l-ekonomija tal-ħin moħli fi traffiku ma jispiċċa qatt.

F’Mejju 2014 l-Istitut għat-Tibdil fil-Klima u l-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli tal-Universitá ta’ Malta kien ikkummissjonat mill-uffiċċju rappresentattiv tal-Unjoni Ewropeja f’Malta biex iħejji studju dwar l-impatti tat-traffiku f’Malta. Minn dan l-istudju, intitolat The External Costs of Passenger and Commercial Vehicles Use in Malta , jirriżulta li l-impatt tal-konġestjoni tat-traffiku hu stmat li hu ekwivalenti għal 1.7% tal-Prodott Gross Nazzjonali. Din l-istima tieħu konsiderazzjoni kemm tal-petrol/diesel kif ukoll tal-ħin li jinħela bħala riżultat tal-konġestjoni tat-traffiku. Hu stmat li f’Malta kull sewwieq, kull sena, jaħli medja ta’ 52 siegħa  wieqaf fit-traffiku.

L-istudju iżid jgħid li din l-istima tiżdied u tilħaq l-4% tal-Prodott Gross Nazzjonali jekk jittieħed ukoll konsiderazzjoni tal-inċidenti tat-traffiku, l-impatt tat-tniġġiz tal-arja, l-effett tat-tniġġiż mill-ħoss kif ukoll il-gassijiet serra. Għall-paragun, tajjeb li nirrealizzaw li t-tkabbir ekonomiku għas-sena 2017 huwa stmat li ser ikun ta’ 3.5% tal-Prodott Gross Nazzjonali.

Dan hu biss eżempju wieħed. Bħalu hemm bosta oħra.

Il-loġika tal-iżvilupp sostenibbli kellha inevitabilment twassal għal servizz effiċjenti ta’ transport pubbliku snin ilu bil-konsegwenza ta’ tnaqqis sostanzjali ta’ karozzi mit-toroq tagħna. Huwa dak li għandna nippretendu f’pajjiż żgħir bħal tagħna fejn kważi kullimkien qiegħed biss tefa’ ta’ ġebla ‘l-bogħod. Imma, kollox bil-maqlub!

Darba l-Kabinett kien approva Strateġija Nazzjonali għall-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli  ………….. imma sadanittant il-politika tat-trasport f’Malta għadha tinkoraġixxi iktar karozzi fit-toroq tagħna.

 ippubblikat fl-Illum : il-Ħadd 8 ta’ Jannar 2017

The logic of sustainable development

four_pillar-sustainable development

 

Political discourse is nowadays peppered with the terms “sustainability” and “sustainable development” but often, unfortunately,  their use is out of context and thereby transmits the wrong message.

So, let us first be clear as to what the terms really mean. Being in a state of sustainability means that our actions, attitudes and behaviour are such that future generations are not precluded from taking their own decisions. On the other hand, sustainable development is the path to be followed to achieve sustainability.

This is not just a matter of environmental concern. It is an intertwining of environmental, economic, social and cultural policy. It means that our actions must take the long view and be compatible with the forces of nature, the economy, human development and a respect for culture.

All this leads to a number of logical conclusions which form the basis of the politics of sustainable development. This was first outlined by Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former Norwegian social democrat prime minister and minister for the environment in her seminal  1987 report Our Common Future,drawn up for the UN World Commission on Environment and Development. In her report, Brundtland, made ample use of the conclusions of an earlier debate in the World Council of Churches in 1974.

In practical terms, the politics of sustainable development should lead  to a number of concrete decisions, as a result of which modern-day living is simultaneously respectful of society, nature, the economy and the accumulated cultural heritage in its widest sense. Sustainable development is, in fact, a balanced approach to development. It is for this reason that, since the 1990s, when sustainable development first made it to Malta’s statute book, it was retained (on paper) as a direct political responsibility of the Prime Minister.

Sustainable development permeates all areas of policy and hence requires a senior politician in Cabinet to be in charge. Unfortunately, not even one of our prime ministers assumed direct political responsibility for the matter as, formally or informally, all of them delegated the matter to the Minister (or Parliamentary Secretary) responsible for the environment.

The Minister responsible for the environment cannot make much headway as he is dependent upon – and can in no way can he be expected to direct – his cabinet colleagues, most of whom are not really interested in sustainable development, anyway. A simple example will illustrate how all the talk on sustainable development by governments in Malta has been an exercise in managing hot air.

Consider the management of Malta’s road infrastructure, including public transport. This is clearly unsustainable and has been so for a long time. The public transport reform carried out under the direction of former Minister Austin Gatt was a public disservice as it made a bad situation even worse.

The management of Malta’s road infrastructure brings to the fore a number of issues, including mobility and air quality. Linked to these are traffic congestion, health impacts primarily due to poor air quality and the impact of the clogging of our roads on our economy through a substantial amount of time spent fuming at our steering wheels.

In May 2014, the Institute for Climate Change and Sustainable Development of the University of Malta was commissioned by the European Union representation in Malta to carry out a study on the external costs of traffic and congestion in Malta. Among other things, this study, entitled The External Costs of Passenger and Commercial Vehicles Use in Malta, estimated that 1.7 per cent of Malta’s GDP is wiped out annually as a result of traffic congestion. This conclusion took into consideration both fuel wasted and time lost: approximately 52 hours per annum per commuter.

The study further emphasises that this estimate would rise to four per cent of the GDP if it also took into consideration traffic accidents, the impacts of air and noise pollution as well as the impact of greenhouse gases emitted.  (For comparison purposes, it is pertinent to remember that the real Malta GDP growth for 2017 is projected at 3.5 per cent.)

This is just one example. There are many more.

The logic of sustainable development would have inevitably led to an efficient public transport system ages ago and a substantially reduced number of cars on our roads. It is what one would expect in a small country where practically everywhere is within a stone’s throw of everywhere else.  Yet we get the complete opposite.

Once upon a time, the Cabinet had approved a National Strategy for Sustainable Development – yet Malta’s transport policy is still one which encourages more cars on the road.

 published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 8 January 2017

Il-flyovers ma jsolvu xejn

kappara-flyover

 

 

Il-konġestjoni tat-traffiku f’pajjiżna sejra mill-ħażin għall-agħar.

It-twessiegħ tat-toroq, il-ftuħ ta’ toroq ġodda u l-kostruzzjoni ta’ flyovers ma huma ser isolvu xejn. Għax dawn kullma jagħmlu hu l-wisa’ għal iktar karozzi u jinkoraġixxu ż-żieda ta’ iktar karozzi fit-toroq tagħna għax joħolqulhom l-ispazju. B’hekk il-problema tkompli tikber. Anzi, inkabbruha aħna stess bl-infieq, bla ħsieb, fl-infrastruttura tat-toroq.

Inizjattivi li jħajru użu ikbar tat-trasport pubbliku huma tajba. Kull inċentiv li jwassal għal użu iktar frekwenti tat-trasport pubbliku hu pass il-quddiem. Imma jinħtieġ ukoll iktar investiment fi transport alternattiv kif ukoll li titjieb l-infrastruttura għalih. L-infrastruttura li tiffaċilita l-użu tar-rota, per eżempju, ftit li xejn teżisti. Fuq kollox hawn preġudizzju kbir kontra l-użu tar-rota u kontra ċ-ċiklisti.

Fuq kollox is-settur pubbliku jeħtieġ li jagħti l-eżempju ħalli jħajjar iktar mill-impjegati tiegħu jagħmlu użu mir-rota biex imorru għax-xogħol. Imma biex dan ikun jista’ isir jeħtieġ li jkunu ipprovduti showers fuq il-post tax-xogħol li minnhom hemm ftit li xejn. Il-Gvern jista’ jekk irid jieħu l-inizjattiva u jagħti l-eżempju. U inizjattiva ta’ din ix-xorta ftit tiswa’ flus.

Il-parti l-kbira tad-distanzi bejn post u ieħor f’pajjiżna huma żgħar. Dan suppost jagħmilha iktar faċli biex iktar persuni jinqatgħu mid-dipendenza fuq il-karozza privata. Għalhekk forsi jista’ jkun iktar faċli li naslu lejn soluzzjoni jekk għall-bidu niffukaw il-ħidma tagħna fuq livell lokali bil-ħsieb li innaqqsu sostanzjalment l-użu tal-karozzi privati f’distanzi żgħar fil-lokalitajiet infushom kif ukoll bejn il-lokalitajiet ġirien. F’uħud mill-irħula, per eżempju spiss niltaqgħu ma bdiewa anżjani li jiċċaqalqu min-naħa għall-oħra tar-raħal bir-rota. Eżempju li jista’ jinfirex mat-tfal tal-iskola u bil-mod il-mod mal-bqija tal-komunitá. Minn livell lokali imbagħad nistgħu nfirxu l-esperjenza għal-lokalitajiet qrib.

Għax anke fil-qasam tat-trasport il-problemi nazzjonali jistgħu jissolvew fl-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna. Il-problemi ambjentali ikkawżati mill-konġestjoni tat-traffiku nistgħu nsolvuhom b’dan il-mod. Is-soluzzjonijiet imbaghad jinfirxu għall-bqija tal-pajjiż. Dan li jfissru l-kliem think global, act local.

Għax il-konġestjoni tat-traffiku ma nsolvuhiex bil-flyovers iżda billi illum irawmu l-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ għada. B’hekk nistgħu naslu. Ovvjament jekk irridu naslu.

ippubblikat fuq l-Illum, nhar it-23 t’Ottubru 2016

Claiming back our coast

portomaso-st-julian-s

 

The  Paceville Master Plan is rightfully subtitled : Malta’s prime coastal location.  However, it considers the coast as a money-spinner and completely ignores Parliament’s decision earlier this year to codify the importance of the coastal area through its inclusion in legislation regulating the public domain.

The Paceville Master Plan issued for public consultation on 26 September was the first opportunity for the Planning Authority, on behalf of the government – which instructs it on policy initiatives – to flesh out the bones of the declarations made in the public domain legislation, approved by Parliament in May. That it did not do so casts considerable doubt as to whether the unanimous approval by Parliament of the public domain legislation is another political gimmick.

The Paceville Master Plan covers a large tract of land bordering Pembroke to the north, Swieqi to the west, St Julian’s to the South and coastal waters to the east.  The Paceville coastline is extensive: it adds up to anything between three and four kilometres, depending on the manner of measurement.

We have been told that the Paceville coastline will be accessible through a passageway that will be created along the coast. As a matter of fact, most of the Paceville coastline is already dotted with commercial development on land which is either public property or else is subject to servitudes in favour of the state. During last Wednesday’s sitting of Parliament’s Environment and Development Planning Committee, representatives of the Government Property Department presented a drawing indicating all this property along the Paceville coastline. In a number of instances, the drawing submitted indicated passageways of a width varying between four and five metres along the coast which are obviously intended for public access, even though it is not always clear how one would be able to find their points of entry and exit.

Parliament’s approval of amendments to the Civil Code approved in May lays robust legal foundations for the protection of the coast. The government has been entrusted with protect the coast on behalf of future generations, hence it belongs to all of us, in trust, on behalf of those future generations.  The coastal perimeter extends to a minimum of 15 metres from the shoreline. To this, the newly-approved legislation adds the foreshore, which extends as far as the reach of the largest wave – a reach that can be substantial in those parts of the coastline that are exposed to the open sea.

Large sections of the Paceville coastline are developed, but there are still small pockets which are either not developed or else contain development that is not intensive. A proactive Master Plan would have identified this as an opportunity for plotting the way forward in implementing a programme for the protection of the Paceville coast.  Unfortunately, it seems that the consultants to the Planning Authority were not briefed on the matter and as a consequence there is a real danger that this opportunity will be lost.

After the current public consultation is concluded, the Planning Authority will have to examine the comments made and consider the extent to which such comments can and should be taken into consideration in the second draft of the Master Plan.

The Authority should take on board the public domain legislation in respect of the coast and plan for its implementation when it revises the first draft of Paceville Master Plan.  In the short term, this should be done in relation to those areas which are still undeveloped or underdeveloped. I would also expect the Planning Authority to plan for the longer timeframe in respect of those sections of the coastline which are already intensively developed.

This leaves one other basic issue: land reclamation. I feel that, on a policy level, Labour’s land reclamation policy is the marine equivalent of the Nationalist’s widely criticised 2006 rationalisation exercise through which the boundaries of development were irresponsibly extended.  Labour will be extending the limits to development outwards towards the sea whilst the Nationalist-led government extended the said limits towards the countryside.

The proposed Master Plan for Paceville recommends land reclamation off the Dragonara/Portomaso coastline. This is an ill-thought proposal as the area identified for land reclamation will be an extension of possibly the most intensively developed part of the Paceville coast. This proposal should undoubtedly be revisited as commonsense suggests that rather than increasing development in the area, this should, in the long term, be curtailed.

The proposed Paceville Master Plan should be utilised as a planning tool for adequate coastal management. It can, at this point in time, also be the optimum vehicle for translating the public domain legislation into practical policies through which we can start the process of reclaiming the coast for future generations.

This is an opportunity which should not be missed.

published in The Malta Independent : 16 October 2016

Il-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ warajna jitolbu kont ta’ għemilna

environmental footprint

 

L-iżvilupp sostenibbli hu l-ħolqa li tgħaqqad flimkien lill-ġenerazzjonijiet tal-lum ma dawk ta’ għada, il-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri. Għax l-iżvilupp ikun sostenibbli meta l-għażliet li nagħmlu llum ma jkunux ta’ xkiel għall-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ għada, meta huma jiġu biex jagħmlu l-għażliet tagħhom.

Il-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri m’għandhomx vuċi fil-preżent. M’għandhomx is-saħħa li jisfidawna meta illum nieħdu deċiżjonijiet li jorbtulhom idejhom. Ħafna drabi hu faċli li ma nagħtux każ tagħhom għax la għandhom vuċi, la għandhom saħħa finanzjarja u l-anqas ma għandhom vot. U fis-soċjetà tagħna, min hu bla vuċi, bla saħħa finanzjarja u iktar u iktar bla vot ftit għandu ċans li jinstema. Kultant, bil-kemm bil-kemm jingħata każ ta’ dawk li għandhom vot, aħseb u ara ta’ dawk li m’għandhomx!

Il-futur ħadd minna ma rah, imma, nistgħu nagħtuh sura bid-deċiżjonijiet li nieħdu illum.

Sfortunatament m’aħniex nagħtu futur tajjeb lill-ġenerazzjonijiet li ġejjin warajna għax qed inħarbtu kull ma jiġi għal idejna.

33% tal-art f’Malta hi mibnija, u ħafna minna inbniet f’dawn l-aħħar tletin sena. Imma nibqgħu nibnu minkejja li għandna 71,080 propjetà residenzjali li hi vojta (skond iċ-ċensiment tal-2011: 41,232 propjetà residenzjali hi vojta s-sena kollha, u 29,848 propjetà oħra tintuża kultant). Nibqgħu nibnu meta l-kwantità ta’ propjetà vojta fiha 9 darbiet daqs il-parti l-mibnija ta’ B’Kara, l-ikbar lokalità fil-gżejjer Maltin.

Kontra kull parir li ħallewlna missierietna, l-parti l-kbira tal-bini l-ġdid tul dawn l-aħħar snin ma fihx bir biex jiġbor l-ilma tax-xita. Flok fil-bir (li ma jeżistix) l-ilma jintefa fit-triqat jew fid-drenaġġ u fl-aħħar, wara li jgħerreq lit-toroq tagħna, jispiċċa l-baħar.

Mhux biss ma nieħdux ħsieb li naħżnu l-ilma tax-xita, talli dorna għall-ilma li taħżen in-natura nnifisha. Dorna għall-ilma tal-pjan, u ħarbatnieh. Użajna dan l-ilma bla limitu tant li naqas sewwa. Il-ftit li baqa’ huwa kontaminat bil-pestiċidi u kimiċi oħra mill-għelieqi tagħna.

In-natura tieħu ż-żmien biex issewwi din il-ħsara kbira. Snin kbar. X’ser inħallu lil ta’ warajna?

Ma jidhirx li hemm rieda li nieqfu mit-tħarbit. Għax issa jidher li ser nibdew kompetizzjoni tal-bini tat-torrijiet f’tas-Sliema. X’għandna bżonn dal-bini kollu meta għandna tant bini vojt?

L-ilma tax-xita ser jispiċċa l-baħar għax il-mini imħaffra taħt l-art issa lesti.

Il-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ warajna jitolbu kont ta’ egħmilna. Għax qed nisirqulhom ir-riżorsi tagħhom. M’għandhomx vot biex jipprotestaw bih, forsi għalhekk ħadd ma jrid jismagħhom u jagħti kazhom.

kummentarju mxandar fuq l-RTK illum 21 ta’ Diċembru 2015

Paris COP21 : the last chance ?

Paris Cop21

Next week’s Paris Climate Change meeting is the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) relative to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, a framework treaty signed in Rio de Janeiro at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

For the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, the Paris meeting aims to achieve a universal and legally binding agreement on climate, with the aim of ensuring that global warming does not exceed the pre-industrial revolution temperatures by more than 2°C.

A number of Pacific island states whose very existence is threatened due to the rise in sea level as a result of climate change have been lobbying for a lower target, 1.5°C. This was, however, deemed as being too ambitious by the international community.

The Paris Agreement aims to help the world move towards a low-carbon future. This will mean that carbon emissions have to be reduced across the board and on a global level, as a result reducing global warming. If there are sufficient reductions in carbon emissions over a number of years the global temperature will, hopefully, be reduced by at least 2°C. If, on the other hand, carbon emissions remain practically unchecked, it is estimated that the temperature rise will be as much as 6°C over pre-industrial revolution temperatures by the year 2100. This would inevitably have catastrophic consequences – some of which are already being experienced.

The foundations for the Paris Climate Change Conference were laid in Lima, Peru, 12 months ago, as a conclusion of COP20 in what is known as the ‘Lima Call for Climate Action’. In Lima, all countries were called upon to declare their plans and pledges for the reduction of carbon emissions. Such pledges have, to date, been made by more than 180 countries which together are responsible for 97.8 per cent of global carbon emissions.

This response to the Lima Call is considered by many as being very positive, this increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome in Paris.

However, coupled with the plans and pledges for the reductions of carbon emissions, the underdeveloped countries expect that the developed countries will honour their pledges of substantial contributions to finance their transition to a low carbon economy. Initiatives during the past 12 months indicate that even on financing, Paris is on track.

During previous climate change conferences, all the countries expressed a willingness to address climate change. There was, however, one problem: they wanted others to do the hard work required. As a result, no one wished to take the first steps. The failure to reach an agreement in Copenhagen in the 2009 COP was a wake-up call.

Hopefully, we are on the eve of a global consensus that the time is ripe for action. We have a duty towards future generations to change direction and reverse the climatic impacts of human activity. Paris could well be the last chance to save the planet.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 29 November 2015

The compromise which can never be accepted

iz-Zonqor 2

 

The Prime Minister is seeking a compromise which will allow him to proceed with the rape of  Żonqor. It will be acceptable to all bar the extremists the Prime Minister was reported as saying.

The compromise sought by the Prime Minister will be such that instead of facilitating the rape of 90,000 square metres of agricultural land at Iż-Żonqor, he may opt for a smaller agricultural area to be ruined. That is, instead of placing all the university campus at Iż-Żonqor, only part of it will be so sited, for the time being.

Is this meant to elicit a thank you? Thank You for what?

This is a government which hears but does not listen.  It has certainly heard the public outcry against the development of ODZ land. But it has not listened to,  nor has it apparently understood, the reasons which justify this outcry.

If this were a government which listens, in addition to hearing,  it would understand that the objection runs far deeper and is not limited to the site area. It is an objection in principle to the development of ODZ land.

The proposed compromise is not acceptable as there ought to be no messing about with principles, not even if there is economic gain.  The economic gain indicated is just one side of the equation. It can never justify the environmental and social losses. The only possible solution is to relocate the whole project towards other areas where the economic gains made either create no environmental and social costs or else their magnitude is insignificant. Obviously there will be economic fundamentalists who would always prefer ODZ land as this minimises the financial costs of the project, the only costs which really interest them.

ODZ  means Outside the Development Zone. It is not some flexible boundary that can be adjusted  to suit the whims of the emperor.  The demarcation line between the Development Zone and beyond has been moved quite often in the past.  In the process,  large tracts of agriculture land was devoured by a concrete jungle.

The development of Iż-Żonqor will be an injustice which will shift more resources of the nation to the wealthy, in the process robbing the local farmers of their dignity. The farmers tilling the land at iż-Żonqor have their social and spiritual roots embedded deep in the soil. They are an integral part of the land which they take care of on behalf of all of us Maltese people.

Last week, over 3,000 Maltese citizens gathered in Valletta to protest against the Żonqor project. They did this because they believe that our natural heritage is our common responsibility. Iż-Żonqor is part of our common home on which we all depend physically and emotionally.

Iż-Żonqor is part of the logic of receptivity. It is on loan to the present generation which must pass it on to the next generation. Defending the countryside is our common responsibility which we will shoulder together. On this basis, there is no room for compromise Mr Prime Minister. Focus elsewhere and leave Iż-Żonqor alone.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 28 June 2015

Il-karba tal-art ……….. il-karba tal-fqir

Boff. Grito da Terra    laudato_si_

L-enċiklika li ppubblika l-Papa Franġisku l-bierah m’hiex biss enċiklika ħadra. Hi fuq kollox nisġa ta’ argumenti li jispjegaw kif u għaliex il-ħsara ambjentali  u l-inġustizzja soċjali jimxu id f’id. Preċiżament l-argument ta’ Leonardo Boff għoxrin sena ilu fil-ktieb tiegħu : Il-karba tal-art, il-karba tal-fqir. [Grito da Terra, Grito dos Pobres.] [Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor.]

L-enċiklika hi imsejħa “Laudato Si”, l-ewwel żewġ kelmiet fl-edizzjoni Latina. Huma ukoll l-ewwel żewġ kelmiet tal-Kantiku tal-krejaturi ta’ Franġisku ieħor, ta’ Assisi, li jfissru jkun imfaħħar (il-Mulej).

Oħtna d-dinja qed issofri ħsara kbira riżultat tal-użu ħażin mill-bniedem tar-risorsi ta’ din l-art. Il-ftit ħsara ekoloġika ta’ kull wieħed minna għalkemm tista’ tidher żgħira, meta tinġabar flimkien tammonta għal ħsara ferm ikbar.

Oħtna d-dinja marida minħabba fina. Dan il-mard hu rifless fl-art, fl-ilma, fl-arja u f’kull forma ta’ ħajja fuq din l–art. Hu manifestat ukoll fil-bdil fil-klima li hi riżultat tal-ħidma tal-bniedem.

Hemm relazzjoni mill-qrib bejn il-fqar u l-fraġilità tad-dinja. Il-ħarsien tal-ambjent u l-ħarsien tal-fqar u l-vulnerabbli jimxu id f’id. Il-fqar jgħidilna Franġisku huma mċaħħda minn dak li hu essenzjali biex jgħixu b’dinjità fil-waqt li l-għonja jiffangaw. Il-qerda ekoloġika hi l-ħolqa bejn it-tnejn.

Dan kollu qed iwassal għal dejn ekoloġiku sostanzjali li hu l-wirt li ser inħallu lill-ġenerażżjonijiet futuri. Huma l-foqra li ser iħallsu dan id-dejn riżultat tar-regħba u l-ħela tar-riżorsi tad-dinja tul is-snin.

Dan hu l-messaġġ mifrux fuq il-184 paġna tal-enċiklika. Il-qerda ambjentali u l-inġustizzji soċjali huma ż-żewġ naħat tal-istess munita. Inkluż il-bdil fil-klima.

Ippubblikat  fuq iNews :  il-Ġimgħa 19 ta’ Ġunju 2015

The politics of Sustainable Development

four_pillar-sustainable  development

 

Sustainable Development is about how we satisfy our needs today in a responsible manner. We normally refer to the World Commission on Environment and Development headed by Gro Harlem Brundtland who, in her final report in 1987 entitled Our Common Future defined sustainable development as “the development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The politics of sustainable development is hence about politics with a responsible long-term view: it is about the future that we desire to bequeath to future generations. It is a future that we can mould today as a result of the careful consideration of the impacts of each and every one of our present actions.

Sustainable Development is about living in harmony with all that surrounds us, at all times. It is about being in harmony with Mother Earth, with nature and with our fellow human beings. It is treating our surroundings as part of our family: it is the Brother Sun Sister Moon philosophy espoused by Francis of Assisi. It is the path to dignity aiming simultaneously at the eradication of poverty and the protection of the planet. Sustainable development requires the synchronisation of cultural, social, environmental and economic policy. Shielding human dignity, appreciating our culture and environmental protection are as essential as economic development.

There is a visible gap between the political declarations made and the implementation of sustainable development policies. The international community is analysing the achievements made through the Millennium Development Goals agreed to during the Johannesburg 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. As a result, it is discussing the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations General Assembly next September. Yet in Malta we still lack an appropriate  sustainable development infrastructure.

So far, the Maltese political class has failed in integrating Sustainable Development policymaking and its implementation. Malta is not unique in this respect. In fact, even prior to the Rio+20 Summit in 2012, 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.

Ban Ki Moon had emphasised 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 not been able to deliver so far.

The National Commission for Sustainable Development was disbanded years ago and the provisions of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development have been largely ignored. This strategy, which was the result of extensive consultations with civil society, laid down not only the objectives to be achieved but also the structures to be set up in each ministry in order to proceed with the strategy’s implementation.

All the deadlines laid down in the National Sustainable Development Strategy have been ignored by the government. This was primarily the responsibility of the previous government led by Lawrence Gonzi. The present government is apparently still in a trance about the whole matter.

The only positive development in the past years has been the adoption of a proposal of Alternattiva Demokratika -The Green Party in Malta, leading to the appointment of a Guardian for Future Generations. However, deprived of the substantial resources required to be effective, all the good intentions of the Guardian will not suffice to kick-start the implementation process. Even the minister responsible for sustainable development has some bark but no bite. He too has been deprived of the essential resources to carry out his mission. He has not inherited any functioning sustainable development infrastructure. In addition, he has been given political responsibility for the environment without in any way being directly involved in the environmental functions of MEPA. This is not an indictment of Minister Leo Brincat but rather an indictment of his boss, the Prime Minister, who is quite evidently not interested in beefing up the regulatory infrastructure. Waiting two years for some form of indication of goodwill is more than enough.

The National Sustainable Development Strategy has a whole section dealing with the implementation process. When approved by Cabinet on the eve of the 2008 general elections, it had laid down the need for “a permanent structure, appropriately staffed and funded (which) should be established to coordinate, monitor, revise and promote the National Strategy for Sustainable Development among all stakeholders. Such a structure should be placed under the direction of the National Commission for Sustainable Development” (section 4.1 of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development).

Seven years later this permanent structure is still inexistent. Is there need of any further proof of the lack of political will to act on sustainable development?

 

published on 8 March 2015 in The Malta Independent on Sunday