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

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The tip of the iceberg: In 2011 a €20 billion Mafia racket from dumping of toxic and nuclear waste

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What follows is an article published 2 years ago in the UK Independent :

Mafia earning €20bn from dumping toxic waste

Italy’s mafia clans, best known for drug running and extortion rackets, are earning €20 billion a year by turning the south of the country into a toxic waste dump, an environmental organisation said in a major report.

Heavy metals and cancer-causing organic compounds are being illegally buried with increasing frequency, often in agricultural areas or on land that is used to build new homes, the Legambiente group warns.

The dangers to human health were dramatically illustrated when contaminated farmland outside Naples was blamed for the discovery of toxic dioxins in the region’s prized buffalo mozzarella cheese in 2008.

And the escalating risk is underlined by the new report which shows that last year the authorities seized a record two million tonnes of dangerous waste on its way for disposal, often in the one of Italy’s four southern-most regions, Sicily, Calabria, Campania and Puglia where the country’s four main mafia groups hold sway.

Enrico Fontana, Legambiente’s spokesman on environmental and organised crime, said the figure was just the tip of the iceberg. “There was a lot more that was not intercepted,” he said. “And this market makes the mafia huge amounts of money. And the amount they earn from it is growing,” he said.

At the latest count, in 2010, around 31,000 environmental crimes were committed, the report says, with 41% of them involving illegal waste disposal and recycling of cement.

Campania, the region around Naples whose streets are perpetually carpeted in piles of stinking garbage, is the worst-hit part of the country, it is claimed. The local mafia, the Camorra, is frequently blamed for exacerbating or even causing the rubbish crisis – by encouraging the closure of official incineration plants – in order to fan demand for its illegal dumping services.

The Camorra’s role was underlined today by the arrest of Naples-area businessman Ludovico Ucciero for allegedly helping local mobsters enrich themselves through control of garbage removal and incineration. Mr Ucciero runs four rubbish removal companies, which have been seized by authorities.

Campania is followed in the environmental abuse stakes by Calabria, home to the powerful ‘ndrangheta crime syndicate. Then comes Sicily the base of Cosa Nostra, and Puglia, the home of the Sacra Corona Unita crime group. The four southern regions together accounted for 45% of the overall environmental-crime tally.

But Mr Fontana warned that it was not only Italy’s south was under threat from toxic dumping. “It’s happening now in Lombardy (the region around the northern city of Milan). ‘ndrangheta is dumping toxic waste there in or at places where homes and offices are being constructed,” he said. “The Ecomafia is a virus that poisons the environment, pollutes the economy and endangers people’s health.”

According to the report, Italy was the also “the crossroads for the international traffic in dangerous waste and radioactive material coming from other countries that was destined for, via sea, Africa and Asian countries”.

Legambiente said illegal building was another environmental blight that was on the rise, with 26,500 properties illicitly constructed last year. Mr Fontana said that as a result “parks and countryside and other places an area the size of 540 soccer pitches has been stolen”.

Sometimes hideous, concrete monsters sprout up to despoil some of Italy’s most beautiful coast and countryside. Earlier this year, four people were arrested in connection with the illegal construction of the eight-storey “Ecomonster” at Sant’Agata in Puglia.

Illicit and shoddily constructed homes, using poor quality cement, are also prone to collapse, as was the case with the student dormitory that subsided during the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake killing eight students.

Mr Fontana said the Italian government should introduce as a matter of urgency more severe penalties. Currently only one activity, organisation of illegal waste trafficking, has the status of a serious crime that can be punished by longer jail terms and investigated by wiretaps. “The act of dumping poison and polluting streams and the air,” should also be classified in this way,” he said.

Making a killing from the environment

1. Mozzarella

In March 2008 the Italian government recalled from sale buffalo mozzarella cheese made by 25 producers in the Campania region near Naples, after they were found to contain high levels of the dangerous chemical dioxin. Toxic waste, illegally dumped by criminals on agricultural land used for pasture, was blamed.

2. Toxic ships

Authorities in Calabria fear that ‘ndrangheta mobsters have deliberately sunk ships carrying toxic or radioactive cargoes of the region’s coastline it order to make money from the insurance claims. Legambiente has said that 30 or more such ships, may have sunk off the Calabrian coast in suspicious circumstances in the past two decades.

3. Wind power

In September last year it emerged that Cosa Nostra was attempting to cream off millions of euros from both the Italian government and the European Union, by snatching the generous grants on offer for investment in wind power. Police seized mob assets – worth €1.5bn (£1.25bn) – from the Mafia-linked Sicilian businessman Vito Nicastri, who had vast holdings in alternative energy concerns.

Ecocide in the Mediterranean. The known consequences so far.

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Carmine Schiavone’s secrets are now public knowledge. They  join the testimony of Francesco Fonti at the Mafia’s maxi-processo in Palermo. The mozzarella scandal of 2008 pales into insignificance.

Organised crime has a solid grip on toxic and nuclear waste disposal in the Italian peninsula. They dumped it in  areas where buffalos grazed. They dumped in areas around Naples, in particular around Casale di Principe or in the Mediterranean Sea. Francesco Fonti had mentioned 42 ships laden with toxic and nuclear waste which were sunk in different areas of the Mediterranean. The location of one them, the Cunsky (vide illustration above) had been identified just off the coast of Calabria loaded with 120 barrels of toxic waste.

The latest revelations involve the dumping of nuclear and toxic waste originating from Germany and Northern Italy  in areas where they contaminated ground water.

Legambiente, the Italian environment NGO is not surprised with the information revealed in Schiavone’s testimony. Over the years it has documented countless cases which it classifies under the title Ecomafia: it has published annual reports on the matter since the year 2000.

I will not bother you with more details. Just one tiny bit: one particular health centre in the Naples area has identified that the number of cancer cases it deals with has skyrocketed from 136 in 2008 to 420 in 2012.

The New York Times on Sunday reported : Mafia’s dumping of toxic waste blamed for high cancer rates in Italy.  “Cancer rates have increased 47% for men and 40% for women in the areas around Naples and Pompeii thanks to illegal disposal by Mafia-controlled companies that occurred during a 20-year period, in which the harmful substances were dumped into lakes, farmland, quarries and caves.”

In Malta the above has not triggered any particular interest yet.

Dealing with Environmental Crime

published July 9, 2011

 In late 2008, the European Union, through a joint decision of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, adopted Directive 99/2008 “on the protection of the environment through criminal law”.

Member states had to implement this directive by not later than December 26, 2010. Malta, together with 11 other EU member states, did not comply. As a result, on June 16, the EU Commission issued a warning to all 12 states to comply within two months.

The EU directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law does not create new environment legislation. It aims to consolidate existing laws through harmonising penalties that should be inflicted as well as by ensuring that these penalties are really a deterrent.

Annex A to the directive lists EU legislation (some 70 directives and regulations) subject to this directive’s provisions. This is wide ranging and includes legislation regulating waste, GMOs, air quality, quality of water for human consumption, use of sewage sludge in agriculture, use and transportation of hazardous materials, protection of water from nitrates originating from agriculture, trade in endangered species and many others.

Within EU structures, the Maltese government opposed provisions of the proposed directive. So it is no surprise that this resistance is also reflected in the implementation process. This gives a new significance to the Maltese government’s declarations on the importance the environment has in its political agenda.

During the discussion stage in the EU structures, representatives of the Malta government expressed a view contrary to the harmonisation of sanctions primarily on the basis of the economic disparity across the EU member states.

The impact assessment produced by the EU on the proposed directive had emphasised that, in the EU, there are three areas that organised crime focuses on to the detriment of the environment. These are illicit trade in ozone depleting substances, illicit hazardous waste treatment and disposal and illicit trade in endangered wildlife species. A study entitled Organised Environmental Crime In EU Member States (2003) quoted by the EU impact assessment also states that 73 per cent of researched environmental crime cases involve corporations or corporate-like structures.

Organised environmental crime, which has a turnover of billions of euros in the EU, can have a devastating effect on the economy. There are various examples which we can draw upon. The case of the contaminated mozzarella in the Naples environs in March 2008 is one such example. Organised crime pocketed substantial landfill charges for the handling of toxic and hazardous waste, which was subsequently dumped in areas that were reserved for the grazing of buffalo. The resulting buffalo mozzarella was contaminated with dioxin. The impacts on the mozzarella industry were substantial.

Proof of the operations of the eco-Mafia has also surfaced some time ago when Francesco Fonti, a Mafia turncoat, took the witness stand against the Calabria Mafia. We do recall information given as to the sinking in the Mediterranean of about 42 ships laden with toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste. One of the said ships has been located and identified off the coast of Reggio Calabria.

This network of organised environmental crime is so vast that, at a time, it also dumped toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in Somalia. The warlords in the Somalia civil war were financed by the eco-Mafia. They supplied them with arms in return for their consent to the dumping of the toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste. Italian journalists (RaiTre) who had tracked down the shipments were shot and murdered in Mogadishu.

The dumping of toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in the Mediterranean Sea can have very serious impacts on Malta. It contaminates what’s left of fish stocks but also, depending on the location used for dumping, it can impact Malta’s potable water, 60 per cent of which originates from seawater processed by reverse osmosis plants.

Given these serious impacts I would have expected that the Maltese government would be at the forefront in implementing the directive on environmental crime in order to ensure that issues of cross-border organised environmental crime are adequately tackled. It is indeed very unfortunate that the tools which the EU provides so that Malta can protect its real interests are continuously ignored. One cannot help but ask why.

Law firm Hugo Lepage & Partners, in a comparative study commissioned by the EU Commission and entitled Study On Environmental Crime In The 27 Member States (2007), repeatedly identifies penalties for environmental crime in Malta as being at the lower end of the scale in the EU. The message that gets through is that environmental crime is treated lightly in Malta. Malta is not alone in this respect: it enjoys the company of a small number of other countries.

Environmental crime should be punished through penalties that are effective and proportionate to the environmental damage carried out or envisaged. It is in Malta’s interest that this is done expeditiously.

Japan tragedy is an eye opener on nuclear energy – AD

 

 

The crippling of a number of nuclear facilities in Japan as a result of the mega-earthquake and subsequent tsunami should be an eye-opener for those who still advocate the use of nuclear energy.

Carmel Cacopardo AD Spokesman on Sustainable Development and Local Government stated that on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, (which occurred on the 26th April 1986) the myths on the safety of nuclear energy have been shattered once and for all.

As a result of the Japanese nuclear crisis and in particular after various explosions in the Fukushima nuclear power station various European governments have decided to revise their use of nuclear energy. In Germany as a result of the continuous campaigning of the Greens  German Chancellor Angel Merkel has decided to re-examine plans to extend the life of Germany’s 17 existing nuclear power stations and announced the temporary closure of its two oldest ones. Switzerland has likewise announced putting on hold plans its plans for new nuclear power stations whilst  Austrian Minister for the Environment has called for checks on the safety of nuclear facilities. 

In the light of the above Carmel Cacopardo added that “it is very fortunate that the agreement between Nicolas Sarkozy on behalf of the French Republic and Colonel  Gaddafi on the supply by France to Libya of  nuclear technology to be used for the desalinisation of water along Libya’s Mediterranean coast  has not to date materialised. In the ongoing civil war in Libya access to and misuse of nuclear material would be an added worry.”

Prof. Arnold Cassola, AD Spokesperson on EU and International Affairs, stated; “The Maltese Government should take note of the statement of  Italian Minister Romani who has affirmed that, despite the catastrophe in Japan, Italy will not go back on its nuclear programme. The Maltese Government should take the necessary steps at EU level to ensure that the Berlusconi government through its construction of a nuclear facility in Sicily does not put the safety of all the people living in the central Mediterranean region at risk.” .”

Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson, said: ‘The Japanese tragedy confirms that we are living in a global society of man-made risks, as is the case with nuclear energy. Such energy might solve short and medium term problems related to demand for energy, but is ultimately unsustainable because of the dangers it presents, and because global supply of uranium – its basic raw material, is limited., while the long term storage of the highly radioactive nuclear waste remains a major source of concern .  Global subsidies towards nuclear energy should be progressively diverted towards clean alternative energy such as solar and wind energy. Such energy has unlimited supply, is totally safe and does not contribute towards climate change’.

The eco-threat of the Italian Mafia

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by Carmel Cacopardo

published September 19, 2009

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The revelation by Francesco Fonti that the Calabria Mafia sank a number of ships in the Mediterranean carrying a cargo of nuclear and toxic waste confirmed what the international environmental non-governmental organisation Greenpeace has been stating for a number of years.

The cargo on board these ships (which could number as many as 42) is of direct concern to Malta. The environmental crime of dumping this toxic and nuclear waste could have already affected (without our knowing) Malta’s water supply as well as the fish we eat and the seawater we swim in.

Whether and to what extent the food chain was contaminated is difficult to ascertain at this stage unless the relevant authorities are in a position to explain whether over the years fish and water (including sea-water) were sampled and tested for chemical contamination. Hopefully, such monitoring, sampling and testing was carried out. At this stage no information is forthcoming as to the type of toxic wastes dumped nor whether the waste dumped is still contained or else whether it has dispersed. The exact location of the dumping and the sea currents prevalent in the area would also be of extreme relevance.

Toxic contamination does not necessarily kill immediately. It may block or distort a number of our natural activities.

In the foreword to the book Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn, Diane Dumanoski and John Peterson Myers, former US Vice President Al Gore speaks of  “a large and growing body of scientific evidence linking synthetic chemicals to aberrant sexual development and behavioural and reproductive problems. Although much of the evidence these scientific studies review is for animal populations and ecological effects, there are important implications for human health as well”.

Reference to three examples would serve to illustrate the nature of the threats.

President Jimmy Carter on August 7, 1978 had declared a state of emergency at Love Canal. A landfill containing over 21,000 tons of chemical waste dumped in the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s caused the contamination of residential and educational environments and resulted in miscarriages, birth defects, respiratory ailments and cancer. Fifty-six per cent of children born in the Love Canal environs between 1974 and 1978 had a birth defect. This led the US to enact the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act known as the Superfund in the last days of the Carter Presidency.

In early 2008 in Italy it was found that buffalo mozzarella originating from some 83 dairy farms in an area near Naples was tainted with dioxin. The buffalo were grazing in an area of illegal dumps of toxic waste controlled by the Mafia. Dioxin can cause birth defects and organ failure.

On May 31, 1989 a beluga whale was found floating belly up near Pointe-aux-Cenelles close to Quebec, Canada. An autopsy carried out on the whale revealed that it had both a male and a female set of genital organs. It was a hermaphrodite. This was eventually traced to pollution-induced hormone disruption which derailed the beluga whale’s normal course of sexual development. “One cannot rule out,” noted the autopsy report “that pollutants present in the mother’s diet had interfered with hormonal processes (guiding the) normal evolution of the sexual organs of her foetus”. The beluga whale is a mammal like the human being.

The above examples point to the possible consequences of the Mafia eco-threat.

Sixty per cent of our water originates from the sea. Fish roam about the Mediterranean Sea including contaminated areas. Pollution will not respect borders.

All of us would be more at ease if we are informed of the measures being taken by the public authorities to shield us from these threats.

original article at   The Times

Kemm ser idumu jħawdu ?

 

Gordon Brown u Nicolas Sarkozy determinati u konvinti li m’hawnx aħjar mill-enerġija nukleari. Għax taqta’ d-dipendenza fuq iż-żejt u hi carbon free.  Ma jgħidux kemm hi kbira l-ispiża għall-ħażna tal-iskart nukleari u l-anqas ma jitkellmu dwar ir-riskju kontinwu ta’ inċident li jista’ joħloq ħerba għal distanza twila kif ġara bl-inċident ta’ Chernobyl 22 sena ilu.

Magħhom żdied Silvio Berlusconi li jrid iwarrab il-konklużjoni tar-referendum fl-Italja kontra l-użu tal-enerġija nukleari tat-8 ta’ Novembru 1987.

 

impjant fi Spanja li jiġġenera l-elettriku mix-xemx

 

 

 

Malta trid tingħaqad mal-grid Ewropew biex tassigura ruħha minn provista’ ta’ enerġija. Donnu l-Gvern Malti ma jafx x’inhu jiġri, għax filwaqt li l-Gvern Malti qed ihares lejn it-tramuntana għall-enerġija, l-Unjoni Ewropea qed tħares lejn in-nofsinnhar. Lejn enerġija ġġenerata mix-xemx fid-deżert Sahara li tista’ tissodisfa l-ħtieġijiet tal-enerġija tal-Ewropa kollha !

U aħna qegħdin fin-nofs u ma niċċaqalqux.

0.3% tad-dawl tax-xemx fuq id-deżert Sahara jista’ jissuplixxi l-enerġija kollha meħtieġa mill-Ewropa !

Pajjiżi oħra investew bil-kbir fil-ġenerazzjoni ta’ enerġija mix-xemx u l-Gvern ta’ Malta kull ma jaf jagħmel hu jeqred li din tiswa ħafna flus. Qatt ma qal kemm tiswa jekk jibqa’ ma jagħmel xejn, jew jekk jibqa’ jkaxkar saqajh !

Ara ukoll artiklu fil-Guardian tat-23 ta’ Lulju 2008 intitolat Solar power from Saharan Sun could provide Europe’s electricity, says EU .