Addressing the environmental deficit

Environment

 

The environmental deficit is constantly on the increase. Each generation creates additional  environmental impacts without in any way adequately addressing the accumulated impacts handed down by the previous generation.

Governments are worried by economic deficits yet few seem to be worried by the accumulated -and accumulating – environmental deficit. We are using the earth’s resources as if tomorrow will never come.

The Living Planet report published regularly by the World Wildlife Fund, demonstrates how the demands made by humanity globally exceed the planet’s biocapacity. In fact,  each year we consume 50% more than what  is produced by the planet.

The ecological footprint, that is the impact which each country has on the earth’s resources, varies geographically. On a global level, the average ecological footprint of a human being is 1.7 hectares. Malta’s ecological footprint has been calculated at around 3.9 hectares per person, more than double the global average. This adds up to an impact of around 50 times the area of the Maltese Islands.

Put simply, this means that in order to satisfy the needs of  each and every person in Malta  we are, in fact, utilising land in other countries.  In fact we import most of our requirements from other countries, thereby using their natural resources. We use  their air, their land, their water and their natural resources.

The politics of sustainable development seeks to view  and address these impacts holistically. It also considers today’s impacts  in the light of tomorrow’s needs and seeks to ingrain a sense of responsibility in decision-making. It does this by addressing the root causes of the environmental deficit.

Sustainable development policy understands that Maltese roads are bursting at the seams. We have reached a situation where improving the road network will improve neither connectivity nor the quality of the air we breath.  Malta’s small size should have made it easy ages ago to have excellent connectivity through public transport, with better air quality as a bonus. But it was ignored.

A sustainable water policy in Malta would have dictated better utilisation of rainwater. Instead, we spend millions of euros- including a chunk of EU funds- to ensure that instead of collecting rainwater we channel it straight into the Mediterranean Sea, only to harvest seawater  immediately through our reverse osmosis  plants. To make matters worse, we treat wastewater before dumping it into the sea when, with some extra thought (and expense) it would have been put to much better use.

Sustainable development embedded in our land use policy would lead to a substantial reduction in the land available for development and certainly to a strict ODZ protection protocol. Instead, we are faced with a situation resulting in a high number of vacant properties coupled with a nonchalant attitude to developing more agricultural land, as if we had a lot to spare!

The environmental deficit which has been accumulating over the years places us in a very precarious position as we cannot keep living on ecological credit for long.   Excessive ecological credit will inevitably lead to ecological bankruptcy from which neither the EU nor the International Monetary Fund will be able to bail us out.  The only solution is taking our environmental responsibilities seriously, before it is too late.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday, 7 June 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

Joseph iħobb jiċċajta ………… ħafna

Joseph Muscat ihobb jiccajta

Iktar milli jiċċajta, forsi nkun iktar korrett jekk ngħid li jħobb jipprova jgħaddi n-nies biż-żmien.

F’waħda mill-okkazjonijiet li fihom indirizza lill-istampa riċentement qal li l-budget għall-2015 hu wieħed li jħares l-ambjent!

Ħadd ma jistax jiċħad li l-budget fih numru ta’ miżuri ambjentali. Imma b’daqshekk ma jfissirx li dan hu budget ambjentali. Kulma jagħmel il-budget hu li jiġbor flimkien id-diversi miżuri li qed jippjana li  jieħu l-Gvern matul is-sena 2015. Jonqsu viżjoni koerenti ambjentali li la għandu u l-anqas jidher li jista’ jkollu fil-futur immedjat.

Il-ħarsien tal-ambjent m’huwiex biss dwar il-kostruzzjoni, imma ukoll dwar il-bijodiversita, is-sostenibilita’, l-kwalita tal-arja, il-politika dwar ir-riżorsi, il-viżjoni marittima, l-ilma, il-politika dwar il-klima, l-enerġija alternattiva, t-trasport, l-ekonomija l-ħadra, l-ekonomija l-blu, l-ekonomija ċirkulari, it-tassazzjoni ambjentali u tant affarijiet oħra.

Diskors tal-budget li ħa kważi 4 siegħat biex inqara ma sabx imqar ftit sekondi biex jispjegalna kif il-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat ser jimplimenta politika ta’ żvilupp sostenibbli. Mhux biss. Imma fl-estimi għall-Ministeru bl-isem twil u bombastiku okkupat minn Leo Brincat (Ministeru għall-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli, Ambjent u Tibdil fil-Klima) kullma hemm ivvutat għall-politika tal-iżvilupp sostenibbli hu għaxart elef ewro. Dikjarazzjoni onesta li tfisser biss li matul l-2015 il-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat m’għandu l-ħsieb li jagħmel xejn f’dan il-qasam. It-terminu Żvilupp Sostenibbli fid-diskors tal-budget jissemma darbtejn. Jissemma biss fiż-żewġ tabelli fejn hemm imniżżel l-isem tal-Ministeru ta’ Leo Brincat.

Il-politika tal-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat dwar l-Iżvilupp sostenibbli (jekk  teżisti) tqieset mill-Ministru Edward Scicluna bħala li m’għandiex relevanza għall-budget tal-2015

Il-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli tinseġ flimkien il-politika ambjentali, dik ekonomika u soċjali. Meta tkun żviluppata kif imiss, il-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli tassigura l-interessi tal-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri billi tmexxi l-quddiem l-ekonomija b’rispett sħiħ lejn l-ambjent u lejn il-bniedem. Għalhekk ngħidu li l-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli hi mibnija fuq erba’ pilastri: l-iżvilupp ekonomiku, l-ħarsien tal-ambjent, il-ħarsien soċjali u l-politika kulturali.

Fil-ġranet li ġejjin ikolli l-opportunita’ nispjega iżjed fid-dettall kemm il-budget ippreżentat għall-2015 bl-ebda mod ma jista’ jitqies budget li jħares l-ambjent.  Minkejja li hemm miżuri individwali li huma pożittivi ma teżistix viżjoni ambjentali ċara u koerenti.

Għalhekk Joseph qed jiċċajta meta jgħid li dan hu budget ambjentali.

sd strategy budget 2015

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.

 

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

Snippets from AD’s electoral manifesto: (8) Climate Change

climate change 1

The following extract is taken verbatim from Chapter 14 of AD’s Electoral Manifesto

Climate Change.
Climate Change is anthropogenic. AD believes that all countries should contribute towards the solutions required in proportion to the impacts which they generate.
Malta should seek to reduce its climate impacts through developing sustainable transport, energy and agriculture policies.
We need to address the climate change impacts on biodiversity, health, tourism, water, agriculture as well as maritime infrastructure.
Government should prepare plans on the climate change impacts of the various sectors. These plans in the form of a carbon budget drawn up after consultation with the social partners should be submitted periodically for Parliament’s approval.

L-Estratt segwenti hu mehud kelma b’kelma mill-Kapitlu 14 tal-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika

It-Tibdil fil-Klima.
It-tibdil fil-klima huwa riżultat akkumulat tal-ħidma tal-bniedem. Alternattiva Demokratika temmen li kull pajjiż għandu jikkontribwixxi lejn soluzzjoni iżda dan il-kontribut għandu jkun proporzjonat għall-impatt li kull pajjiż qed ikollu illum jew inkella kellu l-bieraħ fuq il-ħolqien ta’ din il-problema.
Malta għandha tfittex li tnaqqas l-impatti tagħha fuq il-klima billi jkollha politika sostenibbli dwar it-trasport, l-enerġija u l-agrikoltura.
Irridu nindirizzaw l-impatti tal-klima fuq il-bijodiversità, fuq is-saħħa, fuq it-turiżmu, fuq l-ilma, fuq l-agrikoltura kif ukoll fuq l-infrastruttura marittima.
Fuq bażi regolari l-Gvern għandu jfassal pjan dwar l-impatti ta’ Malta fuq il-klima mis-setturi differenti. Dan il-pjan fil-forma ta’ baġit tal-karbonju għandu jitfassal b’konsultazzjoni mal-isħab soċjali u jitressaq għall-approvazzjoni tal-Parlament perjodikament.

Magħna taf fejn qiegħed

new identity

 Il-ġimgħa d-dieħla nisimgħu s-suffara li ssejjaħ elezzjoni ġenerali.

Alternattiva Demokratika ser terġa tkun hemm fuq id-Distretti kollha. F’uħud b’kandidat wieħed, f’oħrajn b’iktar.

Il-programm elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika bħal dejjem ser ikun ċar fuq issues li partiti oħra jevitaw. Hekk ġara fil-passat dwar id-divorzju u r-riforma tal-liġijiet tal-kera. Il-partiti l-oħra evitaw dawn is-suġġetti fil-kampanja elettorali imma mbagħad kellhom jiffaċċawhom fil-Parlament.

Alternattiva Demokratika m’hi ostaġġ ta’ ħadd, għalhekk titkellem ċar.

AD tkompli tkun l-akbar difensur ta’ dak li baqa’ mill-wirt ambjentali Malti, tistinka għal aktar spazji pubbliċi u infrastruttura aħjar. AD mħiex ostaġġ tal-kaċċaturi u n-nassaba, l-iffissati fil-logħob tan-nar, l-abitanti illegali tal-Armier, u spekulaturi u żviluppaturi bla rażan. Issejjaħ għal politika sostenibbli dwar l-art u l-ilma, għal politika ekonomika progressiva, bħal żieda fil-paga minima u taxxa mit-tielet proprjetà vojta lil hinn.

AD hi favur politika soċjali umana u drittijiet ugwali għal kulħadd, fosthom il-minoranzi fil-politika soċjali u tal-familja, bħall-persuni b’diżabilità, il-persuni LGBT u kull tip ta’ familja. AD hi favur ugwaljanza bejn is-sessi, id-dekriminalizzazzjoni tad-drogi għall-użu personali, u l-għajnuna għall-vittimi tad-droga minflok kriminalizzazzjoni.

AD lesta biex taħdem ma’ ħaddieħor, skont programm konġunt maqbul. Taħdem biex dak miftiehem jitwettaq meta nkunu fil-Parlament. Bħala sieħeb minuri, AD tistinka biex tkun żviluppata il-politika bil-kunsens u ma theddidx li tgħaddi tagħha akkost ta’ kollox, konxja mill-fatt li dan iġib l-instabilità.

Vot għal Alternattiva Demokratika jkun vot għall-bidla fil-mod ta’ tmexxija u favur stabbilità.

Jekk temmen li għandhom jkunu fuq quddiem il-ġustizzja soċjali, id-drittijiet ċivili, il-ġustizzja ambjentali, l-iżvilupp sostenibbli, il-modernizzazzjoni ekoloġika u, fuq kollox, ir-riforma tal-istituzzjonijiet għat-tisħiħ tad-demokrazija, mela taf fejn qiegħed mal-Alternattiva Demokratika. Vot għall-PN jew għall-PL ifisser vot għas-sistema staġnata taż-żewġ partiti.

Jekk vera trid il-bidla, ivvota Alternattiva. Magħna taf fejn qiegħed.

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

Il-lejla fil-Parlament

Il-Parlament il-lejla ser jibda jiddiskuti l-abbozz ta’ liġi dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli.

Dan ser isir 4 snin wara li fid-diskors li bih ġie msejjaħ biex jiltaqa’ l-Parlament kurrenti l-President tar-Repubblika f’Mejju 2008 kien qal li l-Gvern kien ser jibbaża ruħu fuq il-prinċipji ta’ żvilupp sostenibbli. Kienu 4 snin li matulhom ma iltaqatx il-Kummissjoni Nazzjonali dwar l-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli.

Preżentement għaddejjin il-preparazzjonijiet ghall-konferenza internazzjonali tal-Ġnus Magħquda dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli imsejħa Rio +20. Ban Ki Moon, Segretarju Ġenerali tal-Ġnus Magħquda, fir-rapport tiegħu intitolat Objectives And Themes Of The United Nations Conference On Sustainable Development ifisser kemm hu importanti li jinbnew l-istituzzjonijiet kemm fuq livell internazzjonali kif ukoll fuq livell lokali biex permezz tagħhom tkun faċilitata l-integrazzjoni tal-politika fid-diversi oqsma kif ukoll l-implementazzjoni tagħha.

Din hi l-isfida li dan l-abbozz jindirizza. Qegħdin tard ħafna. Hu abbozz li għad jista’ jiġi imtejjeb.

Sfortunatment ġie fl-aħħar tal-leġialatura liema fatt juri li l-materja m’hiex waħda ta’ importanza għall-Gvern tal-lum.

Ikun floku imma li nfakkar li Alternattiva Demokratika tat kontribut fid-diskussjonijiet ta’ konsultazzjoni li saru mill-Gvern permezz tal-Ministru Mario Demarco. Ipproponejna l-ħolqien ta’ Gwardjan li jħares il-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri. Proposta li ġiet inkluża fl-abbozz finali.

Għax l-iskop aħħari tal-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli hu li b’dak li nagħmlu illum, aħna u nindirizzaw id-diffikultajiet tal-lum, nagħmlu dan b’impenn u rispett lejn dawk li ġejjin warajna. Il-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ għada ukoll għandhom id-dritt li jieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet tagħhom. B’dak li nagħmlu aħna illum għandna nassiguraw li huma ukoll ikunu jistgħu jagħmlu l-għażliet tagħhom.   

Ara ukoll fuq dan il-blog :

The Future started yesterday.

Exercise in practical democracy.

Gwardjan għal Ġenerazzjonijiet Futuri.

Increasing environmental awareness.

Future Generations must be heard.

Just lip service and cold feet.

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