Fis-skiet, l-ikbar risposta

Wara Xarabank, nhar il-Ġimgħa l-Kbira:

Bosta segwew fis-skiet il-ġenerositá li tfur minn qalb il-poplu Malti, mhux darba, mhux tnejn, imma kull darba li jkun hemm l-iċken ħtieġa.

Il-mistoqsija urġenti mhiex dwar minn fejn ġejjin l-għotjiet – għax dwar dan ikun hemm ċans li wieħed jgħarbel u jistaqsi.

Iktar għandna nfittxu t-tweġiba dwar għalfejn, sena wara l-oħra, min għandu bżonn l-għajnuna jibqa’ dipendenti fuq il-karitá.

Fis-skiet ukoll nistaqsi : għaliex m’hawnx iktar ħeġġa biex naffrontaw it-tniġġiż ta’ kull xorta li bla dubju kontinwament jagħti l-ikbar kontribut fit-tkattir tal-mard u tal-ħolqien ta’ kundizzjonijiet li jwasslu iktar nies ta’ kull eta qrib il-mewt. Dan f’numri li qegħdin dejjem jiżdiedu.

Mhux kulħadd jista’ jgħid li qed jagħmel ħiltu kollha.

Fis-skiet infittxu risposta mingħand dawk kollha li qed jippuppaw sidirhom bħalissa, u matul it-364 jum l-oħra tas-sena jkunu siekta fil-konfront tal-qerda ambjentali madwarna, l-kawża ta’ daqstant mard u mewt.

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L-ambjent u l-ġustizzja soċjali

e-waste-africa

Il-ħsara ambjentali teffettwa lil kulħadd, imma b’mod speċjali tolqot iktar lil dawk li huma vulnerabbli. L-esperjenza tal-ħajja ta’ kuljum, imsaħħa bir-riċerka turi li l-agħar effetti tal-ħsara ambjentali jġarrbuhom l-aktar nies foqra. Per eżempju, n-nuqqas jew it-tniġġis tal-ilma jolqot l-iżjed lil dawk li huma l-aktar foqra, li għalihom ix-xiri ta’ flixkun ilma ħafna drabi hi spiża żejda. U meta f’diversi pajjiżi għola l-livell tal-baħar dan laqat l-ewwel lill-foqra li kienu qed jgħixu fi griebeġ mal-kosta, u li ma kellhomx iktar fejn imorru.

M’aħniex konxji biżżejjed tal-problemi li jolqtu lil dawk li huma mwarrba mis-soċjetà. Illum ma nistgħux ma nagħrfux li l-impenn ambjentali irid jieħu ukoll dimensjoni soċjali. Dan għandu jdaħħal diskors dwar il-ġustizzja fid-diskussjonijiet dwar l-ambjent, biex nifhmu dejjem iktar li l-karba tal-art hi ukoll il-karba tal-fqir. Il-ħsara ambjentali hi l-kawża ta’ inġustizzja soċjali.

Flok jindirzzaw il-problemi tal-foqra uħud iwaħħlu fiż-żieda fil-popolazzjoni u jippruvaw ma jagħtux importanza lill-konsumiżmu estrem u selettiv tas-soċjetà moderna. B’hekk jippretendu li jilleġittimizzaw il-mudell ta’ distribuzzjoni tar-riżorsi li għandna llum, fejn hemm minoranza li temmen li għandha dritt tikkonsma fi proporzjon li qatt ma jista’ jiġi applikat fuq livell universali, għax il-pjaneta bilkemm l-iskart ta’ konsum bħal dan ma tkun kapaċi żżomm.

Iktar minn hekk, terz tal-ikel li nipproduċu qed jinħela: l-ikel li jintrema qed jinsteraq minn fuq il-mejda tal-fqir. Iż-żieda fil-konsum taf twassal għat-tlaqqigħ flimkien ta’ problemi marbuta mat-tinġis ambjentali, il-mezzi ta’ trasport, it-trattament tal-iskart, il-qerda ta’ riżorsi, u l-kwalità tal-ħajja.

Jeżisti “dejn ekoloġiku” bejn il-pajjiżi żviluppati u dawk inqas żviluppati. Dan id-“dejn ekoloġiku” hu marbut ma’ żbilanċ fil-kummerċ b’konsegwenzi fil-qasam ekoloġiku, kif ukoll mal-użu sproporzjonat tar-riżorsi naturali storikament imwettaq minn xi pajjiżi. L-esportazzjoni ta’ xi materja prima biex tissodisfa s-swieq tal-pajjiżi industrijalizzati ħalliet warajha ħafna ħsara ambjentali, bħal, per eżempju t-tinġis bil-merkurju fil-minjieri tad-deheb jew bid-dijossidu tal-kubrit fil-minjieri tar-ram.

It-tisħin ikkawżat mill-konsum enormi ta’ xi pajjiżi għonja għandu riperkussjonijiet fl-ifqar postijiet ta’ din l-art, speċjalment fl-Afrika, fejn iż-żieda fit-temperatura flimkien man-nixfa għandha effetti diżastrużi fuq l-agrikultura.

Ma’ dan inżidu r-rimi ta’ skart tossiku f’pajjiżi li qed jiżviluppaw minn intrapriżi ibbażati f’pajjiżi żviluppati. Dawn jagħmlu fil-pajjiżi mhux żviluppati dak li m’huwiex permess li jsir f’pajjiżhom.

Ġeneralment, meta jwaqqfu l-attività tagħhom u jitilqu, iħallu warajhom ħsarat kbar umani u ambjentali, bħal qgħad, irħula bla ħajja, il-qerda ta’ ħażniet naturali, deforestazzjoni, tifqir fil-biedja u fil-merħliet tal-post, ħofor kbar, għoljiet imħarbta, xmajjar imniġġsa u xi opra soċjali li ma tiflaħx tieqaf iktar fuq riġlejha”.

Din hi s-sejħa li tagħmlilna l-art. Hi s-sejħa tal-fqir li hu ukoll misruq mill-ġid li tagħtu n-natura biex biex bih jistagħna ħaddieħor. Il-ħsara ambjentali hi l-kawża ta’ inġustizzji soċjali kbar li lkoll isiru f’isem l-iżvilupp. Għax fl-aħħar huma dawk l-iktar vulnerabbli fostna li l-iżjed iħossu l-konsegwenzi tal-qerda ambjentali li qed isseħħ madwarna. Għalhekk kull pass il-quddiem, (żgħir jew kbir), li nagħmlu biex inħarsu l-ambjent ta’ madwarna huwa pass biex innaqqsu l-inġustizzji ta’ madwarna.

 

(kummentarju li xxandar fuq l-RTK it-Tnejn 4 ta’ Jannar 2016, ibbażat fuq il-paragrafi 48 sa 51 tal-enċiklika Laudato Sì tal-Papa Franġisku)

Tackling the green skills gap

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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

Greening the Constitution

Chadwick Lakes 02

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party –  is in agreement that 50 years after its adoption Malta’s Constitution needs to be updated.  However such an exercise, as emphasised in AD’s 2013 electoral manifesto, should be carried out with the direct involvement of civil society. The Constitution belongs to all of us.

There are a number of issues which require careful consideration. In AD’s 2013 electoral manifesto at least fourteen such issues are identified. They vary in scope from electoral reform to widening the issues in respect of which discrimination is prohibited, by including protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. AD also proposes the introduction of a Constitutional provision in favour of a balanced budget, thereby ensuring that government is forced to discard budget deficits and consequently to control the spiralling public debt.

One very important issue is the need to entrench environmental rights and duties in the Constitution. The proposed Constitutional Convention, supported by AD, should aim at Greening the Constitution. That is, it should aim at addressing environmental rights and duties such that they are spelled out in unequivocal terms.  Environmental rights and duties should as a minimum be spelled out as clearly as property rights in the Constitution. They are worthy of protection just as the rights of individual persons.

Article 9 of the Constitution very briefly states that “The State shall safeguard the landscape and the historical and artistic patrimony of the nation.”  Further, in article 21 of the Constitution we are informed that this (and other safeguards) “shall not be enforceable in a Court” but that this (safeguard) shall be “fundamental to the governance of the country” and that it shall be the aim of the State to apply it in making laws.

It is not conducive to good governance to first declare adherence to specifc safeguards, but then specifically excluding the Courts from ensuring that such safeguards are being observed.

The strategy of announcing principles but then not providing the legislative framework for their implementation was also taken up in environmental legislation. In fact articles 3 and 4 of the 2010 Environment and Development Planning Act  announce a whole list of sound environmental principles. However  in article 5 of the same Act it is then stated that these cannot be enforced in a Court of Law!

When I had the opportunity of discussing the Environment and Development Planning Bill with Mario de Marco (then Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Tourism and the Environment) I had proposed on behalf of the Greens that the declarations  in articles 3 and 4 of the Bill should not be just guiding principles. They ought to be made enforceable by our Courts subject to the introduction of  a suitable transition. Unfortunately Dr de Marco did not take up the Greens proposal.

As things stand today, article 3 of the Environment and Development Planning Act announces very pompously that the government,  as well as every person in Malta, has the duty to protect the environment. Furthermore it is announced that we are duty bound to assist in the taking of preventive and remedial measures to protect the environment and manage resources in a sustainable manner.

Article 4 goes further:  it  states that government is responsible towards present and future generations.  It then goes on to list ten principles which should guide government in its endeavours.  Integrating environmental concerns in decisions on socio-economic and other policies is first on the list. Addressing pollution and environmental degradation through the implementation of the polluter pays principle and the precautionary principle follows immediately after.  Cooperation with other governments and entities enshrines the maxim of “think global, act local” as Malta both affects and is affected by environmental impacts wherever they occur.  The fourth guiding principle is the need to disseminate environmental information whilst the fifth one underlines the need of research as a basic requirement of sound environment policy.  The waste management hierarchy is referred to in the sixth principle followed immediately by underlining the requirement to safeguard biological diversity and combatting all forms of pollution.  Article 4 ends by emphasising that the environment is the common heritage and common concern of mankind and underlines the need to provide incentives leading to a higher level of environmental protection.

Proclaiming guiding principles in our Constitution and environmental legislation is not enough. Our Courts should be empowered in order that they are able to ensure that these principles are actually translated into concrete action.   Government should be compelled to act on the basis of Maltese legislation as otherwise it will only act on environmental issues when and if forced to by the European Union as was evidenced in the past nine years.

Greening the Constitution by extending existing environmental provisions and ensuring that they can be implemented will certainly be one of the objectives of the Greens in the forthcoming Constitutional Convention.

published in the Times of Malta 18 May 2013

Tniġġiż fil-Mediterran

Nhar l-10 t’April 2008 l-Kummissjoni tal-EU flimkien mal-Bank tal-Investiment Ewropew (EIB – European Investment Bank) ippubblikaw studju li sar flimkien mal-Pjan għal Azzjoni Mediterranja (MAP-Mediterranean Action Plan) tal-UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme).

F’dan l-istudju ġew identifikati 131 siti jaħarqu kawża tat-tniġġiż kif ukoll 44 proġett li ser jingħataw prijorita għall finanzjament biex jiġi kkontrollat it-tniġġiż fil-Mediterran. L-ispiża f’dawn il-proġetti hi stmata li tammonta għal € 2.1 biljun.

Ir-rapport huwa intitolat Horizon 2020 : Elaboration of a Medterranean Hotspot Investment Programme (MeHSIP). Jittratta l-Alġerija, l-Eġittu, l-Iżrael, il-Ġordan, il-Lebanon, il-Marokk, it-Teritorju Okkupat tal-Palestina, is-Sirja u t-Tuneżija : pajjiżi mat-tul tal-kosta tan-nofsinnhar tal-Mediterran.

L-inizzjattiva Horizon 2020 kienet varata fl-2005 fl-10 anniversarju tal-proċess Ewro-Mediterranju, magħruf bħala l-proċess ta’ Barcelona. L-għan ewlieni tal-inizzjattiva hu li jiġi mnaqqas it-tniġġiż tal-Mediterran u dan billi jiġi identifikat l-origini ta’ dan it-tniġġiż kif ukoll li jittieħdu passi dwaru sas-sena 2020.

Ir-rapport jittratta l-ġbir tal-iskart (municipal waste), id-drenaġġ (kemm is-sistema innifisha kif ukoll impjanti għat-tisfija tiegħu), it-tniġġiż mill-industija kif ukoll l-iskart industrijali u skart perikoluż.

Ir-rapport jeżamina l-involviment kemm tas-settur privat kif ukoll tal-NGOs. Fil-fatt wieħed mill-għanijiet tal-ħidma tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea fil-qasam tal-kooperazzjoni ambjentali mal-pajjiżi tal-Mediterran hi li tiġi msaħħa s-soċjeta ċivili ħalli din b’aċċess ikbar għall-informazzjoni ambjentali tkun tista’ tikkontribwixxi għal għarfien ikbar min-nies kif ukoll bħala konsegwenza għal parteċipazzjoni iktar wiesa’ fit-teħid tad-deċiżjonijiet. (Agħfas hawn biex tara r-rapport sħiħ)