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.

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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.

 

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…………. u bdew id-diskussjoni ……………

 

Nhar l-Erbgħa fil-għaxija bdew id-diskussjoni fil-Parlament dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli.

Smajt lil Mario de Marco jitkellem madwar siegħa u nofs. Leo Brincat tkellem siegħa u kien għadu ma spiċċax.

Mario mexa ma text ippreparat. Għal ħinijiet twal qara diskors miktub. Xi drabi tfixkel ftit huwa u jitkellem dwar materji li għadu m’huwiex familjari magħhom biżżejjed.  Leo ukoll ipprepara u kien iktar ċar f’dak li kellu xi jgħid.

Mario irrefera għal konsultazzjonjijiet wiesgħa li għamel. Ħaġa tajba. Avvanz fuq ta’ qablu li mhux biss kien selvaġġ talli fuq kollox kien inkompetenti. 

Jiena ukoll kelli laqgħa twila ma Mario dwar l-abbozz ta’ liġi. L-ewwel reazzjoni tiegħi kienet li m’hemmx bżonn li jressaq liġi. Dak li ried jagħmel : li jibni fuq pedamenti sodi l-infrastruttra amministrattiva għall-iżvilupp sostenibbli seta jsir b’mod faċli u inqas ikkumplikat mingħajr il-ħtieġa ta’ liġi.

Imma din, Mario u dawk ta’ madwaru ma jistgħux jifhmuha.  Huwa u jitkellem Mario ftaħar li ftit hemm pajjiżi bħalna li għandhom liġi dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Ma nafx jekk irrealizzax li l-fatt li ftit li xejn hemm pajjiżi b’din it-tip ta’ liġi ifissirx li ħadd ma ħass il-ħtieġa tagħha!

Il-parti l-kbira tal-proposti fil-liġi diġa jeżistu fl-istrateġija nazzjonali dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Li qed jagħmel il-Gvern hu li qiegħed jittrasferihom mill-istrateġija għall-liġi. Dan m’hu xejn ħlief logħob. Imma l-anqas dan il-logħob ma jiġġustifika l-fatt li l-Gvern żamm il-Kummissjoni Nazzjonali dwar l-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli milli tiffunzjona għal snin twal.

U dan hu l-Gvern li fid-diskors programmatiku tal-President tar-Repubblika f’Mejju 2008 qalilna illi li ser jagħti importanza kbira lill-iżvilupp sostenibbli.

Għall paroli veru jieħu l-ewwel. Imma bejn il-kliem u l-fatti ………. hemm il-baħar jikkumbatti!

Mario de Marco irrefera għad-diskussjoni li kellna jiena u hu dwar l-abbozz. Jiena dejjem insistejt li Gvern li jagħmel proposti fuq livell internazzjonali b’ċerta pompa għandu jkollu l-konvinzjoni li dak li jippretendi mill-komunita’ internazzjonali jkun lest li jimplimentah f’Malta stess. Għalhekk ipproponejt il-ħolqien tal-kariga ta’ Gwardjan għall-Ġenerazzjonijiet Futuri. Proposta li Mario de Marco għan-nom tal-Gvern aċċetta u inkludiha bil-mod kif ħaseb hu fil-liġi.

Leo Brincat fil-kritika tiegħu, li ser ikompli nhar it-Tnejn, tefa’ botta dwar jekk il-Gvern huwiex qiegħed jagħti l-impressjoni li qed jagħti każ dak li tgħid Alternattiva Demokratika biex forsi jnaqqas mill-kritika indirizzata lejh minn AD!  Leo m’għandix dubju li kien qed jiġbed is-saqajn. Għax jaf li l-kritika ta’ AD m’hiex ser tieqaf. La lejn il-Gvern u l-anqas lejn l-Opposizzjoni li flimkien huma responsabbli għall-istat li jinsab fih il-pajjiz.

Dwar dan kollu ktibt u tkelllimt fit-tul matul dawn l-aħħar snin. Li l-Gvern ta’ Lawrence Gonzi m’huwiex kapaċi.  Ma jridx jimxi fit-triq li twassal lejn is-sostenibilita’.  Kieku kien jinteressah kien jimxi mod ieħor fl-oqsma kollha.

Il-prietki waħedhom mhux biżżejjed.

Wara kollox mhux Gonzi innifsu talabna biex ma niġġudikawħx fuq dak li jgħid iżda fuq dak li jagħmel?  U hekk qed nagħmlu. Niġġudikawħ fuq il-ħerba ambjentali li ser iħalli warajh.

 Il-futur tagħna u ta’ uliedna jixraqlu xi ħaġa aħjar.  Li la Gonzi u l-anqas Muscat ma jistgħu joffru.

Għalhekk qegħdin fil-politika aħna ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika.

Just lip service and cold feet

                                             published Saturday August 13, 2011

The year 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit held in June 1992. The Rio Earth Summit itself was held on the 20th anniversary of the 1972 UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, which is credited with introducing the environment in the contemporary political lexicon.

In fact, it was as a result of the Stockholm conference that various countries started appointing an environment minister. In 1976, in Malta, Dom Mintoff appointed Vincent Moran as Minister for Health and the Environment. The emphasis at that stage was environmental health. His primary environmental responsibilities being street cleaning, refuse collection and the management of landfills in addition to minor responsibilities on air quality. The serious stuff came later when Daniel Micallef was appointed Minister for Education and the Environment in 1986.

In 1992, the international community met in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the conflicts between development and the environment. This was brought to the fore by the 1987 UN report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, headed by former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. The report, entitled Our Common Future, referred to as the Brundtland report, is generally remembered for its definition of sustainable development. Development was defined as sustainable if, in ensuring that the needs of present generations are met, it did not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The 1992 Rio Earth Summit produced the Rio Declaration on the Environment, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Framework Convention on Biodiversity, the Statement of Forest Principles and Agenda 21. Each one of these assumed a life of its own, addressing various issues.

I think it is essential to focus on the relevance of Agenda 21, which was, way back in 1992, drafted to serve as a global action plan for the 21st century.

Agenda 21 emphasises that sustainable development is not spearheaded by economics. It does not seek to balance profits with other considerations. Based on respect for people and the planet in the carrying out of our activities, it links the environment with social and economic policy.

It is indeed regrettable that some countries, Malta included, loudly proclaim adherence to the objectives of Rio 1992 yet fail miserably in translating them into the requirements of everyday life.

It is necessary to reiterate that Malta, through its present government, has paid lip service to issues of sustainable development. The Environment Protection Act of 2001, now in the process of being superseded, had established a National Commission for Sustainable Development headed by the Prime Minister. This was tasked with the preparation of a National Strategy for Sustainable Development, which was finalised and approved by the commission in December 2006. It was presented to Cabinet, which approved it in the weeks prior to the March 2008 election.

Soon after the 2008 election, during Parliament’s first session on May 10, 2008, Malta’s President proclaimed on behalf of the government that its policies will be underpinned by adherence to the principles of sustainable development. We were then told that when formulating decisions today serious consideration would be given to their impact on the generations of tomorrow.

I doubt whether there was ever any intention to implement such a declaration. I am informed that the National Commission for Sustainable Development, which, in terms of the Environment Protection Act, is still entrusted with the implementation of the National Sustainable Development Strategy, has not met since December 2006. Consequently, the procedures laid down in section 5 of the strategy as a result of which the different ministries had 18 months to prepare and commence the implementation of an action plan based on the strategy in their areas of competence were transformed into a dead letter.

The government has now gone one step further. It is formulating a National Environment Policy. This initiative has been undertaken by the same ministry responsible for issues of sustainable development – the Office of the Prime Minister.

From what is known on the contents of this policy it substantially duplicates the areas addressed by the National Sustainability Strategy. Consequently, it is discharging down the drains four years of discussions with civil society that had given the strategy its shape and content. It is clear that on the issue of sustainable development this government is very rich in rhetoric but when it comes to implementation it gets cold feet. It’s all talk, meetings, documents and consultations. And when a document is finally produced it is back to the drawing board to start the process for another one! This is lip service at its worst.

While the international community meeting in Rio in 2012 will take stock of its modest achievements in implementing the conclusions of Rio 1992 and its follow-up meetings, including those of Johannesburg in 2002, in Malta we are still awaiting a lethargic government to take the first steps.

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Other posts on sustainable development during the past 12 months

2011, July 23                Living on Ecological Credit.

2011, June 5                 Government’s Environment Policy is Beyond Repair.

2011, March 5              Small is Beautiful in Water Policy.

2011, January 22        Beyond the  Rhetorical declarations.

2010, October 23        Time to realign actions with words.

2010, October 17        Reflections on an Environment Policy.

2010, October 3          AD on Government’s Environment policy.

2010, September 17  Lejn Politika tal-Ambjent.

2010, September 4     Environment Policy and the Budget.

2010, August 14          Thoughts for an Environmet Policy.

2010, August 2            Bis-serjeta ? Il-Politika Nazzjonali dwar l-Ambjent.

The two faces of Janus

In Roman mythology the god Janus was depicted as having a head with two faces. One looking eastwards and the other westwards. One symbolically looking into the future  and the other into the past.  

Unfortunately it is not Janus who overlooks the entrance to the Ministry for the Environment in Valletta. Janus could symbolically motivate environmental policy through learning through past mistakes and applying the lessons learnt into the future.  Janus could however symbolise the two political faces of government. One compatible with its declarations and rhetoric. The other with its actions.

Consider this government’s commitments in favour of sustainable development. In May 2008 the Head of State reading the speech from the throne on behalf of Gonzipn promised  one and all 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.

Sustainable development has three main dimensions – economic, social and environmental. Our challenge is to ensure continuous economic development, promoted by education, social development, with particular attention to environmental protection.  When we evaluate our activities in view of these three inter-related dimensions, we would be placing every person at the heart of the Government’s actions.”

The member of Cabinet responsible for issues of sustainable development is the Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi. Dr Gonzi’s commitment towards sustainable development is not to be gauged by his rhetoric but through his actions. He excels in rhetoric but he fails miserably in implementation.

The Commission for Sustainable Development set up in terms of the Environment Protection Act has not met for almost five years, since December 2006. Its Chairman is Dr Gonzi. During its last meeting it had approved the final version of the National Sustainable Development Strategy, which it then submitted to Cabinet for approval. The main function of the commission now is to oversee the implementation of the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Maltese Islands, approved by Cabinet prior to the March 2008 election and having a 10-year lifespan (2007-2016). The strategy is half way past its lifespan and the process for its implementation is nowhere in sight.

This fact on its own speaks volumes as to government’s strategy. The National Sustainable Development Strategy was drafted after years of discussions with civil society. The Commission which in terms of the Environment Protection Act had to be chaired by the Prime Minister hardly ever met in the presence of Dr Gonzi. He delegated his responsibilities to others. When the National Sustainable Development Strategy was finalised government ignored it and commenced the formulation of another document dealing with a National Environment Policy. The information available to date about this National Environment Policy is substantially a duplication of what’s been said and written on the Sustainable Development strategy.

All this leads to one conclusion. The current government is primarily interested in talking about sustainable development and environmental issues. But when the time comes for implementation it goes back to square one. More talk and more documents.

Well it seems that the Minster for the Environment, Dr Lawrence Gonzi, needs some images of Janus at his office. It would remind him constantly that in the long run having two faces on the same head is only suited to mythology.      

 Published Sunday 7th August 2011

The Independent on Sunday – Environment Supplement

 

Living on Ecological Credit

published

Saturday July23, 2011

An informal meeting of EU ministers of the environment held in Poland earlier this month reminded us that we are living on ecological credit. Our balance sheet with nature is in the red. It is healthy that EU politicians have recognised this fact.

Environmentalists have been campaigning for ages that the world is living beyond its means. International NGO WWF, for example, publishes information relative to ecological footprint analysis. From the information available, Malta’s ecological footprint is 3.9 hectares per person. This can be compared to an EU average of 4.9 hectares per person (ranging from a minimum of 3.6 for Poland and Slovakia to a maximum of 7.0 for Sweden and Finland) and a world average of 2.2 hectares per person.

This adds up to a total impact for Malta of about 50 times the area of the Maltese islands. A clear indication of the extent of Malta’s reliance on ecological credit.

Malta’s environmental impacts are accentuated due to the islands’ high population density.

Malta’s small size is in some respects an advantage but this advantage has been generally ignored throughout the years. The reform of public transport, currently in hand, could someday put the issue of size to good use by developing an efficient system of communication. This reform, however, has to be properly managed. Preliminary indications point to a completely different direction. I do not exclude the possibility of the achievement of positive results even if, so far, I am disappointed.

The results the Greens hope to be achieved from the public transport reform would be the increased use of public transport and, consequently, a reduction in the number of cars on the road. This will come about if bus routes are more commuter-friendly. A reduction of cars on the road will lead to less emissions and a reduction of transport-generated noise. It would also cut a household’s expenditure through the reduction of fuel costs.

Water management in Malta also contributes considerably to the island’s ecological deficit.

The commissioning of the Ta’ Barkat sewage purification plant means that Malta is now in line with the provisions of the EU Urban Wastewater Directive. But the actual design of the sewage purification infrastructure means that by discharging the purified water into the sea an opportunity of reducing the pressure on ground water and the production of reverse osmosis-produced water has been lost. The purified water could easily be used as second-class water or it could be polished for other uses. When the Mellieħa sewage purification plant was inaugurated it was announced that studies into the possible uses of the purified water were to be carried out. These studies should have been undertaken before the sewage purification infrastructure was designed as they could have led to a differently designed infrastructure. The system as designed means that any eventual use of the purified water will require its transport from the purification plants to the point of use. A properly designed system could have reduced these expenses substantially by producing the purified water along the route of the public sewers and close to the point of use.

Public (and EU) funds have been wrongly used. Water planners have not carried out their duty towards the community they serve through lack of foresight and by not having an inkling of sustainability issues.

It also means that those who advised the head of state to inform the current Parliament’s inaugural session in May 2008 that “the government’s plans and actions are to be underpinned by the notion of sustainable development” were not aware what that statement signifies. Repeatedly, the government, led by Lawrence Gonzi, falls short of addressing adequately environmental impacts, as a result pushing these islands further down the road of dependence on ecological credit.

The government could have opted for a fresh start in May 2008 by implementing the National Sustainable Development Strategy, approved by Cabinet some months prior to the 2008 election. Instead, I am reliably informed that the National Commission for Sustainable Development has not met a single time during the past 42 months. As a consequence, the strategy has been practically shelved and discarded.

I cannot and will not say that there have not been any environmental initiatives. While various initiatives have been undertaken, some only address impacts partially. Others have been embarked upon half-heartedly. It is also clear to all that government environmental action does not form part of a holistic vision. It rather resembles the linking up of loose pieces of unrelated jigsaw puzzle bits.

This contrasts sharply with the public’s awareness and expectations. The public is one step ahead awaiting its representatives to act in a responsible manner in accordance with their much-publicised statements.

Excessive ecological credit will inevitably lead to ecological bankruptcy. No EU or IMF will bail us out. It’s better to take our environmental responsibilities seriously before it is too late.

Beyond the Rhetorical declarations

The fact that a common vocabulary of environmental and related terms has been adopted ac­ross the political divide may lead some to the mistaken conclusion there exists a widespread agreement as to environmental objectives to be attained. However, while a common vocabulary is in existence through the use of the same terms and expressions, we sometimes seem to refer to dictionaries that vary substantially. As a minimum, they may be said to be substantially different editions!

Consider sustainable development. The term is ubiquitous but there is a wide range of and, at times, conflicting views as to what constitutes sustainable development.

When this Parliament met, at its inaugural sitting, the President as head of state and on behalf of the government read what is known as the Speech from the Throne, that is the government’s political objectives and programme it intended to fulfil while in office. It was then stated 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.

“Sustainable development has three main dimensions: economic, social and environmental. Our challenge is to ensure continuous economic development, promoted by education, social development, with particular attention to environmental protection. When we evaluate our activities in view of these three interrelated dimensions, we would be placing every person at the heart of the government’s actions.”

The notions of sustainable development the President put forward on behalf of the government were the minimum possible. They are reasonable as a first step as they contain the seminal ideas that should form the building blocks of a strategy for ending business as usual and moving towards a path eventually leading to a sustainable society.

Economic, social and environmental dimensions are rightly defined as being interrelated. I would go further by stating the social and environmental impacts we must continuously address are the result of the manner in which the economy has been permitted to operate.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The government’s commitment towards sustainable development is not to be gauged by its rhetoric but through its actions.

The Commission for Sustainable Development set up in terms of the Environment Protection Act has not met for more than four years, since December 2006. Then it had approved the final version of the National Sustainable Development Strategy, which it submitted to Cabinet. A primary function of the commission now is to oversee the implementation of the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Maltese Islands, approved by Cabinet prior to the March 2008 election and having a 10-year lifespan (2007-2016).

This fact on its own speaks volumes as to the government’s unwritten policies. It is in line with the abolition of the Commission for Sustainable Development by the Conservative/Liberal coalition government in the UK as a result of its bonfire of quangos. The UK government too describes itself as being the greenest ever. Actions, however, speak louder than words. Lip service is clearly the name of the game.

Instead of honouring its commitments and ensuring that each one of the 20 priority areas identified in the Sustainable Development Strategy are implemented throughout the lifetime of this Administration, a free-for-all has ensued.

How can a government committed to sustainable development justify an administrative set-up that subjugates responsible environmental management to the whims of those who still consider the building construction industry as a prime economic mover on these islands?

The Dwejra debacle, which will, hopefully, soon enter into its final stages, has confirmed once more that, within the set-up of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, the Environment Protection Directorate may be consulted, yet, it is set aside when decisions are taken.

What is the purpose of drawing up local plans to regulate development if these are repeatedly ignored as has been shown once more by the Mepa audit officer in his report on the extension of the Church-run Seminary at Tal-Virtù?

Why speak of eco-Gozo yet issue a development permit for a Church-run cemetery, which is in the process of completely ruining a rainwater harvesting infrastructure that has served the agricultural community at Nadur’s Għajn Qasab for about three centuries?

Government actions speak louder than words. As aptly stated by Marco Cremona (The Times, January 18) we are witnessing mixed messages and conflicting policies.

There is no coordination of environment policy across government. This is in part the result of the abandonment of the sustainable development infrastructure. It is clear there is no one who has the ability to enforce environment policy throughout the government.

Late in 2010, Parliament approved a motion moved by the Prime Minister to introduce a Sustainable Development Bill, which has been given a first reading. The political will to act is, however, nowhere in sight.

Published in The Times of Malta on January22, 2011

Time to realign actions with words

On Budget Day next week, the government ought to explain the extent to which its actions are consistent with its political programme read during Parliament’s inauguration by the President in 2008.

It would be pertinent to remember that the President had then stated: “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.” Sustainable development, the President had informed Parliament, was a main goal of this government.

Well, since then, and for a number of months before that too, the National Commission for Sustainable Development has not met. It has been dormant for three years. Not a good sign for a government that considers it should direct itself onto the sustainability path. In addition, targets and objectives of the National Sustainable Development Strategy have been ignored.

Alternattiva Demokratika considers that next week’s Budget could be the opportunity for the government to realign its actions with its declarations.

Cabinet approved a national strategy for sustainable development towards the end of 2007 after extensive consultations with civil society carried out by the NCSD. This strategy laid down a number of specific actions for government ministries to follow. These have been honoured in the breach.

The selected method for implementation of the strategy is through action plans drawn up by ministries. Within 18 months from the strategy’s adoption, that is by mid-2009, ministries were required to prepare their action plans to implement the strategy. They are already 12 months late.

This has occurred because, at least to date, the government has considered the NCSD as a formality.

The mere fact that the Prime Minister, who ex-ufficio is chairman of the NCSD, hardly ever attended commission meetings since 2004 is, in itself, the clearest indication of the mismatch between declarations and actions, the end result being the prevailing state of affairs.

The NSDS identified 20 priority areas: environment (eight areas), economy (three areas), society (four areas), cross-cutting issues (three areas) and implementation (two areas).

Priority area 19, for example, established that, by 2008, that is 24 months ago, a permanent structure properly staffed and funded had to be in place to monitor and review the strategy’s implementation. A role for major stakeholders was also envisaged in order to “critically evaluate progress relating to the strategy”.

Priority area 17 identified the year 2008 as the target for the drawing up of a strategy “to enhance the use of economic instruments such as charges, taxes, subsidies, deposit refund schemes and trading schemes” in order to apply the polluter-pays principle and to promote sustainable development in Malta. Instead of drawing up this strategy, the government drew up a national environment policy issues paper and queried whether and to what extent the public considers it advisable “to move towards a taxation system that penalises pollution rather than jobs”.

To add further to the indecision, the pre-Budget document published in July declared the government was considering introducing a carbon tax. It further advocates a tax shifting mechanism whereby the taxes collected through this carbon tax are offset by the reduction of taxes that “penalise jobs”. Has a study analysing the impacts of this proposal been carried out? While reducing carbon emissions would be positive, what analysis has been made of the economic and the social impacts of such a measure?

On behalf of AD I have sought an answer to this question. In terms of the Freedom of Access to Information on the Environment Regulations 2005 I requested the release of studies commissioned by the Ministry of Finance.

The reply I received last Monday is another proof of the amateurism prevalent at policy formation level. The reply drew my attention to a number of academic journals dealing with tax shifting. I was further informed that the issue (of tax shifting) is being discussed in the Green Economy Working Group, which is expected to present its initial findings to the government by the end of 2010. These findings, it was stated, will be subject to public consultation in early 2011.

While consultation is always to be viewed positively, my point is that the announcement in the pre-Budget document that carbon taxation and tax shifting are being considered was premature in view of the fact that no studies have been concluded to date. Not even preliminary ones.

It seems the government has not yet learned its lessons from the introduction of eco contribution.

Serious policy formation and announcements have to be accompanied by studies detailing impacts of the proposals. Premature policy declarations serve no purpose except to mislead.

Ending all this by realigning actions with words would be a good first step. Our future depends on it.

Published in The Times, October 23, 2010

AD on Government’s Environment Policy

During a press conference in Valletta, Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson, said: ‘Alternattiva Demokratika is presenting its reactions to Government’s proposed environment policy. In a nutshell we believe that it would have been wiser if Government implemented the recommendations of the National Commission for Sustainable Development, which have been ignored by Government for over two years. A holistic and effective environment policy should be based on the concept of sustainable development through which environmental, social and economic considerations are given due importance in order to improve the quality of life of people and to protect species. This is precisely what is being proposed in our policy paper, which covers various areas’.
 
Carmel Cacopardo, AD Spokesman on Sustainable Development and Local Government said that AD’s detailed reaction to the National Environment Policy Issues Paper was presented to Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco yesterday during a cordial meeting.
 
AD, said Cacopardo, is of the opinion that environment policy and environment measures have to be buttressed by studies which analyse the economic, social and environmental impacts of the proposals. Environmental research is absent from the list of issues dealt with by the document government published for public discussion. This is not a surprise for AD as acting without analysing impacts a priori is this government’s preferred method of action as has already happened when the eco-contribution legislation was introduced.
 
Government has just announced that it is toying with the idea of introducing tax shifting by reducing taxes on labour and introducing a carbon tax. This proposal communicated in the pre-budget document is scant on details such that it is not at all clear what Government is considering. In addition no studies indicating targets, methods and impacts has been published. Nor is it known whether in fact any studies have been carried out. It is for this reason that AD has 15 days ago requested the release of studies on the “carbon tax” proposal in terms of the provisions of LN 116 of 2005 (Freedom of Access to Information on the Environment Regulations).
 
The use of economic instruments for environmental improvement should be the responsibility of the Ministry of the Environment and not of the Ministry of Finance. This would ensure that environmental objectives and not fiscal ones are the primary objectives when such instruments are used
 
The Issues Paper added Cacopardo does not consider a number of important areas of action such as : Light Pollution, Environmental Impacts of Organisations, CSR, environmental nuisance, land contamination, the role of civil society and eNGOs in environment policy formulation, access to environment information and environment research.
            
AD considers that in view of the large number of vacant properties a moratorium on large scale residential development is long overdue. The regulating of funding of political parties would also ease the pressure of the building development lobby on politicians.  
 
Press here to download full AD paper

L-editorjal tat-Times jaqbel ma’ AD

Fl-editorjal tagħha illum 21 t’Awissu 2010 it-Times titkellem dwar il-politika nazzjonali ambjentali.

Hu ta’ sodisfazzjoni għalina f’AD li ninnotaw li t-Times qed issostni l-argument ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika u qed tgħid lil Gvern : għalfejn ser toqogħod tistenna 18-il xahar biex tfassal din il-politika ambjentali? Ma tafx sur Gvern li fl-2007 wara konsultazzjoni estensiva kienet konkluża l-Istrateġija Nazzjonali dwar l-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli liema strateġija tagħtik fuq platt l-informazzjoni kollha li għandek bżonn?

Dan huwa dak li qalet Alternattiva nhar it-2 t’Awwissu 2010, tlett ġimgħat ilu bħala l-ewwel reazzjoni tagħha għal publikazzjoni tad-dokument tal-Gvern dwar il-politika Ambjentali.

Huwa veru każ li l-id il-leminija tal-Gvern ma tafx x’għamlet l-id ix-xellugija!   

ara ukoll fuq dan il-blog : Thoughts for an Environmental Policy

Thoughts for an Environmental Policy

The government has published a number of policy documents for public consultation. Two deal with different aspects of water policy while a third deals with issues for a National Environment Policy.

Also of relevance is an Ernst & Young Report commissioned by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority on a 2008 Public Attitudes Survey. It is dated April 2010. Although recently published I do not recollect reading anything in the press about this survey. One of the conclusions of this survey should be an eye opener to policy makers as to the central importance which the Maltese public attaches to the environment.

In the 2008 Public Attitudes Survey it was concluded that 69 per cent of respondents held the view that the environment was as important as the economy. On the other hand 23 per cent of respondents considered that the environment was more important than the economy while only eight per cent considered the economy as being of overriding importance.

To my mind these are significant conclusions contrasting with current national policy which considers that the economy has an ­overriding priority over the environment. The Maltese public thinks otherwise: 92 per cent of respondents of the Mepa Public Attitudes Survey have understood that the economy should not be an overriding consideration in environmental policy formulation. Now this is what sustainable development is all about.

Contrary to what green-washers imply, being committed to sustainable development does not mean that one seeks to balance or mitigate environmental, social and cultural impacts of economic development. Sustainable development speaks another language altogether for which unfortunately there is still a lack of translators. Real commitment to sustainable development conveys the message that humankind does not own the earth. It shares the earth with other species together with which it forms part of one eco-system.

The way in which our society has evolved and is organised is such that it considers human activity as meriting overriding importance. In fact it is often stated that policies are anthropocentric. Both PN and PL environmental policies can be grouped in this category. AD together with other Green parties around the globe differs as it follows a eco-centric path. But then the ecology has no vote!

Sustainable development properly construed considers the need of an eco-centric environmental policy. This signifies that a holistic approach is applied through which impacts on the whole eco-system are considered.

Now this is completely different from the manner in which our society is accustomed to look at itself. An eco-centric approach leads us to take a long term view in contrast to the short-sighted view of our immediate interests. This does not only impact land use but also waste management, agriculture and fishing, light pollution, acoustic pollution, air quality, water resources, mineral deposits, transport policy, the protection of our ecological heritage and many other areas.

When one considers the above I cannot understand why the authors of the National Environment Policy Issues Paper ignored the National Sustainable Development Strategy when formulating the Issues Paper for public consultation. They considered the 2008 State of the Environment Report and the Parliamentary debate which ensued together with the Ernst & Young report above quoted as the basis for a discussion.

In so doing they ignored completely a consultation process spanning a number of years which answered most of the questions which the Issues Paper poses.

This is surely not a new way of doing politics. It is a way with which most of us are familiar as it does away with past achievements and seeks to start a fresh page, ignoring everything and everyone. Knowing that at least one of the drafters of the National Environment Policy Issues Paper was actively involved in the process leading to the National Sustainability Strategy, I must ask the obvious question: Is the Issues Paper the first step towards the scrapping of the National Sustainability Strategy?

The current Bill before Parliament which seeks to consolidate existing legislation on land use planning and the environment removes all references to the National Sustainable Development Commission. It was stated repeatedly that a separate legislative measure will be proposed dealing with issues of sustainable development. Yet to date this is nowhere in sight. Does this confirm that there have been second thoughts on the National Sustainability Strategy?

The Strategy should currently be in the process of implementation. Section 5 of the Strategy entitled “The Way Ahead” provides that ministers have to produce action plans for the implementation of the National Sustainable Development Strategy in their portfolio within 18 months from the adoption of the strategy.

The strategy was adopted by Cabinet more than 18 moons ago yet the action plans are nowhere in sight.

I have never had any doubt that this government is being consistent with its beliefs: it says one thing, but when push comes to shove it proceeds with doing something else.

published in The Times : August 14, 2010