Obliterating the future

Humanity is at war with nature. Isn’t it about time for peace?

This is the basic message of António Guterres, United Nations Secretary General, in an address delivered at Columbia University earlier this week.

António Guterres said: “Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back – and it is already doing so with growing force and fury. Biodiversity is collapsing. One million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes.”

If humanity keeps the current pace there is the danger that we destroy the future before we have even understood the risks that we are continuously creating.

The past decade has been the hottest in human history. Some are still focusing on short term gains ignoring long term losses. Even if all the commitments made at the Paris Climate Summit in 2015 are honoured completely, we would still have some way to go in order to attain the agreed minimum objectives: limiting the global mean temperature increase to not more than 2 degrees Celsius, hopefully closer to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Beyond the 2-degree limit climate change will become catastrophic and irreversible.

Climate change is nature fighting back forcefully, without discriminating. The war is on at full speed all over the globe. In some parts it is drought. In others it is floods. Havoc is the result everywhere. The intensity and frequency of storms is on the increase as the cumulative impacts of our actions continuously increase.

There is no possibility to negotiate with nature, her demands are clear and simple: unconditional surrender. We need to change our ways and habits. Nature can be a reliable friend but if transformed into an enemy, it is ruthless as climate change shows unequivocally.

It has been a hectic 48 years since the first ministers for the environment were appointed as a direct result of the deliberations of the international community in the UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in June 1972. Some progress has definitely been achieved over the years but it is certainly nowhere close to enough.

It has been realised that there is only one earth which we need to care for. It has been 34 years since the Brundtland report placed sustainable development on the international agenda. Though officially accepted as an important policy objective, it is still subject to mental gymnastics in determining practical every day action to reduce impacts which threaten our future.

The spirit of the 2015 Paris summit is one which recognised the need for urgent action, yet five years down the line procrastination is still the order of the day. As we may have realised by now, half measures are not effective in addressing nature’s revenge.

We cannot keep postponing the decision to determine the cut-off date for the elimination of petrol and diesel run vehicles from our roads. The decision announced in September 2017 is taking too long to implement leading to the reasonable assumption that reluctance is having the upper hand.

The electrification of our roads is one important step which needs to be implemented rapidly if we are to start the path to carbon neutrality in a meaningful way. It must however also be accompanied by a reduction of the number of cars on our roads, an achievable objective, given the small distances which we travel in such a small country. 

It is to be underlined, once more, that the Transport Master Plan for the Maltese Islands has identified that around 50 per cent of our car journeys are for short distances in respect if which we can definitely use alternative means.  This signifies that the required changes, in our case, are less painful, even in the short term. We need however to address contradictory policy stances: the required reduction of cars from our roads will be more difficult to achieve if the development of large-scale road infrastructure is still the order of the day. Even the proposed Gozo Channel tunnel falls in this category as its feasibility is dependent on maximising car movements, a requirement which is in direct contradiction to the Paris Climate Summit conclusions!

The risk of obliterating the future is still present. Nature will not be fooled. It can distinguish between greenwash and meaningful action. Unfortunately, it is clear that it has not been impressed by our action to date. There is not much time left to change course.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday : 6 December 2020

Beyond GDP

“The GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.” This was stated by Robert Kennedy at the University of Kansas 52 years ago in what is known as his GDP speech!

In what was a highly charged US Presidential campaign, during which he was assassinated, Robert Kennedy had further explained that the GDP “does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.  It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country.”

We may use different language or emphasise different aspects to explain the problem, but not much has changed since: The GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile!

Pursuing economic growth as the single most important policy goal is in conflict with the earth’s limited resource base. It contrasts with the fragile ecosystem of which we are a part and on which we depend for our survival.

Economic growth is supposed to deliver prosperity. Instead it has delivered unbridled climate change, fuel insecurity, sky-high commodity prices, collapsing biodiversity, reduced access to depleted water resources or clean air, and an ever-increasing global inequality. Is this measured by the GDP? Definitely not.

The GDP is just concerned with material wealth, ignoring in the process our health, our education, the safety of our streets, the social tissue of society, the state of our families, the devastation caused by all forms of hatred …………… GDP includes the production of armaments and the destruction of the environment carried out in the name of “progress” as well as the television programmes that glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

The earth’s resources are limited and, consequently, they cannot fuel infinite economic growth. There are practical limits to growth, which should lead our economic planners to consider decoupling prosperity and economic growth.

This is the context in which Greens welcome the Justice and Peace Commission of the Church in Malta looking beyond the GDP. It is welcome not only because it is the correct approach but also because we have been at it for so long, mostly practically on our own.

The 54 page published Church Commission study entitled Beyond GDP – A framework to gauge Malta’s success through quality of life justifiably argues that limiting ourselves to gauging progress through the use of the GDP leads to a situation where other factors leading to a satisfactory quality of life can be easily disregarded.

The study, supported by EY, APS Bank and Seed Consultancy is a very valid contribution to a mature political debate which we lack so much.

The insistence that we should go beyond GDP in gauging our quality of life is not an exercise in diminishing the importance of the economy. Rather, it signifies the determination that the economy should not be seen in isolation but that it should be viewed within a realistic context. Social, environmental and cultural dimensions are extremely relevant, as much as economics, in the gauging of our wellness, or the lack of it.

A more just economy needs to look at the bigger picture and not limit itself to the GDP to get its bearings right. This is another way of emphasising the need for a sustainable development, a term which is much in use nowadays but unfortunately not sufficiently understood or catered for. Going beyond GDP in measuring our state of wellness would definitely yield more realistic indicators which we urgently require. 

Published in the Malta Independent on Sunday: 29 November 2020

It-turiżmu wara l-pandemija

It-turiżmu kien wieħed mis-setturi li l-iktar intlaqat bħala riżultat tal-pandemija Covid-19. Tul is-snin in-numri tat-turisti li ġew iżuruna żdied kull meta tjiebet il-konnettività: min-naħa l-oħra hekk kif il-konnettività naqset u eventwalment waqfet kompletament, ġara bil-maqlub.

Iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa bdew jaslu l-ewwel turisti fil-port u l-ajruport tagħna. Bil-mod qed terġa’ tiġi stabilita l-konnettività li twassal biex it-turiżmu jibda jirpilja bil-mod. Il-Ministru tat-Turiżmu Julia Farrugia-Portelli f’dawn il-ġranet ħabbret il-mira tal-Gvern: 700,000 turist sal-aħħar tas-sena. Iktar kmieni t-tmexxija tal-Ajruport Internazzjonali ta’ Malta kienet emfasizzat li jeħtieġ madwar sentejn biex il-wasla tal-passiġġiera tirkupra u naslu fejn konna qabel ma faqqgħet il-pandemija.

Jista’ t-turiżmu qatt jilħaq il-livelli ta’ qabel il-pandemija?

Jeżistu stimi diversi dwar il-kontribut tat-turiżmu lejn l-ekonomija. Stima minnhom tipponta lejn kontribut dirett ta’ 5 fil-mija tal-ekonomija. Imma, bħala riżultat tal-impatt fuq setturi oħra dan is-sehem jitla għal madwar 12 fil-mija. Barijiet, restoranti, ħwienet li jbiegħu bl-imnut, attivitajiet pubbliċi, l-industrija tad-divertiment u t-trasport (in partikolari l-kiri tal-karozzi) huma dipendenti fuq it-turiżmu. Setturi partikolari bħat-tagħlim tal-Ingliż u ċ-ċentri tal-għaddasa huma meqjusa bħala parti integrali mill-ekonomija turistika.

Intqal ħafna dwar l-impatt tal-pandemija fuq il-lukandi. Imma anke dawk li jipprovdu sodod turistiċi barra mil-lukandi ġarrew fuq spallejhom impatt sostanzjali avolja ftit li xejn issemmew fid-dibattitu konness mal-impatti tal-pandemija. Dan huwa settur li jinvolvi negozjanti żgħar u dawk li nirreferu għalihom bħala micro-businesses li kull wieħed minnhom jimpjega inqas minn għaxar persuni.

UNCTAD, l-Aġenzija tal-Ġnus Magħquda dwar il-Kummerċ u l-Iżvilupp, iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa ħabbret li l-iġġammjar tat-turiżmu minħabba l-pandemija ser jiswa’ lill-industrija globali tat-turiżmu madwar $1.2 triljun . Din l-istima tista’ tirdoppja skond kif tiżviluppa t-tieni mewġa tal-pandemija.

Il-Ġamajka tista’ titlef madwar 11 fil-mija tal-Prodott Gross Domestiku, t-Tajlandja 9 fil-mija, l-Italja 5 fil-mija. Fl-Unjoni Ewropeja l-agħar impatti huma mal-kosta Mediterranja fejn l-ekonomija hi dipendenti ħafna fuq it-turiżmu. Minbarra Malta hemm l-Italja, l-Kroazja, is-Slovenja, Cipru u l-Greċja li kollha ntlaqtu sew. It-Turkija u t-Tunesija, parteċipanti Mediterranji fl-industrija turistika ukoll iġġammjaw, wara li gawdew minn żidiet sostanzjali fin-numri ta’ turisti tul is-snin.

Jagħmel sens li l-Gvern, f’dan il-waqt, permezz tal-Awtorità Maltija tat-Turiżmu, qiegħed jiffoka fuq li jġib lill-industrija tat-turiżmu lura fuq saqajha. Dan imma, mhux biżżejjed. Jeħtieġ li nibdew naħsbu dwar il-futur tal-industrija u dan billi neżaminaw fid-dettall dak li l-industrja teħtieġ li tiffaċċja fit-tul.

Fi tmiem is-sena li għaddiet, l-2019, ilħaqna in-numru ta’ 2.8 miljun turista iżuruna. Il-punt hu jekk dawn in-numri humiex sostenibbli. Dan hu argument ta’ dejjem li ilu għaddej sa minnmeta n-numri kienu ferm iżgħar. Id-dibattitu kien, u għandu jibqa’ jkun dwar jekk għandniex niffukaw iktar fuq il-kwalità milli fuq il-kwantità.

Il-miġja fostna tal-linji tal-ajru low-cost bħala parti essenzjali mill-politika tat-turiżmu illum tpoġġi emfasi ikbar fuq in-numri. Din hi għażla politika li saret u li teħtieġ li tkun eżaminata u analizzata fil-fond. L-impatti ekonomiċi għandhom jitqiesu fl-istess ħin mal-impatti ambjentali. Irridu niftakru kontinwament li t-turiżmu jiġġenera bosta impatti ambjentali.

Wasal iż-żmien li nirrealizzaw li d-dibattitu meħtieġ dwar il-futur tat-turiżmu jeħtieġ li jsir fl-isfond tal-Patt l-Aħdar: The Green Deal.

L-emissjonijiet tal-ajruplani ser ikollhom ikunu indirizzati fil-futur qarib. Hu inevitabbli li jiddaħħlu taxxi dwar dawn l-emissjonijiet (carbon taxes) fi żmien mhux il-bogħod. Jekk mhux ser jittieħdu passi immedjati dwar dawn l-emissjonijiet ser ikun ħafna iktar diffiċli, biex ma ngħidx impossibli, biex ikunu ndirizzati l-konklużjonijiet tas-Summit Klimatiku ta’ Pariġi tal-2015. Summit li Malta ħarġet tiftaħar li kienet wieħed mill-ewwel pajjiżi li rratifikatu. F’dak il-mument (jekk nibqgħu ma nieħdux passi) mhux biss it-turiżmu jaqla’ daqqa kbira oħra imma tkun il-kwalità tal-ħajja tagħna lkoll li tieħu daqqa l-isfel.

Il-gżejjer Maltin, bħall-parti l-kbira tal-gżejjer imxerrda mal-ibħra, ikunu minn tal-ewwel biex jaqilgħu ġo fihom l-impatti tat-tibdil fil-klima. Il-kosta tkun effettwat bl-għoli tal-livell tal-baħar. Tajjeb li niftakru li l-infrastruttura tat-turiżmu qegħda kważi kollha mal-kosta! Iktar ma ninjoraw dan il-fatt bażiku ikbar tkun id-daqqa li naqilgħu.

S’issa naħseb li kulħadd irrealizza kemm l-industrija tat-turiżmu hi waħda fraġli. Kull xokk li l-industrija issofri jista’ jwassal għal tnaqqis kbir fl-impiegi f’din l-industrija. It-turiżmu għadu staġjonali wisq u dan minnu innifsu jwassal għal kundizzjonijiet tax-xogħol ta’ natura prekarja.

Jeħtieġ li nippjanaw iżjed billi nħarsu il-bogħod u fuq medda twila ta’ żmien: naħsbu u nippjanaw sewwa dwar l-impatti soċjali, ambjentali u ekonomiċi ta’ kull deċiżjoni. Dan wara kollox hu l-proċess li jwassal għal żvilupp sostenibbli. Hu l-unika mod kif nistgħu nassiguraw li l-impatti negattivi tal-industrija tat-turiżmu nistgħu nindirizzawhom illum qabel għada.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 5 ta’ Lulju 2020

Post-Covid Tourism

Tourism is understandably one of the hardest hit sectors as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the years, tourism numbers increased substantially as a result of an increased connectivity: the reverse happened the moment that connectivity was restricted or became practically inexistent.

Earlier this week saw the first arrivals at our air and seaports. Slowly, connectivity is being restored. It is expected that tourism will now start a slow recovery. Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia-Portelli is on record with a 700,000-tourist target for year end. Malta International Airport CEO had earlier opined that it will take at least two years to recover to pre-pandemic level airport movements.

Will tourism ever recover to the pre-pandemic levels?

There are various estimates of the contribution of tourism to the economy. One such estimate points at a direct contribution of around 5 percent of our economy. However, as a result of its impacts on other sectors the overall contribution rises to around 12 percent. Bars, restaurants, retail trade, events, entertainment and transport (in particular car hire), are heavily dependent on tourism. Specific sectors such as the English language school sector as well as diving are important sectors in the tourism economy.

Much has been stated on the impact of the pandemic on the hotel industry. The providers of non-hotel beds, however, have also been heavily impacted by the pandemic, but they have not featured much in the post-Covid-19 debate. This is a sector which involves a number of small-scale investors and micro-businesses each employing less than ten employees.

UNCTAD, the UN Trade and Development Agency, earlier this week stated that the four-month standstill of the tourism industry due to the pandemic Covid-19 could cost the industry around $1.2 trillion. This estimated cost could more than double, depending on the severity and spread of a second wave of the pandemic.

Jamaica could lose as much as 11 percent of its GDP, Thailand 9 percent, Italy 5 percent. In the EU, the worst impacts are along the Mediterranean coast where the economy is heavily dependent on tourism. In addition to Malta, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Greece are also heavily impacted. Turkey and Tunisia, Mediterranean players in the tourism industry have also been almost at a standstill, after experiencing a substantial expansion of their tourism industry throughout the years.

It is understandable that government through the Malta Tourism Authority is currently focused on getting tourism back on its feet. This is however not enough. We must start discussing a long-term view of the tourism industry.

At the end of 2019 the 2.8 million mark of tourists visiting the Maltese islands had been attained. The point at issue is whether this is sustainable in the long-term. This has been a perennial issue in tourism politics since the days when the numbers were much lower. The debate was and should be whether we should focus more on quality than on quantity.

The advent of low-cost carriers as an essential part of the tourism equation places more emphasis on numbers than on quality. It is a choice which may need to be analysed and revisited. Economic impacts have to be viewed concurrently with environmental impacts. We must remember that tourism has a considerable environmental impact. It is about time that the tourism debate is carried out within the parameters of the Green Deal.

Aeroplane emissions will at some point in time in the near future have to be addressed. Carbon taxes will sooner or later come into play. Unless they are addressed immediately it will be more difficult, if not practically impossible, to address the Paris Climate Change conclusions to which Malta has adhered. At that point it will not be just the tourism industry but our whole lifestyle which will be in for the chop.

The Maltese archipelago, like all islands, will bear the brunt of climate change impacts. The coastline will be severely hit by a sea level rise. It may be pertinent to remember that the coast houses practically all of the tourism infrastructure. The longer we ignore this basic fact, the more severe will the impacts be.

By now all of us are aware that Tourism is a very volatile industry: any shock will result in mass redundancies. Tourism is currently way too seasonal, and consequently it only serves to create precarious working conditions.

It is the time to plan ahead: thinking carefully of the social, environmental and economic impacts of all decisions. This is what sustainable development is, after all, about. It is the only way to ensure that the negative impacts of the tourism industry are addressed by us sooner rather than later.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 5 July 2020

Politika dwar turiżmu sostenibbli

L-Awtorità Maltija tat-Turiżmu għadha kif ħabbret li tul l-2019 2.75 miljun turist żaru Malta. Din qabża kbir fuq perjodu ta’ għaxar snin. Fl-2010 iċ-ċifra kienet ta’ 1.33 miljun turist. Ġejna infurmati wkoll li t-turisti li żaru Malta tul l-2019, kemm damu fostna, nefqu iktar minn 2.2 biljun euro, ċifra li taqbeż ir-rekord stabilit fl-2018.

Dawn numri impressjonanti, sakemm tistaqsi (u jkollok tweġiba għal) mistoqsija bażika. Dan kollu, sostenibbli?

Xi snin ilu l-Awtorità tat-Turiżmu kienet ikkonkludiet studju li minnu joħroġ li t-turist li jiġi jżura, ras għal ras, jikkonsma 50% mir-riżorsi iktar minna li noqgħodu hawn. Din l-informazzjoni kont sibtha jiena u naqra wieħed mir-rapport dwar il-qagħda ambjentali tal-pajjiż (State of the Environment Report). Fil-qosor, dan ifisser impatt addizzjonali ras għal ras fuq ir-riżorsi li nagħmlu użu minnhom u mhux biss l-ilma u l-elettriku imma wkoll l-iskart iġġenerat, it-trasport, l-art żviluppata u ħafna iktar.

L-istatistika ppubblikata mill-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Istatistika tiffoka fuq l-aħbar pożittiva relatata mat-turiżmu lejn Malta. Imma dan kollu xejn ma jispjega l-impatti ġġenerati bħala riżultat. L-istatistika, wara kollox, m’għandiex dan l-iskop! Mhuwiex xieraq li tiffoka fuq l-aħbar li timpressjona mingħajr ma tfisser u tispjega l-impatti kkawżati biex jitlaħqu dawn ir-riżultati. .

Xi ġimgħat ilu, fuq dawn il-paġni kont iddiskutejt turiżmu li qed jikber iżżejjed (overtourism). Dakinnhar kont staqsejt jekk l-impatt ekonomiku tat-turiżmu jiġġustifikax l-effetti soċjali u ambjentali tiegħu. Dak li jiflaħ pajjiżna, jiġifieri dak li nirreferu għalih bħala l-carrying capacity tal-gżejjer Maltin, ċioe n-numru ta’ turisti li għalihom għandna riżorsi adegwati, hu ta’ importanza fundamentali f’din id-diskussjoni. Politika dwar it-turiżmu li dan kollu ma tqiesux sewwa hi politka difettuża.

Julia Farrugia Portelli, Ministru għat-Turiżmu, donnha hi tal-istess ħsieb. Fil-fatt, hi u titkellem dwar iċ-ċifri tat-turiżmu għas-sena 2019 ħabbret li l-abbozz tal-pjan għat-Turiżmu li għandu jwassalna sal-2025 ser ikun ibbażat fuq il-prinċipji ta’ turiżmu sostenibbli, kif ukoll fuq il-kisbiet tas- snin li għaddew.

Jista’ t-turiżmu qatt ikun sostenibbli? Kif bosta minna bla dubju ntebħu, is-sostenibilità hi terminu minn l-iktar abbużat.

Aħna u neżaminaw il-kontribut tat-turiżmu lis-soċjetà Maltija m’għandniex nillimitaw ruħna għad-dħul finanzjarju: għandna nagħtu każ ukoll tal-ispejjeż, mhux biss f’termini ta’ flus imma wkoll l-ispiża soċjali u ambjentali.

B’żieda mal-eċċessività ta’ riżorsi ikkunsmati ras għal ras mit-turisti wieħed għandu jżid mhux biss l-iżvilupp esaġerat tal-art, li għalih it-turiżmu wkoll jagħti sehem mhux żgħir, imma ukoll il-kontribuzzjoni lejn it-tibdil fil-klima mill-industrija tal-avjazzjoni. Din hi materja li ma nistgħux nibqgħu ninjorawha. Bla dubju ser nisimgħu ħafna iktar dwar dan matul il-ġimgħat u x-xhur li ġejjin huwa u jiżviluppa d-dibattitu dwar il-Patt Ġdid Aħdar tal-Unjoni Ewropea (EU Green Deal) ippilotat mill-Kummissarju Frans Timmermanns. Dakinhar nifhmu aħjar dwar kif jaħsbuha dwar is-sostenibilità u l-iżvilupp sostenibbli dawk li jfasslu l-politika.

Il-viżjoni għat-turiżmu għas-snin li ġejjin tkun waħda werċa jekk ma tagħtix kaz tal-impatti soċjali u ambjentali tal-industrija. Dawk li jfasslu l-politika għat-turiżmu għandhom iħarsu lil hinn mid-dħul finanzjarju.

Lura fl-2008 l-antropologu Katalan Manoel Delgado kien ħoloq it-terminu turistofobia, biża’ mit-turiżmu, terminu li jwassal taħlita ta’ sentimenti ta’ stmerrija, nuqqas ta’ fiduċja u tmaqdir tat-turiżmu. Il-politika dwar it-turiżmu għandha tindirizza dawn l-impatti tat-turiżmu billi tassigura li t-turiżmu jkun limitat u ma jaqbiżx dak li jiflaħ il-pajjiż (carrying capacity). Dan ikun pass tajjeb il-quddiem għat-turiżmu u jikkuntrasta mal-qagħda xejn sostenibbli li għandna illum.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 9 ta’ Frar 2020

A sustainable tourism policy!

The Malta Tourism Authority has announced that, during 2019, the Maltese Islands received a record 2.75 million tourists, an impressive jump from the 2010 figure of 1.33 million.

We are told that the expenditure on the part of tourists visiting Malta during 2019 exceeded €2.2 billion, surpassing the previous record set in 2018.

The numbers are quite impressive but the basic question to ask, however, goes beyond impressive numbers. Is this sustainable?

Some years back, a study carried out by MTA concluded that a tourist visiting the Maltese islands makes use of 50 per cent more resources that locals. I originally came across this information when going through one of the State of the Environment Reports. In brief, this signifies an additional per capita impact on all resources that we use – not just water and electricity, but also waste generated, transport, land developed and much more.

The statistics published by the National Statistics Office give positive news regarding inbound tourism to Malta. They do not, however, explain in any way the impacts generated as a result, which is something beyond the scope of statistics. It is not, however, appropriate to sing the praises with numbers and ignore these impacts. Some weeks ago, I discussed the issue of over-tourism in these pages. I posed the question as to whether the economic impact of tourism justifies its social and environmental impacts. The carrying capacity of our islands – that is, the number of tourists with which our resources can reasonably cope – is of fundamental importance. A tourism policy that does not adequately consider the carrying capacity of the Maltese Islands is fundamentally flawed.

Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli is apparently thinking on the same wavelength. When discussing the 2019 tourism results, she announced that a draft tourism policy leading us up to 2025, will be based on the principles of sustainable tourism “while building on achievements of the past years”.

Can tourism ever be sustainable? The term “sustainability”, as most of us are by now aware, is a much-abused word and it is often used out of context in an effort to try and justify anything.

In order to gauge the contribution of tourism to Maltese society, we should not only consider the earnings derived there from but should also factor in the costs – not just financial ones but also social and environmental costs.

To the 50 per cent excess consumption of resources per capita one must add not only the overdevelopment of land generated by tourism but also the contribution to climate change by the aviation industry. This is certainly not negligible and we only ignore it at our peril. We will undoubtedly hear much more about this as the debate on the EU Green Deal – piloted by EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans – unfolds over the coming weeks and months. We will then understand much better what policy-makers assume when they use the terms “sustainability” and “sustainable development”.

The proposed tourism vision for the years ahead will be myopic if it does not factor in environmental and social impacts. Policy makers should look beyond the financial bottom-line.

Way back in 2008, Catalan anthropologist Manoel Delgado had coined the term “turistofobia” which term conveys a mixture of repudiation, mistrust and contempt for tourists. A tourism policy should address these negative impacts of tourism by ensuring that it is restrained within the carrying capacity of the Maltese Islands. This would be a reasonable first step towards a tourism that is less unsustainable than at present.

published on The Independent on Sunday : 9 February 2020

Il-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli

Il-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli hi materja li għandha tkun f’idejn il-Prim Ministru minħabba li tmiss ma’ kull qasam tal-politika. Hu interessanti li għal darba oħra r-responsabbiltà politika għall-iżvilupp sostenibbli reġgħet ġiet lura Kastilja, f’ħoġor il-Ministru Karmenu Abela, li nħatar Ministru fl-Uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru. Sal-lum dan rari seħħ ħlief għall-perjodu qasir li fih Mario Demarco kien Segretarju Parlamentari għat-Turiżmu u l-Ambjent.

Robert Abela mhuwiex l-ewwel Prim Ministru li emfasizza l-ħtieġa li jingħata iktar importanza lill-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Ħadd minnhom, imma, ma rnexxielu!

It-terminu “żvilupp sostenibbli” huwa l-iktar wieħed mit-termini fid-dizzjunarju politiku li huma użati ħazin. Il-lingwaġġ politiku użat kważi qatt ma jasal biex ifisser u jispjega li l-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli hi politika li tħares fit-tul: li kontinwament, huma u jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet, tagħti każ il-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri.

Il-gvernijiet ma jagħtux importanza biżżejjed lill-iżvilupp sostenibbli għax din m’hiex biss dwar illum imma hi ukoll dwar għada. Hi dwar kif il-ħidma tal-lum teħtieġ li issir b’mod li ma jkunx ippreġudikat għada u l-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri. Għada min rah? L-interess ta’ bosta minnhom iwassal sa ħames snin, jiġifieri sal-elezzjoni ġenerali li jmiss.

Dan hu punt li saħqet dwaru Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norveġiża u soċjalista demokratika li kienet Prim Ministru ta’ pajjiżha. Fir-rapport li hi ħejjiet għall-Ġnus Magħquda snin ilu dwar l-ambjent u l-iżvilupp, intitolat Our Common Future, emfasizzat li “Naġixxu b’dan il-mod għax nafu li mhu ser jiġri xejn: il-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri ma jivvutawx; m’għandhomx poter politiku jew finanzjarju; ma jistgħux jeħduha kontra d-deċiżjonijiet tagħna.”

Il-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli mhix biss dwar l-ambjent: hi dwar kif inħarsu b’mod integrat lejn il-politika ambjentali, ekonomika, soċjali u kulturali. Tfisser li l-ħidma tagħna jeħtieġ li tħares fit-tul u li simultanjament trid tkun kompatibbli man-natura, l-ekonomija, l-iżvilupp uman u l-kultura tagħna.

L-iżvilupp sostenibbli hu dwar kif nistgħu f’kull ħin inkunu f’armonija ma’ dak li aħna mdawrin bih. Il-ħin kollu, u mhux biss meta jaqbel. Tirrikjedi s-sinkronizzazzjoni tal-politika kulturali, soċjali, ambjentali u ekonomika. Għax il-ħarsien tad-dinjità umana, l-apprezzament tal-wirt kulturali u l-ħarsien ambjentali huma essenzjali daqs l-iżvilupp ekonomiku.

Fil-qafas globali, kif ukoll Ewropew, il-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli tfisser ukoll l-implimentazzjoni tal-miri dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli approvati mill-Ġnus Magħquda: 17-il mira imfissra f’169 oġġettiv. Din hi l-Aġenda Globali 2030 li dwarha l-Unjoni Ewropea ħadmet ħafna biex tkun maqbula mill-komunità internazzjonali. Filwaqt li l-Aġenda 2030 hi importanti kollha kemm hi, partijiet minnha għandhom importanza ikbar għalina f’Malta.

Ħu, per eżempju, l-immaniġjar tal-ilma. Hu essenzjali li nifhmu li huwa meħtieġ li r-riżorsa tal-ilma nieħdu ħsiebha sewwa u li l-użu li nagħmlu minnha jkun wieħed sostenibbli. Sfortunatament, sal-lum, l-immaniġjar tal-ilma f’Malta huwa kkaratterizzat minn doża mhux żgħira ta’ inkompetenza. Hemm aċċess kważi bla kontroll għall-ilma tal-pjan filwaqt li kwantità kbira ta’ ilma tax-xita jintrema l-baħar: kemm direttament permezz tal-mini li tħaffru għal dan l-iskop kif ukoll permezz tas-sistema tad-drenaġġ. Ir-regoli dwar il-ġbir u l-ħażna tal-ilma tax-xita applikati mill-awtoritajiet għal bini u żvilupp ġdid ħafna drabi mhumiex osservati. L-awtoritajiet ftit li xejn jagħtu kas.

Il-politika dwar it-transport hi qasam ieħor fejn l-ippjanar li ma jħarisx fit-tul jeħtieġ li jkun sostitwit billi tkun applikata l-politika ta’ żvilupp sostenibbli. Il-Pjan Nazzjonali tat-Trasport, li jibqa’ fis-seħħ sal-2025, jiġbdilna l-attenzjoni tagħna li nofs il-vjaġġi li nagħmlu bil-karozzi privati jdumu inqas minn kwarta. Dan jindika li inizjattivi biex ikun imrażżan it-traffiku fuq livell lokali u reġjonali jista’ jindirizza b’mod effettiv il-konġestjoni tat-traffiku fit-toroq tagħna bil-vantaġġ doppju ta’ titjib fil-kwalità tal-arja fejn din hi l-iktar meħtieġa.

Il-Pjan Nazzjonali tat-Transport jgħidilna li f’dan il-qasam, tul is-snin, ftit li xejn ħarisna fit-tul. Dan wassal, jgħidilna l-pjan, għal nuqqas ta’ direzzjoni strateġika u bħala riżultat ta’ dan żviluppajna l-inkapaċità li jkunu indirizzati materji diffiċli bħalma hi dik li tikkonċerna t-tnaqqis tal-karozzi privati. Min-naħa l-waħda għandna dan il-ħsieb sostenibbli dwar l-ippjanar tat-trasport, imma imbagħad min-naħa l-oħra l-Gvern ġie jaqa’ u jqum u għaddej bi programm ta’ nfieq sostanzjali fl-infrastruttura tat-toroq bl-iskop li tiżdied il-kapaċità tagħhom u bil-konsegwenza li d-dipendenza tagħna fuq il-karozzi tibqa’ tiżdied.

Dan kollu żejt fil-bażwa għax ġie ippruvat tul is-snin, bi studji li saru f’diversi pajjiżi, illi l-iżvilupp tas-sistema tat-toroq ma tnaqqasx il-konġestjoni tat-traffiku, imma isservi biss biex il-problema tkun posposta inkella tiċċaqlaq minn żona għall-oħra.

L-affarijiet huma agħar fil-qasam tal-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art. Gvernijiet suċċessivi wrew li ma kienux kapaċi jrażżnu l-iżvilupp esaġerat. B’wiċċ ta’ qdusija artifiċjali t-tmexxija politika tiddeskrivi lilha nnifisha bħal ħbieb tan-negozji (business friendly) inkella, kif smajna din il-ġimgħa ħbieb tas-suq (market friendly) u dan biex jippruvaw jiġġustifikaw in-nuqqas ta’ azzjoni adegwata. Qalulna li l-industrija tal-bini tant ħolqot impjiegi li qed tikkontribwixxi b’mod effettiv għal titjib fil-kwalità tal-ħajja.

Imma, kif bla dubju nafu lkoll, l-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni kienet fuq quddiem nett tkattar il-ħsara lill-pajjiż permezz ta’ żvilupp esaġerat bil-pretensjoni li l-ħsara ambjentali ikkawżata minnhom nagħmlu tajjeb għaliha aħna, l-bqija. Sfortunatament, ġew mgħejjuna minn gvernijiet suċċessivi li kontinwament fittxew kif jagħmluhielhom iktar faċli biex igawdu l-frott ta’ ħidmiethom. L-ippjanar tal-użu tal-art kif ipprattikat f’pajjiżna mhux sostenibbli u iktar ma jkun imrażżan malajr, ikun aħjar għal kulħadd.

In-nuqqas tal-politika għall-iżvilupp sostenibbli tinħass prattikament fl-oqsma kollha. Jeħtieġ li llum qabel għada nħarsu fit-tul f’kull deċiżjoni li tittieħed. Kien pass tajjeb, pass ‘l-quddiem li r-responsabbilta politika għall-iżvilupp sostenibbli marret lura f’Kastilja, fl-Uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru. Imma dan għandu jkun biss l-ewwel pass. Il-bidu, segwit minn hafna iktar passi.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 19 ta’ Jannar 2020

L-avukat tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar m’għandux kredibilità dwar l-ambjent

Wara li qatta’ snin jiddefendi kull xorta ta’ ħniezrijiet imwettqa mill-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, il-Prim Ministru Robert Abela hu l-inqas persuna li jista’ jitwemmen meta jitkellem favur l-ambjent. Bir-rieda tajba kollha li jista’ jkollu, dan hu qasam li fih m’għandux kredibità.

Xi ħaġa ġdida li għamel din il-ġimgħa, qal Robert Abela f’Bormla illum, hu l-mod kif qassam il-Ministeri. Fost id-diversi affarijiet “ġodda” li għamel, qal, l-ambjent u l-ippjanar ser ikunu fl-istess Ministeru, biex jissaħħaħ l-ambjent.

Tajjeb li jiftakar li sal-2016 l-ambjent u l-ippjanar kienu flimkien fl-istess Awtorità sakemm il-Gvern tal-predeċessur tiegħu firidhom. Anke dakinnhar kienu qalu li dan kien qed isir biex jissaħħaħ l-ambjent.

L-ambjent mhux ser ikun iktar il-ħaruf tas-sagrifiċċju tal-iżvilupp, kif fl-istess waqt imma l-iżvilupp mhux ser ikun iktar il-ħaruf tas-sagrifiċċju tal-ambjent qal Robert Abela. Għax Abela jrid irid jara bilanċ billi skontu l-iżvilupp jrid isir u jista’ jsir mingħajr ma ssir ħsara lill-ambjent.

Minn meta l-hawn kellna l-żvilupp bħala l-ħaruf tas-sagrifiċċju tal-ambjent? Robert Abela li għal snin twal, sa ġimgħa ilu, kien l-avukat tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, bla dubju jaf li qed iħarref! Mhux biss. Imma kien hu stess, direttament kif ukoll permezz tal-uffiċċju legali tiegħu li iddefenda l-ħniżrijiet kollha li wettqet l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar tul dawn l-aħħar snin! U ma kienx hemm każ wieħed jew tnejn, iżda bosta.

Ilna nisimgħu dawn il-ħrejjef bla sens minn min moħħu biss biex idawwar lira. Mingħand min moħħu biex jaġevola lill-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni. Għax din toħloq ix-xogħol, jgħidu, u in-nies kull ma trid hu l-flus fil-but.

Xejn ġdid dan Robert. Miexi fuq il-passi ta’ dawk li ġew qablek: Joseph Muscat u Lawrence Gonzi. Għax anke dawn tkellmu fuq bilanċ bejn l-ambjent u l-iżvilupp, u nisslu l-ħerba kullimkien. Iffaċilitaw l-iżvilupp bla rażan li r-riżultat tiegħu naraw madwarna.

L-iżvilupp sostenibbli hu ferm iktar minn hekk. Jirrikjedi impenn ferm ikbar fl-oqsma kollha. Impenn li s’issa ma jidhirx.

The politics of sustainable development

The politics of sustainable development is a matter for the Prime Minister’s direct consideration as it is wide-ranging and concerns all areas of policy.

It is quite interesting that once more sustainable development has taken up residence at Castille, being the responsibility of Minister Carmelo Abela, who has been appointed as a Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister. This was very rarely the case to date except in the short period during which Mario de Marco was Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism and the Environment.

Robert Abela is not the first Prime Minister who has emphasised the need to give much more importance to sustainable development. To date, however, none of them has delivered.

Sustainable development is one of the most abused and mis-used terms in the political lexicon. Political discourse continuously fails to project the politics of sustainable development as having a long-term view and continuously factoring future generations in the decision-taking process.

Governments do not give sufficient importance to sustainable development as this is not just about today. It is rather about how today’s activity should not prejudice tomorrow and future generations. This is not sufficiently on the radar of today’s politicians. Their interest, generally, does not span more than five years: that is until the next general election.

This is a point underlined by former Norwegian social democrat Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland in her seminal UN Report Our Common Future who emphasised that “We act as we do because we can get away with it: future generations do not vote; they have no political or financial power; they cannot challenge our decisions.

The politics of sustainable development is not just a matter of environmental concern: it involves a holistic consideration of environmental, economic, social and cultural policy. It signifies that our actions must have a long-term view and be simultaneously compatible with the forces of nature, the economy, human development and our culture.

Sustainable development is about living in harmony with all that surrounds us, at all times, not just when it suits us. It 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.

Within a global and EU framework the politics of sustainable development also involves following and implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals: 17 goals and the associated 169 targets. This is the global 2030 Agenda to which the European Union contributed substantially. While the whole 2030 Agenda is important, some aspects of it are relatively more important on a local level.

Consider water management, for example. It is imperative that we realise that we need to manage our water resources in a sustainable manner. To date gross incompetence has characterised water management in Malta. Access to the water table is still substantially a free for all, while storm water is mostly dumped into the sea, either directly or through the public sewer system. Rules for rainwater harvesting within the framework of land use planning are more honoured in the breach, without the authorities taking the minimum of enforcement action.

Transport policy is another area where short-term planning needs to give way to the politics of sustainable development. The National Transport Master Plan which runs until 2025 draws our attention that 50 per cent of private car journeys involve trips that are shorter than 15 minutes. This indicates that taking initiatives to reduce vehicular traffic at a local and regional level would be of considerable help in addressing road congestion and improving air quality where it matters most.

The National Transport Master Plan emphasises that the approach to transport planning and policy in Malta has, to date, generally been short-term in nature. This “has resulted in the lack of strategic direction and the inherent inability to address difficult issues such as private vehicle restraint.” On the one hand we have this “written” sustainable approach to transport policy, yet on the other hand government has embarked on an unsustainable spending spree of infrastructural development to increase the capacity of our roads, as a result ensuring that car-dependency continues unabated.

Addressing traffic congestion through expanding the road network only results in shifting the problem: either physically to another area, or else moving it in time.

The cherry on the cake is land use planning. Successive governments have been unable to restrain overdevelopment.

Sanctimoniously they describe themselves as being business friendly or market friendly to try and justify their lack of adequate action. The building industry, we are repeatedly told, creates so much jobs that it “contributes to the quality of life”.

As we are all well aware the construction industry has been a major force in ruining this country through over-development and through expecting us to foot their environmental bills. Unfortunately, they have been aided by successive governments who continuously seek ways to make it easier for the industry to plunder their way through. Land use planning is clearly unsustainable and the sooner it is restrained the better for all.

Sustainable development is conspicuous by its absence in practically all areas of policy. The politics of sustainable development still needs to be ingrained in the day-to-day policy-making structures. Assigning political responsibility for sustainable development to a Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister could be a good first step forward. However, there is still a long way to go.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 19 January 2020

Sħab ma’ min iħammeġ

Il-pjan ta’ Malta dwar l-immaniġjar tal-iskart huwa intitolat “A Resource Management Approach.” Huwa titlu li għandu sinifikat u jwassal messaġġ li kull skart jeħtieġ li nħarsu lejh bħala riżorsa li għandna nagħmlu użu tajjeb minnha.

Bdejna nirriċiklaw l-iskart li niġġeneraw. F’kontenituri mxerrda mal-pajjiż jinġabar il-plastik, il-ħġieg, il-karta u l-metall. Nhar ta’ Tlieta l-ġbir tal-iskart minn wara l-bibien ta’ djarna jiffaċilita li nirriċiklaw fid-djar tagħna. Tliet darbiet fil-ġimgħa, bieb bieb, jinġabar l-iskart organiku.

Meta ser nirriċiklaw l-iskart tal-kostruzzjoni?

Meta tara r-rapporti dwar il-laqgħa li l-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi Maltin kellha f’Kastilja f’nofs il-ġimgħa tirrealizza li l-emfasi kontinwament kienet li hemm bżonn iktar postijiet fejn jintrema’ l-iskart. L-ebda vuċi ma lissnet imqar kelma waħda favur kemm hu meħtieġ ir-riċiklaġġ tal-iskart tal-kostruzzjoni kif ukoll dwar kemm dan jagħmel sens ekonomiku u ambjentali.

Hemm raġuni waħda sempliċi l-għala ħadd ma tniffes u lissen kelma favur ir-riċiklaġġ tal-iskart tal-kostruzzjoni: għax għalfejn tħabbel rasek fuq x’tista’ tagħmel ġaladarba għandek Gvern li jimmina kull inizjattiva dwar dan billi joffri is-soluzzjoni l-faċli permezz ta’ ħlas baxx biex tkun tista’ tarmi l-iskart tiegħek?

Iktar kmieni matul il-ġimgħa kien irrappurtat li s-sidien ta’ żewġ barrieri, waħda Għar Lapsi u l-oħra fl-Imqabba, ħadu l-inizjattiva u minn jeddhom għollew il-ħlas biex jintrema l-iskart tal-kostruzzjoni fil-barrieri tagħhom minn €8 għal €15 għal kull tunellata. Ir-reazzjoni għal dan kif irrappurtata fil-media hi tal-biki: il-Gvern jaqbel li joffri inċentivi biex is-sidien tal-barrieri jżommu l-prezzijiet stabbli bit-€8 kull tunellata għal tal-inqas tmintax-il xahar!

Jidher li l-Gvern għandu idea perversa tal-prinċipju ambjentali “min iħammeġ iħallas”. Flok ma jassigura li l-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni ddaħħal ftit ordni f’xogħolha u ssib soluzzjoni għall-iskart li tiġġenera, il-Gvern, b’mod irresponsabbli juża t-taxxi li jiġbor minn fuqna biex jissussidja t-tħarbit tagħhom. Huma jħammġu u aħna nħallsu.

Ir-riċiklar tal-iskart tal-kostruzzjoni jinvolvi li tissepara u ssib użu għall-ikbar ammont ta’ materjal li ma jkunx hemm użu għalih fis-sit tal-kostruzzjoni. Il-kwantità ta’ skart li tista’ tirkupra tvarja minn sit għall-ieħor imma tista’ tkun waħda sostanzjali. Tinkludi kull forma ta’ ġebel u metalli, inkluż rinforz tal-konkos minn strutturi li jkunu spiċċaw.

Uffiċjali tal-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi kontinwament jiftaħru dwar kemm jaqblu mal-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Tant jgħidu dwar dan l-iżvilupp sostenibbli li jġibulna qalbna ġunġliena, kienu ma nafuhomx biżżejjed! Mhux aħjar jippruvaw ipoġġu fil-prattika dak li jgħidu li jemmnu fih biex jippruvaw isolvu l-problemi bl-iskart li qed jiġġeneraw u b’hekk inaqqsu l-impatti ambjentali tal-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni?

Mhuma ser jagħmlu xejn qabel ma jispiċċaw daharhom mal-ħajt u jkollhom iħallsu minn imneħirhom tal-ħsara li qed jagħmlu. L-unika soluzzjoni possibbli hi t-tassazzjoni ambjentali. Jekk tkun applikata lill-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni din tkun tfisser il-ħlas ta’ taxxa fuq il-ġebla li toħroġ mill-barriera u fl-istess ħin żieda konsiderevoli fuq il-ħlas biex jintrema l-iskart sakemm l-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi tifhem li jagħmel anke sens ekonomiku u ambjentali li tirriċikla l-massimu li tista’ mill-iskart tal-kostruzzjoni.

Imma nafu li l-Gvern għandu allerġija għat-taxxi. Jippreferi jagħmel użu mis-sussidji u b’mod partikolari favur dawk li ma għandhom l-ebda dritt għalihom.

L-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi Maltin għandha linja ċara: huma impalaw il-profitti, u inti tħallas il-kont. Jistgħu jibqgħu għaddejjin biha sakemm nibqgħu b’Ministru tal-Ambjent li m’għandux idea x’laqtu.

Kulħadd hu konxju li l-Gvern hu ħaġa waħda mal-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi. Sakemm l-iżviluppaturi jibqgħu jiġu ssussidjati m’hemmx ċans li l-problema tal-iskart tal-kostruzzjoni tibda tissolva. .

 

ippubblikat fuq Illum 22 ta’ Settembru 2019