Environment: “Malta needs drastic measures to be taken now, not in 2050”

Early reactions from environmental organizations to the National Environment Strategy (NES) warn that without legally binding targets and efforts to improve enforcement, the exercise will only result in greenwashing.

The consultation document published by the government on September 7 concerns eight strategic goals related to “Clean Air, Neighborhood Quality, Thriving Biodiversity, Zero Waste, Resilient Land Resources, Thriving Seas, Sustainable Water Resources and Facilitating Change”.

Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA) drew attention to a wide range of issues, from construction and development to air pollution and the marine environment, saying the issues “must be solved now”. , not in 2050 – the time frame envisaged in the NSE.

“An extremely ambitious document that offers many positive goals, but few realistic and credible means to achieve them,” the FAA’s Astrid Vella told The Shift.

She added that the strategy’s good intentions are open-ended and lack timelines, citing proposals for transportation as an example where the document states: “The feasibility of large-scale mass transportation systems, such as underground metros, will continue to be assessed”.

Vella said: “We have been discussing mass transportation systems for ten years, are we going to continue discussing until 2050?”

Din L-Art Ħelwa also stressed that these documents are not legally enforceable policies or plans: “There is very little that can be done to ensure that we achieve anything.

While stressing that consultation meetings were yet to be held, Alex Torpiano told The Shift that “many eNGOs feel that Malta has seen too many strategy documents with laudable goals that Malta wants to achieve, but with little commitment. to do anything to achieve it”. their.”

Extinction Rebellion also expressed concern, saying the document lacked the clarity and depth to make it workable: “This strategy comes across as nothing more than a public relations exercise.”

“The fact that this strategy is not legally binding means that ERA has no incentive to adopt it, which will probably put the whole project on the back burner, like so many other major projects. that have been set aside in recent years,” the group said, proposing legally binding targets in the short and medium term.

Nature Trust pointed out that two years after ERA published such a strategy in 2020, little has happened. The ERA had promised that the welfare-first scenario would be the basis for adoption in all government strategic policies.

“Two years later, it’s far from reality,” said Annick Bonello, highlighting the lack of application in different areas. “Most of the damage is cleared by eNGOS and groups (both on land and at sea).”

Several other environmental organizations who spoke to The Shift said they were still analyzing the document, but there was broad consensus on the problems it faced that have plagued the country for decades with no concrete solution in sight.

“The most important question remains that of implementation. The strategy references dozens of laws and policies that are routinely ignored by the Planning Authority and the Environmental Resources Authority (ERA). What will change with this one that never addresses the subject of implementation and enforcement? FAA pointed out.

“The elephant in the room that is not mentioned is the urgent need to reform the Planning Authority, the ERA and the Lands Authority, which facilitate overdevelopment leading to building and car congestion in Malta , destruction of trees and encroachment of public spaces.Once these authorities are re-established from scratch with zero tolerance for abuse and revised heights from Schedule 2 plus EIA regulations, a much of the rest will fall into place,” the organization added.

“Malta needs drastic measures to be taken now, not in 2050.”

The NSE consultation is open until 22 October.