Friends of the Earth Malta has launched a petition under the European wide SUPPLY CHA!NGE project aimed at stopping abuse against nature and indigenous peoples in the supply chains of European businesses.
The SUPPLY CHA!NGE project has looked at the international industries supplying Europe with cheap agricultural raw materials from the global south, and found a multitude of abuses against the environment and indigenous people. The project also revealed that the palm oil supply chain is especially problematic, with indigenous people in South-East Asia seeing their traditional land rights ignored by companies that destroy their lands for the cultivation of palm oil. This palm oil is used to produce delicacies sold by retailers in Europe that we eat every day – which are especially popular around Christmas time.
A delegation of the SUPPLY CHA!NGE consortium went to Indonesia to speak with affected farmers, where stories of corruption and violence were revealed. In one case, a bupati (district leader) sold the communal forest to a company to plant palm oil without the knowledge of the villagers. In response, the villagers set fire to the company’s digger, seen as the symbol of the destruction of their forest. Two weeks later, two hundred policemen stormed the village, smashing windows and breaking down doors. Twenty men were arrested and were tortured in jail with cigarettes and beatings to make them confess to setting fire to the digger.
“Life has changed since the plantation company came to our land. Before, we could drink the water from our spring. We could gather fruit, rattan and wood in the forest, and eat our own vegetables. Today we have to buy everything in the shop, even the water,” said an anonymous woman from a village which is now almost completely encircled by palm oil plantations.
The European Union needs to implement mechanisms that hold companies accountable for what is happening in their supply chains. These mechanisms need to be binding if they are to have the desired impact.
”We are calling on the European Commission to support the initiative for a new binding United Nations Treaty on Business and Human Rights to regulate the operations of transnational corporations and to ensure environmental justice in countries of the global south,” said Martin Wildenberg from Global2000 (Austria), whose organisation played a leading role in the research.
Friends of the Earth Malta is appealing to Maltese consumers to also lend their support to this cause, as they too are contributing to environmental destruction and infringement of human rights by purchasing such products.
Notes to editors:
Twenty five thousand people from around Europe are asking to “stop the squeeze out and make orange juice fair”, The petition launched by members of the international SUPPLY CHA!NGE campaign carried out a stunt in front of the Hilton Hotel in Antwerp, Belgium. Caged in a massive trolley they attracted the attention of 100s of passers-by to the annual Juice Summit, where all the main players in the worlds’ juice industry meet.
After rolling out a red carpet covered with pictures of Brazilian workers in front of the hotel’s entrance, the activists put up a stop sign, with the order “Don’t step on worker’s rights!”
Sandra Dusch Silva, SUPPLY CHA!NGE coordinator and researcher for the Christian Initiative Romero said: “Workers are harvesting approximately 1.5 tons of oranges for an income of 10 Euro per day. The fruits are collected by leaning simple ladders against the orange trees. The workers climb up and down these unstable ladders carrying up to 30 kg of oranges under great time pressure.”
Two thirds of all orange juice is sold as a supermarket own-brand product. Supermarkets in Europe are directly or indirectly influencing the conditions of millions of workers worldwide and contributing to environmental devastation. The campaigners are putting pressure on European supermarkets to take responsibility and stop this destruction.
Antoine Borg Micallef from Friends of the Earth Malta added: “The average Maltese consumer drinks 11 litres of Orange Juice in a year, 80% of which originates from Brazil. As such, it is imperative that Maltese people understand the consequences and impacts that such products have outside of our shores.”
Brazil is home to over 3,000 bee species but the massive use of pesticides in Brazilian orange plantations has a tremendous negative effect on these insects. This is worrying as bees are essential for most food production.
As part of the SUPPLY CHA!NGE project, civil society organisations from across Europe and the Global South are working to make supermarket store brands fairer and more sustainable. Campaigners highlight that while supermarkets gain influence in the global supply chain, they are failing to use their power to prevent human rights violations and to reduce environmental damage along the supply chains.
Notes to editors:
Friends of the Earth Malta is looking to fully sponsor 15 Maltese youths, aged 18-30 years old, to join up with 15 Belgian youths, and participate in a 7-day and 7-night residential programme, ECOLOGICA, here in Malta.
ECOLOGICA is an Erasmus+ Youth Exchange programme organised by Friends of the Earth Malta and BINCO, Belgium. The programme is designed to provide hands-on fieldwork experience to persons working and studying in the field of biology. However, the programme is open to anyone with a passion for biodiversity and willingness to learn field research techniques.
Participants will carry out field surveys, practice different methodologies and collect data on different taxa groups. This is a youth project and participants will be able to shape how this project moves forward. All the data you will collect in the field will contribute towards updating of the national red list.
Other informal workshops include:
• Proposal writing and grant application workshop
• Paper publishing and poster presentation sessions
• Species Identification
• Informal talks and networking sessions with local/international scientists, and species specialists.
• Statistical analysis sessions using preliminary data.
ECOLOGICA is the first step towards contributing towards setting up a clear and scientifically robust biodiversity-monitoring network. More and more surveys will be carried out which participants will take a leading role in establishing. Join this programme and actively contribute towards the conservation of the unique and diverse biodiversity of the Maltese Islands.
Programme duration: 21st - 27th September 2016 (residential)
Cost: Board and Accommodation and meals during the programme, fully sponsored.
Facebook page: Ecologica - Malta Biodiversity Survey Project
Following the enactment of the ‘Public Domain Act’, Friends of the Earth Malta has today filed applications requesting that seven sites be designated as being Public Domain.
This law empowers citizens and NGOs to recommend land and property to be listed as ‘public domain’.Such land cannot be used for commercial reasons while also guaranteeing unrestricted access to the public.
The proposed sites include Comino, Fomm ir-Riħ, Ras ir-Raheb and Qlejgha, Il-Ballut tal-Wardija, Il-Ballut tal- Imġiebaħ (l/o Mellieħa), Is-Simblija (including Wied ir-Rum, Ta-Baldu and Wied Hazrun) and Has-Saptan extending to Wied Zembaq.
Friends of the Earth Malta believes nature is for everyone to experience and enjoy. We all need nature in our lives, and we are campaigning to ensure everyone has a right to access vibrant nature. Nature is invaluable in its own right – special places and species are unique and irreplaceable. They must not be sold off, privatised nor traded on any market.
Experiencing vibrant nature is also crucial for everybody's health and wellbeing. Regular time spent in nature is good for children's development, and for fitness and our mental health.
As a necessary component of a good life, we believe that experiencing nature should be considered a fundamental right for everyone, regardless of our backgrounds. When nature thrives we thrive.
NGOs hail ban as a feather in the new environment minister’s cap
Friends of the Earth Malta and the Malta Organic Agriculture Movement have hailed government’s decision to kick start the process for a national ban on glyphosate in Malta as a feather in the new environment minister’s cap.
Martin Galea De Giovanni, Director of Friends of the Earth Malta said that “this is a triumph to civil society following years of campaigning since tests carried out by Friends of the Earth Malta in 2013 showed that traces of the weed killer glyphosate were found in 9 out of 10 people tested.
This announcement shows responsibility from government’s side as it chose to listen to the concerns of experts and individuals who have demanded that our fields, streets and gardens would be free from this risky weed killer.”
John Portelli, spokesperson for the Malta Organic Agriculture Movement said “Reducing potential health risks is in the interest of both the government and the public: every cent we don’t spend on health is a cent gained somewhere else. The national ban is a win-win to all Maltese citizens.
"FoE Malta and MOAM would hope that other European countries follow Malta's example and ensure that European farming becomes safer and greener for the benefit of all European citizens.
The European Parliament has responded to the communication by the European Commission on Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs). They’ve send a strong message to upgrade the current fig leaf and get real on UTPs. Friends of the Earth Malta together with a coalition of 29 NGOs united in the Supply Cha!nge project now look forward to see a bold step forward by the European Commission.
Stefan Grasgruber-Kerl, spokesperson for the Supply Cha!nge project: "Today's vote shows that the European Parliament wants to see fairer trade relations between Europe and the Global South. Now it is the task of the European Commission to finally take steps to draft a binding directive to protect farm workers and small holder farmers from the increased and by now huge power of supermarkets and multinational food companies over the supply chain. The European Parliament vote is in line with the petitions of the Make Fruit Fair and Supply Cha!nge campaigns, where 61.000 Europeans said that they are against the currently dominant unfair trading practices.”
Friends of the Earth Malta welcomes the fact that the European Parliament has accepted that the Supply Chain Initiative is not enough to eradicate Unfair Trading Practices from the food supply chain. The plenary vote at the European Parliament of the Czesak’ report was successful according to our demands. We celebrate that MEPs have sent a clear message to the European Commission, highlighting that the issue of private-own brands requires particular attention from the Commission and competition authorities.”
For further information:
On the SC project: http://supplychainge.org/the-project-eu/?L=eu
The controversial trade deal being negotiated between the EU and the US could spell disaster for European farming, finds a new report from Friends of the Earth Europe.
The report ‘Trading away EU farmers’ launched today in 14 EU countries, reviews modelling studies carried out in the EU and US on the impacts of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The report concludes that TTIP will massively increase imports from the US, with far fewer benefits for EU producers. Studies foresee a decline of up to 0.8% for EU agriculture’s contribution to gross domestic product, while US agriculture's contribution will increase by 1.9% - a net trade benefit to US interests of over 4 billion Euro.
This is predicted to result in many farmers across the EU facing stronger competition and lower prices, threatening farm businesses across Europe, as well as having negative impacts on rural areas and on consumer interests. The US Department of Agriculture is predicting falls in the price paid to European farmers in every food category.
Elena Portelli from Friends of the Earth Malta said ‘’ The local farming sector consists of circa 19,000 farmers, only around 1,300 of whom are full time. This small figure coupled with a small holding size - circa 88.4% of farm holdings are smaller than 2 hectares makes the Maltese farming sector even more vulnerable than most to competition from imported products.’’
The report says that corporate lobby groups on both sides of the Atlantic are pushing for greater access to each others’ agricultural markets, with the US in particular targeting Europe’s generally higher safety and animal welfare standards. However, even if EU standards are maintained, increased imports from the US will still flood European markets, ensuring huge export opportunities and profits for food corporations and US factory farms at the expense of European farmers.
Ms Portelli continued “The main winners from the TTIP deal will be corporate food giants and US factory farms who already have bigger economies of scale and lower production costs. Any removal of EU restrictions will mean a huge increase in imports and could be the final nail in the coffin for some EU farming sectors. While the imports of US products are at present negligible in Malta, TTIP could completely change US product access to our market.”
In terms of gains for EU agriculture, the report says these will be restricted to just a few sectors, such as cheese, but even these are dependent on the US giving way on ‘non-tariff measures’ that it uses to restrict trade. The report highlights that consumer and environmental protection may suffer too, because both US government and producer organisations are openly calling for the EU to weaken protection in areas such as the approval of GM foods, pesticide safety rules and the bans on hormones and pathogen washes in meat production.
Friends of the Earth Malta calls on the Maltese government to keep to its promise to conduct and publish impact assessments on Maltese market sectors. Special interest should be given to highly vulnerable sectors such as Maltese agriculture. A recent study by the World Trade industry puts Malta as the only country to suffer economic losses due to TTIP, suffering -0.3% income and -0.7% investments.
Today, representatives of over 130 nations are expected to attend the signing ceremony of the Paris Agreement at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. This brings parties one step closer towards ratifying the Agreement through national Parliaments in most cases - with nations turning their intended pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (known as INDCs) into their agreed actual contribution to the climate effort.
The global elite are celebrating this event, and patting themselves on the back. But what does it really mean?
When the Paris Agreement was adopted on 12 December 2015, our organisation Friends of the Earth Malta along with Friends of the Earth International strongly denounced the deal as a weak agreement which failed to deliver the scale of action needed to prevent dangerous climate change.
“Scientists are now telling us that we have entered ‘decade zero’. Decisions taken in the next 10 years – investments in dirty mega infrastructure, exploitation of new fossil fuel sources, mobilisation and distribution of public finance, the scale of emissions reductions that are undertaken – will determine if we breach the 1.5°C guardrail or not,” said Dipti Bhatnagar, Climate Justice and Energy Coordinator for Friends of the Earth International.
“This in turn will determine the scale of impacts on our planet and its people,” she added
We demand our government provide much-needed climate finance so that developing countries can transform their societies and provide a dignified life for their citizens. Under the Paris Agreement, developed countries are only obliged to ‘report on’ any finance they provide - but exactly how much, or what kind of finance that might be, is conveniently ambiguous, opening the door for dangerous private finance, and potentially broadening the pool of donors to include developing countries, ” said Martin Galea De Giovanni, Director of FoE Malta.
Neither the Paris Agreement nor its formal signing this week will safeguard our planet from the ravages of the climate catastrophe.
In December, we had noted that even though the Agreement mentions the pursuit of ‘efforts to limit increase to 1.5 degrees,’ whilst acknowledging the risks of a 2°C goal, it totally lacks the conviction that is urgently needed to meet the 2°C goal, let alone 1.5°C goal. In fact, current pledges put forward by countries add up to warming of around 3 degrees, and possibly higher - clearly incompatible with a habitable planet.
Yet the climate science is clear that breaching the 1.5°C guardrail poses an unacceptable risk of crossing irreversible tipping points, impacting billions of people. So without a meaningful increase of action now, the current pledges lead us to climate disaster.
Meanwhile, we are concerned that the Paris Agreement’s mention of ‘climate neutrality’ will encourage the deployment of untested, dangerous geoengineering, and roll-out of false solutions such as more carbon markets, dangerous nuclear energy and a global land grab for agrofuels. This agreement must not be used to continue pumping of carbon into the atmosphere, by pretending that’s it's possible to use technology to suck the carbon out.
What is needed to stop the climate crisis is system change, an energy revolution and transformational action. Specifically, if we are to prevent dangerous climate change:
• We need a just, global energy transformation, including stopping of dirty energy projects, improving energy efficiency, tackling energy access issues and moving to community-owned renewable energy. It is inconceivable that we can hope to stay within our carbon budget without such an energy transformation.
• We need the age of fossil fuels to come to an end, within the next short decades.
• We need finance from developed to developing countries to help them move away from dirty energy.
• We need countries to cut emissions at source, and not hide behind carbon markets, REDD and other false solutions.
“Today, we emphasize that we will build peoples’ power at the local, national and international levels, to stop dirty energy on the ground, to focus on good energy solutions, to dismantle the power of polluting corporations and to hold our governments responsible to our citizens instead,” said Sara Shaw, Climate Justice and Energy Coordinator of Friends of the Earth International.
In the next 10 years, as the window closes on our chance to remain below that 1.5°C guardrail, we will help build a peoples’ movement to push for this transformation.
Simply singing the Paris Agreement without any substance on implementation and ambition is irresponsibly insufficient. We cannot count on such an Agreement alone to achieve climate justice.
Friends of the Earth Malta with the support of project partner Sudwind (through the Supply Cha!nge Project) evaluated 62 supermarket store brand chocolates from 11 leading Maltese supermarkets. The results show 38 products rated red, 16 rated orange and only 5 rated green for environmental and social criteria.
62 storebrand chocolates (including 4 easter-themed products) were tested by Friends of the Earth Malta regarding their social and ecological quality through the Supply Cha!nge – Make Supermarkets Fair EU project.
Only 5 storebrand chocolates were found to be of high social and ecological quality (green), all branded as Carrefour products:
Carrefour bio, Cioccolato extra fondente ; Extra fine Biologico Equosolidale (Tower Supermarket, Sliema)
Cioccolato finissimo al latte – Extra fine (Trolees, Qawra)
Carrefour bio, Cioccolato extra fondente ; Extra fine Biologico Equosolidale (GS Supermarket, Mellieha)
Cacao – Amaro in polvere – Biologico equosolidale (GS Supermarket Mellieha, GS Superstore Naxxar)
38 Storebrands were marked Red, indicating issues of social and environmental exploitation throughout the supply chain. All stores that were evaluated contained these red-rated products with varying degrees. Scotts and Smart Supermarket had the highest rate of red-rated storebrand chocolates (11 out of 11 and 18 out of 19 evaluated store brand chocolates for Scotts and Smart respectively).
Lidl showed the highest rate of orange-rated storebrand chocolates (14 out of 16 store brand chocolates), only 1 red-rated item and one green-rated item.
Chocolates are a popular dessert used in traditional desserts, icecreams, sauces and consumed frequently. A good chunk of these items are found as supermarket store brands.
During this time of year, a lot of Maltese people carry out fasting or sacrifice sweets for lent – Easter Sunday is anticipated greatly as the day when the fast is broken, generally celebrated with a family feast, figolli, chocolate eggs and bunnies and sweet delicacies all around.
„Easter celebrations, including breaking fast, are an integral part of Maltese society however our research has found that some of the chocolate we're eating raise some moral and ethical questions“ the researchers from Friends of the Earth Malta explain. „More than 2 million children work in cocoa farms in West Africa. In Ghana, farmers earn circa 80c per day, while farmers in the Ivory Coast only earn 50c a day. Only 6.6% of the price we pay for a chocolate bar goes to the farmer producing the cocoa. Highly toxic pesticides used in the farming industry harms the farmers‘ and their families‘ health and environment.“
These issues are a central part of the European Campaign : Supply Chainge – Make Supermarkets Fair.
Friends of the Earth Malta urges local supermarkets to step up their game and ensure their chocolate products in the store are certified as fair and ecological – allowing people to indulge in guilt-free chocolate.
Executive Summary of the research report : Bittersweet Chocolate : The Truth Behind the International Chocolate Industry.
(The full Bittersweet Chocolate report is available on request.)
A historic deal that heralds a new epoch of policymaking and campaigning has been agreed last Saturday in Paris. Yet the agreement falls far short of the grand rhetoric declared by world leaders at the opening of the Paris events two weeks ago. An ambition to keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees is a positive step forwards, but the Paris agreement falls far short of an adequate plan to make this a reality.
Martin Galea De Giovanni, Director of Friends of the Earth Malta said: “The Paris climate deal will require people-power to make politicians live up to their rhetoric, If we're going to avoid warming above 1.5 degrees a lot more needs to be done. People now know that this time, we can’t count on the goodwill of our governments to save the world. The transformation to socially-controlled, renewable energy, is underway, led by the real leaders – the people. If people's solutions are embraced universally, and not further held back by decision-makers, nor undermined by corporate incentives, we could together make huge strides along the path to climate-safe societies.”
Jagoda Munic, chairperson of Friends of the Earth International said: “Instead of acting with ambition and urgency, our governments are acting in the interests of powerful lobbies and corporations, but people are taking back the power. History will not be made in the convention centre, but on the streets of Paris and round the globe. The climate justice movement is unstoppable and will continue to expand in 2016 and beyond. A handful of politicians will not stop the energy revolution.”
Friends of the Earth International believes that despite the hype, the Paris agreement will fail to deliver. Politicians say it is a fair and ambitious deal – yet it is the complete opposite. People are being deceived. Rich countries must make their fair share of emissions cuts and provide finance and support to developing countries to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change. Instead, they are failing to cut carbon emissions and the finance they have offered is insufficient.
According to Friends of the Earth International three major problems stem from the Paris talks:
- The draft Paris deal states that 2 C is the maximum acceptable global temperature increase, and that countries should pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. This is meaningless without requiring rich countries to cut their emissions drastically and provide finance in line with their fair share, and places the extra burden on developing countries. To avoid runaway climate we need to urgently and drastically cut emissions, not just put it off.
- Without compensation for irreparable damage, the most vulnerable countries will be left to pick up the pieces and foot the bill for a crisis they didn’t create.
- Without adequate finance, poor countries will now be expected to foot the bill for a crisis they didn’t cause. The finance exists. The political will does not.
On Saturday over 2,000 activists from the Friends of the Earth International federation, joined by thousands more from Paris sent a global message for climate justice and peace, writ large across the city in a peaceful protest. 
Friends of the Earth International is one of many civil society organisations that have used The People's Test on Climate 2015 to assess the Paris climate agreement.
The demands in the Test cover the key pillars of what would have constituted a just deal: a commitment to keeping us well below 1.5 C warming while dividing the carbon budget using the fairshares principle; finance and support in line with rich nations' climate debt; a just, systemic transformation; and justice for impacted communities, including compensation for irreparable climate damage. 
 Thousands of individuals spelled out “Climate Justice Peace” across Paris using geo-localisation software, recorded online here: http://www.climatejusticepeace.org/
The Friends of the Earth demonstration is followed by a number of peaceful demonstrations planned by a broad coalition of organisations including the French Coalition Climat 21.
Demonstrations include the ‘Climate State of Emergency’ gathering at the Eiffel Tower, co-organised by Friends of the Earth France, Alternatiba and allies, and a ‘Red-Lines’ action organised by 350.org, ATTAC and others.
 The People's Climate Test is available at http://peoplestestonclimate.org
A detailed policy analysis of the Paris Agreement will be available at http://www.foei.org/what-we-do/paris
Image credit: Glen Slattery Photography/Friends of the Earth Malta
Over 147 Heads of State will launch a two-week United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) Summit on November 30, expected to deliver a global climate change agreement that would come into effect in 2020. The undersigned are afraid that this agreement will be a weak one and will do little to slow down climate change.
On the eve of the Summit, hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets in some 150 countries to call for real action on climate change. In Malta, Friends of the Earth Malta has coordinated a series of live installations highlighting the implications of a weak COP agreement. This comes hot on the heels of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta, taking place today at the very same place where the live installations were set up. The location was chosen specifically to remind the Commonwealth Heads of State of their responsibility to the people when they attend the COP21 meeting.
“People know that this time, we can’t count on the goodwill of our governments to save the world. We need civil society pressure in Paris. The transformation to socially-controlled, renewable energy, is underway, led by the real leaders – the people. If people's solutions are embraced universally, and not further held back by decision-makers, nor undermined by corporate incentives, we could together make huge strides along the path to climate-safe societies,” said Martin Galea De Giovanni, Director at Friends of the Earth Malta.
"The people are building a strong and radical climate justice movement which recognizes that climate change is not a single-issue struggle, and that injustices are a result of a system that is also fuelling climate change. This includes the forced displacement and migration of millions of people, whose fundamental rights are denied on a daily basis. The fight for social justice must necessarily include climate justice concerns.“ said Dr.Maria Pisani, Director at Integra Foundation.
Millions are already paying with their lives for our governments’ continued inaction. The climate crisis disproportionately affects the poorer nations and the poorest people, who are not responsible for the climate crisis we are facing. The world's richest, developed countries are most responsible for climate change, having polluted their way to progress. These nations have taken up much more than their fair share of atmospheric space and natural resources, and must urgently make the deepest emission cuts to completely transform their economies and societies. If we want to reduce the future suffering of millions of refugees, we need to make all the links in the bigger picture and start acting on the root causes.
“Today’s consumption and production patterns have brought humanity's impact on the planet beyond sustainable planetary boundaries. We are heavily dependent on the planet’s natural resources, including land, water, forests and minerals, yet we are putting ourselves and the earth's biodiversity in grave danger. The world urgently needs to come together to reverse the climate crisis and stop exacerbating hunger and poverty.“ William Grech, Director of KOPIN
Despite all the efforts being made, governments either lack a long-term vision when addressing issues related to climate change, or are blinded by short-term monetary gains of economic growth. Humans are integrated into the natural environment, and we affect and are affected by it. We encourage our fellow youths to learn, take part and play an active role in preventing irreversible damage to our earth system," said Danika Formosa, General Secretary of Institute of Applied Science Student Organisation.
"The potential for cycling to modify CO2 emissions via a 10% reduction by 2050 according to the studies by UC Davis and the ITDP clearly set cycling as a significant game player in the future of urban transport, worldwide as well as locally in Malta." said the Bicycling Advocacy Group (Malta)
“We have a duty towards future generations to change direction and reverse the climatic impacts of human activity. This may well be the last chance.” Carmel Cacopardo Deputy Chairman of Alternattiva Demokratika - The Green Party.
In Malta, successive governments have failed to implement Climate Change measures across the board, and as a result, Malta is still far from reaching its renewable energy commitments. This situation is aggravated by the fact that damaging planning policies are running counter to Climate Change values, in facilitating building on more virgin land and encouraging high-rise buildings which the UNESCO Sustainability Committee has confirmed create urban heat canyons and contribute to Climate Change.
The 26 local signatories endorsing this PR are the following:
Friends of the Earth Malta, Greenhouse Malta, Institute for Applied Sciences Students Organisation, Integra Foundation, Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust, Malta Organic Agriculture Movement, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Malta Water Association, Front ODZ, Migrant Women Association Malta, Green Drinks, Nature Trust, Organisation Friendship in Diversity, Say It - Youtheme foundation, Sharklab, KOPIN, Slow Food Movement, Studenti Demokristjani Maltin, The Critical Institute, Why Not? Alternattiva Demokratika, Bicycle Advocacy Group Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Core Green, fish4tomorrow and Why Not?.
Photo Credits: Glen Slattery Photography
The European Commission yesterday announced its plan for the reform of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanism (ISDS), the clause allowing foreign investors the right to sue governments included in the ongoing TTIP negotiations between the European Union and the United States. 
The new Investment Court System would replace the ISDS mechanism in all on-going and future EU investment negotiations.
Friends of the Earth Malta criticises the proposal, which fails to fundamentally reform the flawed system of investor protection, in particular the granting of exclusive privileges to foreign investors over the rest of society, and ignores the fact that investor rights are not needed in an EU-US agreement.
Trade Commissioner Malmström confirmed that the new proposal will not apply to the almost finalised EU-Canada agreement (CETA). This allows US companies with subsidiaries in Canada to sue European member states based on the old model. 
Elena Portelli of Friends of the Earth Malta said: “The European Commission’s proposal for an ‘International Court System’ is ISDS under a new name. Despite reforms on the functioning of the system, it reaffirms the granting of extraordinary rights for corporate investors without giving them any obligations that would protect citizens and the environment.”
Portelli continued: “The clause would extend the reach of arbitration cases from the current 10% to 100% of trade between the EU and the US. We would expect to see a steep rise in the amount of these cases, costing taxpayers millions in compensation costs’.
The proposal, which is not the final EU legal text and has yet to be approved by the United States, confirms the lack of commitment by the European Commission to take into account overwhelming public opposition to special investor rights .
One should note that the reaction of U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President for European Affairs Marjorie Chorlins to Malmström’s announcement is less than favourable:
“While we recognize the EU has a political problem relating to future investment treaties, the U.S. business community cannot in any way endorse today’s EU proposal as a model for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The recent European debate around investment treaties – the obligations governments accept in them and the methods they provide for dispute settlement – is not grounded in the facts, and the distortions in this debate cannot be allowed to trump sound policy. If the EU still regards the TTIP as a serious objective, today’s proposal is deeply flawed. Tough negotiations lie ahead, and the reforms the United States has undertaken in recent years in its own investment agreements represent a far superior starting point for these important deliberations.”
It comes in a context of overwhelming public opposition to the proposed inclusion of special rights for investors in the on-going EU-US trade talks (TTIP) and in the EU-Canada trade (CETA) and heated political debate .
Friends of the Earth Malta as a member of Front Against TTIP (Malta) reiterates its position against the inclusion of any international arbitration courts included in the TTIP agreement, and urges citizens to sign the petition against TTIP at stop-ttip.org. The petition will close on the 6th of October.
Notes to the editor:
Friends of the Earth Malta welcomes the recent decision by the Maltese Government to avail itself of an opt-out clause on growing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Malta. This is a positive step forward which reflects the Government’s previous votes on GMOs at EU level.
Outright rejection of genetically modified (GM) crops snowballed across Europe, as governments or regions from most European countries, take political steps to ensure their countries are GM-free.
Martin Galea De Giovanni, Director of Friends of the Earth Malta said: “There has never been a clearer signal that GMOs, and the companies that make them, are not wanted in Europe. The technology is not only risky, it’s redundant. People, and the governments that represent them, are rejecting them outright.”
Friends of the Earth groups around Europe are critical of the deeply flawed, undemocratic mechanism for applying for national bans on GMOs. Countries wishing to ban GMOs must send their application to the European Commission. Their case is then reviewed by the biotech companies that produce GMOs, like Monsanto, Syngenta and Pioneer, who then accept or reject the bans.
It’s Kafkaesque that the companies who profit from GMOs should be given jurisdiction over democratically-agreed decisions to ban GMOs. Corporate profits should not be put before people, and the interests of Europe's food and farming sectors. The democratic decision of countries to ban GMOs must be respected by the biotech industry.
The results of the applications will be published in early November. If rejected by Monsanto, Syngenta or Pioneer, governments still have the option to ban GMOs on agricultural, social and economic grounds. It comes in a context of overwhelming public opposition to the proposed inclusion of special rights for investors in the on-going EU-US trade talks (TTIP) and in the EU-Canada trade (CETA) and heated political debate.
Notes to the editor:
Friends of the Earth Malta together with The Ramblers’ Association and Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar endorse the declarations of Mr David Pace, the Commissioner of the Environment, Mr Stephen Farrugia and Mr Christopher Falzon, both former MEPA Chairmen, that “the proposed amendments to environment and planning law are a major step backward” in development planning, heritage and environment protection in Malta.
The NGOs believe that measures announced under the guise of reducing bureaucracy reveal a calculated resolve to do away with all internal checks and balances. What with the ‘reform’ of sanitary laws, the proposed removal of both panels of the Heritage Advisory committee, the extension of the DNO application system, and the tightening of political control over appointments? The recent development decisions taken by the Authority, like the ODZ land in Zonqor and the shameless 3-storey commercial building replacing the “agricultural” winery in Burmarrad, betray the style of autocratic rule favoured by this administration.
This is also a parallel resolve to neutralise public scrutiny. Recent public participation has been purely cosmetic as public consultation took place only after decisions were taken, secret contracts signed and laws enacted. The disdain for public consultation was proven on the recent ODZ Policy, when none of the NGOs’ suggestions were accepted.
The NGOs agree that what is being proposed is “a structure which concentrates power to a few people and widened ministerial power.” It appears to the NGOs that the sole purpose of all these manoeuvres is to reinforce the unhindered freedom of the Minister and of the MEPA CEO to favour particular interests! The Gaffarena sanctioning at Qormi is a case in point! Who can blame the public for suspecting foul play?
The NGOs go one step further on the other proposals of the Environment Commissioner: that (i) for both the Environment Authority and the Planning Authority proposed in the demerger, members of the executive Boards and the CEO should be appointed by the Prime Minister only after their credentials have been scrutinised and approved by the Parliamentary Committee for the Environment and Sustainable Development; (ii) the Environment Authority should play the leading role, considering the irreversible damage already inflicted on the environment by unrestrained development, and (iii) that the State of the Environment report be drawn up by the Ombudsman office for it to be credible and trustworthy.
As stated by Arch. Chris Falzon, former MEPA Chairman: "It should be clear to all that the Bills being proposed are not even fit for the most retrograde of banana republics on this planet, and should be scrapped as soon as practicable."
The gateway to genuine progress and sustainable development hinges on a safeguarded and secure environment, and not on taking up more ODZ for building development, as politicians would have us believe.
New solutions have to be found before the damaging Bills are enacted. The NGOs are therefore calling for a round-table conference, including all stakeholders, in order to identify the best way forward.