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
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:
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 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.
By way of reply to the recent announcement by the Prime Minister on the Zonqor project, Friends of the Earth Malta (FoE Malta) reiterates its stand against any development on ODZ land and the use of 18,000m2 of such land for development in Zonqor.
FoE Malta notes however the improvement from the original plans which are now taking into consideration the use of the disused Dock 1 buildings. This kind of approach whereby old dilapidated buildings are made to good use instead of using up more land is something that FoE Malta and other NGOs have been harping on for the past decades.
FoE Malta continues to insist on measures towards enacting specific clauses and legal boundaries in local legislation and the need for professional and good standards of public sector governance to protect our remaining natural heritage from exploitation. To ensure transparency, FoE Malta requests the publication of agreements, due diligence assurance and all studies carried out on alternative site use for the development of this development, including that of Dock 1. This will give the general public the opportunity to scrutinise for themselves the decision making processes that were involved.
FoE Malta reiterates the benefits of protecting open spaces and land; public assets with economic, social, ecological and environmental value. Martin Galea De Giovanni Director of Friends of the Earth Malta said that “It is high time that no further development occurs in ODZs. We believe that this land should be protected and serve as heritage to the Maltese people. We understand that this generation has the obligation to protect these sites, respecting our past, acknowledging the present needs and passing on this heritage to future generations.”
Martin Galea De Giovanni emphasised that fact that “should the authorities continue to allow building in ODZs, it will inevitably lead to a complete urbanisation of these islands; it is our children who will bear the brunt of the current onslaught on our green spaces.”
FoE Malta continues to extend its full support to Front Harsien ODZ, whose volunteers from all sectors of society have been tirelessly working to voice the concerns of civil society against further exploitation of ODZ land.
Friends of the Earth Malta together with Why Not? and Koperattiva Kummerc Ġust are jointly organizing a gathering at Żonqor Point on the 30th of August. The aim of the event is to get Maltese people closer to nature, and to enjoy Żonqor Point in its natural state.
In light of the recent announcement regarding the Jordanian development which threatens 18,000 square metres of land which is designated as ODZ, the NGOs believes that it is imperative for people to visit the area, and experience first-hand what it is that we will be losing should the project go through.
Although there is some disturbance due to human influences in some areas, the general landscape is unique and already enjoyed by regular visitors in the area.
“We hope that through this event, we will show how important nature is to the Maltese people. The role of nature is often overlooked.” said Andrew from Why Not? "Nature, heals soothes and restores the mind and body, and in today’s fast moving world, these therapeutic effects are of growing importance.
Elena Portelli from Friends of the Earth Malta made reference to the several endemic species to be found at this site. These include Malta’s national plant the Maltese rock centaury and the Maltese Salt-tree, which would undoubtedly be adversely affected by the construction process and spill-over of construction materials in the area.
The marine landscape at Żonqor point is renowned for its high aesthetic value; containing fertile reefs, and man-made wrecks (Le Polynesien and HMS) just a few kilometers offshore. Divemed, a popular diving school situated at Żonqor point will be organizing a dive in the area on Sunday so that attendees can also witness the beauty of Żonqor below sea level. Any land reclamation in the area could have serious repercussions on sensitive reefs and also areas of ecological importance on the shore.
Koperattiva Kummerc Ġust will be providing fair trade snacks and beverages to the people present. BottleGreen drinks – natural no-additive cordials - will also be available for purchase.
The NGOs invites people of all ages and walks of life to join them on Sunday after 6pm. Persons wishing to bring a BBQ are advised to apply for a permit with the Marsascala Local Council, keeping in mind that no BBQs are allowed near the salt pans. There will be a clean-up organised on Monday morning to ensure that the area is left pristine.
Photo credits for Zonqor pics attributed to: Gmiel iz-Zonqor (Facebook page).
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/704766082962787/
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) poses a threat to democratic decision-making, requiring locally and nationally elected authorities to give priority to freedom of trade over the public interest. Decisions about local services, investment and jobs, and even food safety and environmental protection will be regulated by terms secretly being established during current TTIP negotiations.
One clause of this trade agreement includes an Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) process – allowing disputes between foreign investors and governments to be settled in an international arbitration panel (a privately appointed board of lawyers separate from local legislation). These types of settlements already exist in several bi-lateral agreements, and have a very negative track record worldwide. There are 127 known ISDS cases in EU government courts in 2014.1
The German parliament is currently being sued by a Swedish company, under the ISDS provisions in the Energy Charter Treaty, for passing amendments to the Atomic Energy Act that required 8 nuclear plants to stop operating and the remaining, more recent nuclear power plants to phase out their operations by 2022, a decision which was taken after the Fukushima disaster. Vattenfall is suing Germany for €4.7 billion for loss of future profits from the nuclear ban.2
The US company Metalcald took action in international courts against the municipality of Guadalcazar in Mexico after the company was stopped from constructing a waste disposal site because of concerns about water pollution. Mexico was ordered to pay $16.6 million in compensation.
The largest known case amounts to around $2.3 billion given to Occidental, an oil company, lost by the government of Ecuador over the termination of an oil-concession contract.3
Uruguay government is under threat from Philip Morris, a company that is trying to use ISDS to stop proposed tobacco regulations (requiring health warning on cigarette packets) which could restrict tobacco trade.4
When taking into consideration Malta’s relatively minuscule population and GDP, it is very worrying that the Maltese government could be subjected to such pay-outs in the near future, potentially costing taxpayers millions of euro.
In response to the dubious track record of such processes, an international movement of cities, municipalities and regions are criticizing TTIP or declared themselves TTIP-free zones. They are urging national governments, Members of the European Parliament and European leaders to act in the interests of democracy and to uphold civilian sovereignty.
Amendments to the document will be subject to a plenary vote on Wednesday, 8th July in Strasbourg Parliament. Friends of the Earth Malta calls on Maltese MEPs to vote for amendments that will seek alternative democratic solutions to the ISDS cause, which should be omitted from the TTIP document. In principle Friends of the Earth Malta, and its International partner organizations believe the TTIP agreement should be voted down in its entirety when the time comes. The TTIP package puts democracy at the mercy of corporate lobbyists.
Commenting on the Pope’s Encyclical on climate change published today (Thursday, 18 June 2015), Friends of the Earth Malta’s Martin Galea De Giovanni said:
“The Pope has shown impressive and inspiring leadership where many elected leaders have failed. He is both a friend of the earth and of the millions of people in poorer, vulnerable nations whose lives are already being shattered by extreme weather. Addressing climate change is a matter of justice: those who have contributed least to causing the crisis are suffering the greatest consequences.”
The Pontiff has joined a long list of religious leaders, social and environmental movements, youth and labour movements, and indigenous peoples who are addressing climate change with resilience, solidarity and compassion.
In a crucial indictment against ‘false’ solutions to the climate crisis, the Pope warned of the perils of putting ‘blind faith’ in technical solutions and the financialisation of nature through carbon credits.
Galea De Giovanni continued: “Pope Francis is echoing the demands of communities and movements around the world who want real solutions now. We need measures that benefit everyone and not corporate-driven false solutions.”
We commend the work of communities and movements globally who have long worked to restore the balance of life on earth, implementing renewable community energy solutions, resisting dirty energy and uniting to build the movement for climate justice.
Those who owe the biggest ecological debt, industrialised countries, must now act with urgency and ambition. Dirty corporations that have long abused our planet have driven us to the brink of environmental and social catastrophe. Pope Francis’ words today meet the surge in popular demand for urgent, ambitious and equitable action to address the climate crisis.
Pope Francis also warned against the social, economic and environmental dangers of industrial agriculture, such as those posed by genetically modified (GM) crops and pesticides. Pope Francis calls for us to get off the pesticide and techno-fix treadmill that claims to feed the world but in reality is “often at the service of finance and consumerism.
The real solutions to feeding the world and nurturing our planet are in the hands of small scale food producers. Food sovereignty and agroecology provide us with peoples’ knowledge and science and this is where we need to provide support.
Galea De Giovanni concluded: “In the run up to the critical climate summit in Paris and in its aftermath, politicians must follow his lead, ditch dirty energy vested interests and unleash the massive potential of the clean economy.”
Friends of the Earth Malta today announced the launch of the photographic competition ‘FOODVISION’. This competition forms part of the international campaign ‘SUPPLY CHA!NGE – Make Supermarkets Fair’ as part of the European Year for Development 2015.
SUPPLY CHA!NGE aims to inform EU citizens on issues concerning the production process of supermarket store-brands, and their social and environmental impacts. We all have our favourite dishes, we all love tasty food! Our supermarkets offer a huge variety of all kinds of groceries at ever lower prices. The downside to what seems to be a consumer’s paradise: People both in developing countries, as well as within Europe, who grow and process our food, hardly make a living. The way many products are grown and produced damages our environment.
The campaign will provide a model for improvement of these supply chains so that an ecological balance and improved working conditions are achieved both in supplier and consumer countries.
The photographic competition will empower citizens over 14 years old to take action and ask for a fairer and greener meal. The competition theme is Ethical and Green Food.
The deadline for the competition is the 31st of July. One Maltese winner will receive a sponsored prize, have their work exhibited around Europe and be eligible to participate in the International finalists’ competition with a chance to win a visit to the Milan EXPO2015 for two persons.
For more information about how to participate, visit http://www.foemalta.org/links/foodvision
Scientists say European nature is in peril, as over 100,000 citizens call on the EU to uphold nature laws
A comprehensive survey of European nature published by scientists today shows wildlife and habitats in peril across Europe.  The research comes as the European Commission threatens to weaken vital nature laws, the Birds and Habitats Directives , as part of a drive for ‘deregulation’ .
Since a new campaign to save these nature laws started last week, over 100,000 citizens across the EU have told the European Commission to protect nature by maintaining and better implementing them .
To date, Malta has 28 Sites of Community Importance declared under the EC Habitats Directive and 13 Special Protection Areas declared under the EC Birds Directive.
Commenting, Simone Cutajar, Friends of the Earth Malta Campaigns Coordinator, said:
“These findings show that Europe’s wildlife and natural environment are in a precarious state. Both our flora and fauna are being harmed by pollution and industrial farming.”
“We all have a right to enjoy nature. Not only should the European Commission abandon plans to weaken vital nature protection laws – it should strengthen them, especially after 100,000 citizens have already voiced their concern and called for them to be reinforced".
"Over the past few year the local support for our environment has only increased. This growing environmental conscience cannot be ignored and we urge our MEP's to take this issue up."
“A thriving natural world is crucial for everybody’s health and wellbeing. The EU would be foolish to undermine nature protections in the name of cutting red tape.”
 The State of Nature report [http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-4965_en.htm?locale=en (live at 12:00 CEST)] is a comprehensive assessment of nature in EU member states. It draws on the data and reports submitted by member states on their progress in implementing the Birds and Habitats Directives.
 Despite the clear need to increase efforts to protect nature, policymakers from the European Commission are currently reviewing the Birds and Habitats Directives, threatening to weaken them.
 The European Commission is carrying out a ‘fitness check’ of the Birds and Habitats Directives as part of a wider deregulatory agenda under REFIT (Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme).
Report: The crusade against ‘red tape’: How the European Commission and big business push for deregulation http://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/publications/crusade_against_red_tape_oct2014.pdf
The European Commission yesterday announced a new ‘Better Regulation’ package, which “risk[s] weakening existing standards on food, chemicals and biodiversity”, according to Friends of the Earth Europe: www.foeeurope.org/EU-plans-Better-Regulation-threat-environmental-protections-190515
 On Tuesday 12 May more than 100 NGOs across Europe launched a campaign to defend the Birds and Habitats directives. So far over 100,000 people have responded to the European Commission consultation, demanding not to weaken them. More information at www.naturealert.eu
The Directives have been proven to be effective when properly implemented, delivering demonstrable benefits for biodiversity as well as significant social and economic benefits http://www.sciencemag.org/content/317/5839/810.abstract
The State of Nature report concludes that the network of Natura 2000 protected nature sites, established under the Directives, have “had an important positive influence on the conservation status of species and habitat types”. But “the full potential of the network has still to be realised” and implementation is far from complete.
The TerraFirma Collective, a newly established NGO Platform, as part of the “Empowering Maltese NGOs” project was launched in Valletta today.
The Collective is the first step of the project being implemented by Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA), in partnership with Friends of the Earth Malta and the Malta Organic Agriculture Movement (MOAM). The project, Empowering Maltese NGOs, is funded through the EEA Grants.
The official launch of the NGO platform was attended by the Minister Helena Dalli and representatives of the founding members of the TerraFirma Collective.
TerraFirma aims to encourage better collaboration between the Maltese NGOs and offer its members effective representation on a national and EU level.
JD Farrugia, the Project Manager, said: “There are many environmental problems NGOs in Malta are facing. TerraFirma Collective aims to bring these NGOs together for a stronger and unified position to address these challenges. Terrafirma however is not limited to environmental groups only as we encourage other organisations whose work is related to health, women and youth.”
TerraFirma will offer free training to all NGOs in Malta and Gozo on key issues such as fund-raising, campaigning, communications and board management.
NGOs are encouraged to join the Collective and contact the project manager in obtaining more information.
The public’s right to experience nature is under threat from a move by the European Commission to review some of the EU’s most successful nature laws (the Birds and Habitats Directives). Friends of the Earth Malta and Birdlife Malta together with over 100 organisations across Europe have today launched a campaign to show the overwhelming public support for protecting nature.
Martin Galea De Giovanni, Director of Friends of the Earth Malta said “Europe's nature laws are recognised as some of the strongest in the world to protect animals, plant and habitats from extinction. Thanks to these laws, Europe now has the world's biggest network of protected areas, Natura 2000, covering about one fifth of Europe's land and 4% of its marine sites. These laws also offer vital protection to more than 1,400 rare or threatened species of animals and plants by ensuring they are protected in these Natura 2000 sites and in the wider countryside.”
Yet EU policymakers from European Commission President Juncker downwards are threatening to weaken these laws, potentially giving big business more access to use nature sites for profit.
Magda Stoczkiewicz, Director of Friends of the Earth Europe said "We all have a right to nature – and chipping away at vital laws that help protect it would be a disaster for European citizens and the nature we love. We are mobilising people across the EU and will make our voices loud and clear – our nature is not up for grabs and we expect our politicians to protect it for all of us and for future generations."
The first stepping-stone towards weaker nature protection is a review of the existing laws by the EU – which European citizens are being invited to comment upon. The questions are open to the public, but difficult to find and complicated to answer for non-experts.
To give the public a chance to say ‘no’ to plans to weaken our nature laws, Friends of the Earth Europe, Birdlife, WWF and the European Environmental Bureau have launched a simple website that citizens can use to easily answer the consultation with just a few clicks. We urge everyone who believes in the right to enjoy and protect nature to have their say by clicking here.