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 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.
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.
FAA, MOAM and Friends of Earth Malta are partnering in an NGO coalition to work together towards protection and policy change on key environmental issues in Malta. The project is co-financed by EEA Grants and will run for one year.
Those interested in applying for the position of Project Coordinator, are invited to send their curriculum vitae and a letter outlining why they are interested in the job and how they meet the requirements outlined below. Include names of two referees who may be contacted.
Candidates will be contacted by no later than the 18th November and Interviews will be held on the 21st and 22nd November.
Job Description – The major functions of the Project Coordinator are:
To establish the NGO Platform
The objective of the project is to establish a platform for NGOs active in the environmental sector in Malta. The platform aims to strengthen networking among NGOs in order to carry out joint advocacy as well as increasing advocacy, fundraising and communications skills and improve management of organisations through training and workshops. The project also aims to engage youths and women more in the environmental movement in Malta.
To manage the EEA project lifecycle
Duties will include reporting, project accounting, setting up of meetings and organising events. The Project Coordinator will ensure that deadlines are met and quarterly steering committee meeting are held as specified in the project contract.
To galvanize the groups that make up the Platform in order to maximize their effectiveness
Key to the role is the ability to galvanize the platform member groups, identifying opportunities and working to bring the member groups together to deliver exciting and successful campaigns. Throughout the project, the Coordinator will be responsible for the organizing of training sessions by a professional communications company on advocacy, communications and media relations, fundraising, networking with EU institutions as well as board development, ensuring the sustainability of the Platform and its member NGOs.
The Coordinator will devise a mechanism whereby NGO platform members are able to coordinate work concerning:
Other Duties :
The right candidate will:
Whilst it would be advantageous for candidates to have all of the above, applications will be considered from individuals who satisfy most of them.
Employment terms and conditions
The selection procedure will involve:
This is a fulltime position with a one year contract with the possibility of extending the contract at the end of the project.
As part of the Social Europe - Front Against TTIP (Malta), FoE Malta has joined the global call of action on the TTIP which will take place on 11 October.
Civil society, trade unions, farmers and grassroots activist groups from all over Europe will be participating against TTIP and to promote alternative trade policies, which put peoples' rights, democracy and the environment first.
"TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and EU) are the most prominent examples of how trade and investment policies are being negotiated undemocratically and in the sole interest of large corporations. Negotiations are being undertaken in secrecy, with very little information available for public scrutiny, while allowing corporate lobbies increasing influence over them. This will have a negative effect on workers' rights, environmental protection, food safety and other areas".
Movements taking part in this initiative include, amongst others, Corporate Europe Observatory, World Development Movement, ATTAC, Seattle to Brussels Network, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and Fairwatch.
Social Europe - Front Against TTIP (Malta) comprises: Żminijietna - Voice of the Left; Anti-Poverty Alliance; Moviment Graffitti; Association of Federative Socialists; GWU Youth, ADZ – Green Youths; Friends of the Earth Malta; Partit Komunista Malti; Garden of Knowledge (Malta).
The Front's Facebook page is:https://www.facebook.com/groups/FrontAgainstTTIPMalta/
Friends of the Earth Malta welcomed the recent Government decision to temporarily close the autumn hunting season until Friday 10th October. FoE Malta believes that this was a courageous step in the right direction, following the daily reports of illegal hunting during this migration season.
Friends of the Earth Malta categorically condemns the violent episodes witnessed during today's haphazardly organised protest by a group of hunters during which a journalist and photographer were attacked. This was followed by other shocking reports of birdwatchers being attacked and intimidated at Buskett – a bird sanctuary. It urges the law enforcing authorities to take action against the perpetrators of these violent actions. FoE Malta called for investigations with regards to the authenticity of the image showing a hunter brandishing a gun in front of parliament and also whether the necessary permits where obtained in order to organise this event.
Friends of the Earth Malta also reaffirmed its position that the referendum for the abolition of spring hunting must take place in March 2015, before the next spring hunting season is scheduled to take place.
The Environment NGOs - Birdlife Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Gaia Foundation, Malta Organic Agriculture Movement, Moviment Graffiti, Nature Trust (Malta) and Ramblers Association urgently call upon the Malta Environment and Planning Authority and the Animal Welfare Department to take immediate action on the Montekristo Estate and address without further delay all illegalities and most urgent of all, the animal welfare issue.
The ENGOs feel that in the case of animal welfare, this issue cannot wait any further since live animals are suffering while the authorities are dragging their feet. The more action is delayed, the more these animals are being affected and exposed to unnecessary and inhumane suffering.
The environment organisations feel that it makes no sense government to profess zero tolerance on illegalities and pass harsher laws for offenders to animal abuse when in the end the same authorities fail miserably to take action and fail to demonstrate the zero tolerance promised.
The Montekristo cases of illegalities have been ongoing for far too long and the NGOs feel that despite electoral manifesto commitments and promises by the relevant authorities to act, nothing tangible is being done while one government after another allows such illegalities to continue and increase.
Polidano group are already well known for their questionable ways on achieving their aims by bullying tactics. The NGOs question how 20 wild animals made it to Malta considering that they are internationally protected species whose trade is banned. A thorough investigation on how these animals were smuggled into Malta should be held before any permit process is started.
It ludicrous and rather rich that Polidano is blaming MEPA for the animals' inadequate cages. With 55 enforcement notices (2013 figures), it is obvious that this company feels that it is above the law.
The Animal Rights Parliamentary Secretariat has in the past done a sterling job with regards to the eventual banning of animal circuses in Malta. It is high time that the Secretariat also realises that the reasoning behind the same arguments that apply to circuses also apply to the confinement of animals in so called "zoos". Regardless of the number of generations that wild animals have been in captivity, captive-born wild animals do not lose the instincts and needs of wild animals. They retain their natural instincts to socialise and to roam freely. Zoos deny captive-born wild animals of their need to exhibit their natural behaviours. No matter how much they are taken care of, the fact remains that they would be in a similar situation as "a bird in a gilded cage".
The NGOs maintain that just like circuses, zoos should be banned from Malta as we do not have the land space, and in some cases the climate, that such wildlife require. The ENGOs strongly feel that it makes no sense to delay action further and abandon the animals in this so-called zoo to suffer.
To add insult to injury the Montekristo Estate was recently allowed to hold a trade fair, despite all illegalities on its site. It is deplorable that companies and authorities that claim green credentials supported this activity.
The eight ENGOs call on the authorities to demonstrate their commitment and resolve and act so Maltese citizens can again gain their trust in the authorities concerned.
Image - John Portelli
Scientific advice to the European Commission's President should be transparent and objective
Scientific advice should be transparent, objective and independent, and there should be more science and more diverse expertise available to the European Commission's President, a coalition of 25 international and national NGOs, including The Action for Breast Cancer Foundation Malta and Friends of the Earth Malta, wrote in a letter addressed to President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker today (1). The new President will have to decide whether or not to retain the position of Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) that was established by his predecessor, President José Manuel Barroso.
In the majority of European countries, governments rely for scientific advice on expert committees who prepare transparent and public reports. Among EU countries, only the UK currently maintains the position of CSA as a full-time government office (2).
The NGOs argue that it is unreasonable to expect that one single person can guarantee objective and competent advice to the President. They are concerned that the model chosen by President Barroso lacks transparency and makes it easier for lobbyists to influence scientific policy advice.
The NGOs believe that scientific scrutiny in policy-making is essential. The question is how to ensure that the best representation of wide-ranging and transparent scientific advice is available to incoming President Juncker. The Anglo-Saxon model of relying on a single Chief Scientific Adviser is problematic: it lacks transparency and does not guarantee objective scientific advice. Industry lobbyists want the EU to stick to the UK model, but there are better ways to promote sound and objective scientific advice for the European Commission.
The current CSA has stated that her advice should remain "not transparent" and immune from public scrutiny (3) and this is a major concern for the signatory NGOs. The CSA position does not and cannot provide decision-makers with the widest and most objective science available. A single position is also far more exposed and vulnerable to the impact of lobbyists. The NGOs would welcome a debate on how to put science at the heart of European politics.
Notes to editors:
(2) Cf. the entries on national governance structures in the European Commission Platform on Research and Innovation policies and systems: http://erawatch.jrc.ec.europa.eu/erawatch/opencms/information/country_pages/
(3) http://www.euractiv.com/sections/science-policymaking/glover-eu-chief-scientist-should-stay-shadows-307768, Euractiv, 6 August 2014.
Friends of the Earth Malta demands transparency on energy generation plans following reports in the media on the future of wind energy generation. This is of utmost significance especially in the light of recent Eurostat statistics which puts Malta at the bottom of the EU list when it comes to renewable energy production.
Friends of the Earth Malta also questions the ministerial statement which asserts - in the absence of any substantial detail -- that Malta will reach the projected renewable energy sources share for 2014 by using photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal (a contribution not easily assessed) and biofuels. This statement in turn raises further questions on the current PV production and on the likely limits on area – including possible marine areas - available for PV.
The ministerial statement also mentions biofuels as one of the sources, though there is no mention of RE from waste, where production suffered a serious setback with the Sant'Antnin Waste Treatment Plant failure. Friends of the Earth Malta is against any use of agrofuels, unless these come from sustainable sources such as used cooking oil. The production of agrofuels has potentially far-reaching social and environmental impacts, and raises urgent questions about whether they are an effective or economical way of helping to combat climate change. Their rapid development and promotion has resulted in a number of high level warnings about their global implications for the environment, food security and economy. Only last month the EU energy ministers voted to limit biofuels in an attempt to prevent biofuels competing with food and causing deforestation.
After all the time and resources spent on wind energy studies, the public deserves to know what the realistic prospects for onshore and offshore wind turbines are. It is high time that government takes the renewable energy targets seriously and lift Malta up from the bottom spot of the European charts.