News

(Maltese translation below)

Friends of the Earth Malta with the participation of Zminijetna – Voice of the Left, University of Malta Geographical Society (UMGS), Nature Trust, Malta Breast Feeding Foundation, Malta Medical Students’ Association (MMSA), Moviment Graffitti, Insite, BICREF and guest speakers Mr. Arnold Cassola, chairperson for Alternattiva Demokratika and the Honourable Leo Brincat Labour Party spokesperson for climate change, gathered in St George’s Square, Valletta on Global Climate Action Day of Saturday 6th December. The Honourable George Pullicino was also invited but could not attend since he is Poznan, Poland.

The Global Day of Action on Climate has occurred every year since 2005 at the time of the annual United Nations Talks on climate change. Movements and organisations from all around the world came together on the same day to demand action on climate justice from the governments of the world. This year’s talks are being held in Poznan, Poland. To view pictures from gatherings on Climate Action Day you may visit the website http://www.globalclimatecampaign.org in the coming week for updates of the events worldwide.

Immanuel Mifsud read poems from his and Adrian Grima’s recently launched Rih min-Nofsinhar, a collection of poems on climate change. Vince Fabri played songs on climate change and encouraged the audience to sing along to the lyrics of one of Immanuel Mifsud’s poems from Rih min-Nofsinhar.

Throughout the evening video clips were shown on climate change produced by FoE groups around Europe.

The cast of High School Musical Malta joined us to perform songs from the musical they will be staging at MCC this Christmas season.

A holistic initiative is needed to tackle climate change. If Malta continues to sleep on this we will be masking the consequences until it is too late to do something about it. Friends of the Earth Malta asks the government to Act Now on climate change.

For more information on our campaign The Climate is changing… are you? contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Friends of the Earth Malta thanks all the participants in this event, including its volunteers, who helped to make this event possible.
We encourage the public to send a letter to their District MPs and sign the petition asking for a strong law on Climate Change by visiting www.foemalta.org/bigask

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Friends of the Earth Malta bil-partecipazzjoni ta’ Zminijetna – Lehen ix-xellug, is-Socjeta Geografika tal-Universita ta’ Malta (UMGS), Nature Trust, Malta Breast Feeding Foundation, Moviment Graffitti, Insite, BICREF, l-Assocjazzjoni tal-istudenti tal-Medicina Malta (MMSA) u l-kelliem Mr. Arnold Cassola, cerpersin ghal Alternattiva Demokratika u l-Onorevoli Leo Brincat kelliem ghall-Partit Laburista dwar it-tibdil tal-klima ingabru f’Pajzza San Gorg, il-Belt Valletta ghal Jum Dinji dwar it-Tibdil tal-Klima nhar is-Sibt 6 ta’ Dicembru. L-onorevoli George Pullicino ma setax jattendi ghax kien gewwa Poznan, Poland.

Il-jum Dinji dwar it-Tibdil tal-Klima ilha ssir mill-2005 waqt li jkunu ghaddejin il-laqghat tan-Nazzjonijiet Uniti fuq it- tibdil tal-klima. Movimenti u organizzazjonijiet minn madwar id-dinja, iltaqghu f’dan il-jum biex iheggu lill-gvernijiet sabiex jiehdu azzjoni fuq il-klima. Din is-sena d-diskussjonijiet qeghdin isuru gewwa Poznan, Polonnja. Biex taraw ritratti mill-attivitajiet waqt jum Dinji dwar it-Tibdil tal-Klima tistghu tidhlu fis-sitt http://www.globalclimatecampaign.org fil-gimghat li gejjien.

Immanuel Mifsud qara’ poeziji mill-ktieb gdid Rih min-Nofsinhar, gabra ta’ poeziji miktubin flimkien ma’ Adrian Grima. L-attivita kompliet b’Vince Fabri idoqq diversi kanzunetti dwar it-tibdil tal-klima u fosthom Aqta’ fjura u ibni kamra, mehuda mill-poezija ta’ Immanuel Mifsud mill-ktieb Rih min-Nofsinhar.

Matul is-serata intwerew films qosra mahrugin minn gruppi Ewropej tal-Friends of the Earth.

Il-cast ta’ High School Musical Malta ghalqu din is-serata bil-kanzunetta We’re all in this together – silta mill-musical li se tkun ipprezentata l-MCC waqt il-festi tal-Milied.

Inizjattiva holistika hi bzonnjuza biex niggieldu t-tibdil tal-klima. Jekk Malta tibqa’ torqod fuq din se nkunu qeghdin naharbu mill-konsegwenzi sakemm imbaghad ikun tard wisq biex naghmlu xi haga dwarha. Friends of the Earth Malta theggegg lill-Gvern sabiex iqum u jaggixxi issa fuq it-tibdil tal-klima.

Ghal aktar informazzjoni dwar il-kampanja ta’ Friends of the Earth Malta il-Klima qed tinbidel… u int? ikkuntatjawna fuq This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Friends of the Earth Malta thanks all the participants in this event, including its volunteers, who helped to make this event possible.

Friends of the Earth Malta tirringrazzja lill-partecipanti f’din l-attivita, inkluz il-volontiera taghha, li ghinu biex issir din l-attivita.

Inheggu lil publiku sabiex jibghatu ittra lil Membri Parlamentarji tad-distrett taghhom, kif ukoll jiffirmaw il-petizzjoni biex tghaddi ligi dwar it-tibdil tal-klima, billi jidhlu fis-sit www.foemalta.org/bigask .

 

 

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cclogoFriends of the Earth Malta is organising an evening of activities on Global Climate Action Day this Saturday 6th December from 5.00pm to 8.30pm in Palace Square, Valletta.

The Global Day of Action on Climate has occurred every year since 2005 at the time of the annual United Nations Talks on climate change. People from all around the world have come together on the same day to demand action on climate, and climate justice from the governments of the world. This year the talks are being held in Poznan, Poland.

Join us in Palace Square (St George's Square), Valletta on Global Climate Action Day this Saturday where Friends of the Earth Malta is hosting a variety of events.

Friends of the Earth Malta will launch its position paper on Climate Change during a press conference at 5.00pm.

Immanuel Mifsud will be reading poems from his and Adrian Grima's recently launched Rih min-Nofsinhar, a collection of poems on climate change. Vince Fabri will be playing songs on climate change and will also be singing one of Immanuel Mifsud's poems from Rih min-Nofsinhar which you will be invited to join in.

Throughout the evening we will be showing video clips on climate change produced by FoE groups around Europe.

Guest speakers from local NGOs are invited to have their say on climate change throughout the evening.

The cast of High School Musical Malta will be joining us later in the evening to perform We're all in this together – a song from the musical they will be stagingg at MCC this Christmas season. The cast have also generously accepted to give autographs to the public after their performance

You are invited to attend Climate Action Day in Palace Square, Valletta to sign our petition asking for a Climate Change Law, to learn more about climate change and to enjoy the entertainment and evening in Valletta. For more information kindly contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Friends of the Earth Malta together with the environmental NGOs Din L-Art Helwa, Nature Trust (Malta), Birdlife Malta, Light Pollution Awareness Group and Ramblers Association today expressed their opposition to the recently proposed new TEN -T road project in Ghadira.

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The NGOs stated that the proposed project will have a major negative impact on the environment with regards to the habitats of the protected site such as garigue and steppe habitats, the biodiversity including the birds that breed and rest at the Ghadira Nature Reserve and the Foresta 2000 site, through increased light and noise pollution in the currently undisturbed area. The organizations also expressed their concerns about the possible impact on water resources in the area.

After government's recent statements that the environment is a priority for this legislature, this road project is a major retreat on the nature conservation pledge in the Maltese islands since it was announced that this project will be given the fast track, the NGOs charged.

Environmental groups stated that they felt that government is acting in a crisis management attitude and wants to take a decision based on the act that it will lose structural funds. This goes against any principals of EU funding when Natura 2000 sites could be at risk of being damaged with EU funded projects.

The NGOs also noted that none of the organizations have been consulted on all the five alternatives recently presented by the Minister to date.

Furthermore they insisted that it was the Ministry's duty to prove the need for a new road when there is no existing traffic problems with the current road.

The NGOs added that the argument used that moving the road further in, will help save the sand dunes needs to be proved by further studies, including coastal modelling ones, such as the ones used by MTA to identify coastal sites for beach nourishment, since the replenishment process will still be cut off by the new road.

The NGOs called upon the Prime Minister to act cautiously on such projects as the environment is at stake.

sigra_flusFriends of the Earth Malta welcomes the funds allocated in the Budget 2009 for environmental projects and alternative energy. However Friends of the Earth Malta (FoE Malta) states that the rebates for solar panels and the insulation of roofs and windows are too limited to be considered as a fair initiative to reduce CO2 emissions on a national scale. Incentives to empower the citizen to invest in energy efficient appliances need to be further extended to society at large in parallel with a national initiative to install solar water heaters and solar panels on the roofs of state run and funded authorities and entities such as offices, clinics, hospital, schools and ministries. A holistic initiative such as the one illustrated here would not only genuinely reduce Malta's CO2 emissions drastically but would also permit more research into the resulting efficiency of solar panels on a local and national level.

In the approach to rebates of all sorts there is no indication as to what full use of a particular rebate will be given to the customer. For instance, spending €900 – of which €300 are discounted – on roof or wall insulation will have a significant effect; the same sum spent on double-glazing will yield much less as double glazing is expensive. The incentives for the purchase of solar panels are limited to only €500,000. Only 170 families can claim the maximum reimbursement of €3,000, which will accompany a purchase of a 1kW system. This is the result of a deliberate decision to extend help principally to industries in the belief that such entities will install a far greater PV capacity than families will. Industries are promised a rebate of 60% (without ceiling) of the overall cost of a PV system. The rebates on solar water heaters, designed to reach 4,500 families shows a more significant incentive in the direction of reducing CO2 emissions from the domestic sector.

FoE Malta finds the allocation of offshore wind turbines very encouraging, however since the government's budget also mentioned wind turbines on land for the first time, FoE Malta affirms that it would be more logical and cost-effective to erect land-based wind turbines before attempting an offshore project since land-based wind turbines can be deployed faster and cheaper.

FoE Malta is surprised that no mention was made to feed-in tariffs. No change has been made to feed-in tariffs, the rate at which Enemalta buys renewably generated electricity via net metering or bartering. As experience in other countries has shown, an attractive feed-in rate exerts a powerful incentive where the consumer can see quite clearly that it is putting money in their pocket. On the other hand, capital subsidies tend to be mopped up by the distributors.

On the subject of tariffs, FoE Malta is aware that we have failed once more to adopt a sensible version of different day and night rates, in order to encourage heavy users to move electricity use away from times of peak demand. The difference in the rates is too small to be of interest.

FoE Malta believes that the rebate on energy-saving bulbs is a step forward to partly make up for the fact that the previous scheme for rebates on energy efficient appliances was removed earlier this year. Although the increase on eco tax for incandescent bulbs is an anomaly since recently there was a decision by EU Energy Ministers for a ban which will apply to the whole of the EU market from 2010.  The so-called eco taxes on incandescent bulbs, plastic bags, fliers and magazines are in fact revenue raising measures. Still, they are a welcome incentive to encourage the general public to move to a mind set which favours a positive environmental conscience.

FoE Malta states that a 15.25% rebate for the purchase on one bicycle will not have the desired effect of a reduction of CO2 emissions from vehicles. The occasional cycle lane does not ensure the desired security standards for cyclists and does not encourage cyclists to take to our roads. Strangely enough the taxes presented in this budget make keeping your old car of an engine size less than 1300cc cheaper tax-wise than having a new car of the same engine size. For example: For an 18 year old car under 1300cc you must pay 101 euros. While for a new car that emits only 100g/km you pay 100 euros and if your car emits more than 250g/km you pay 600euros. This is at year zero and will remain so for the next 5 years before taxes start increasing gradually. A true green incentive would have been to reduce taxes or remove taxes completely for electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles and vehicles with a low emissions output.

The mention of future developments in yacht marinas without a clear description of what these developments may be, is of concern since this could mean more loss of public swimming areas and shoreline, and possible environmental degradation. Tourism being a pillar of our economy, FoE Malta was surprised not to hear the mention of eco-tourism and agro-tourism projects in future plans. Malta does have local products and traditional crafts to display to tourists and the Maltese population. FoE Malta urges the government to give a clear guide in this direction to the €23 million allocated to the Malta Tourism Authority.

FoE Malta welcomes environmental audits for businesses. This is clearly the way forward for a business to increase its success and take action towards its social and environmental responsibilities. In addition the incentive for local councils to work more efficiently towards the environment by promoting a financial reward is a clear indicator for future progress on a grassroots level to reach out towards creating positive change for the environment.

Friends of the Earth Malta states that it is encouraged by the inclusion of environmental friendly incentives in this Budget which may bring about some positive change to the environment, and looks forward to contributing to and seeing positive change in action.

Recommendations by Environmental NGOs

Synopsis for the media

On Monday 27th October 2008, a coalition of environmental NGOs presented the Prime Minister with a report on MEPA reform. The document was drawn up by Catherine Polidano on behalf of Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, the Gaia Foundation, the Malta Organic Agriculture Movement, the Ramblers Association, and the Save Wied Garnaw Action Group. The Light Pollution Awareness Group has also endorsed the document.

The NGOs supporting this document maintain that the current planning process urgently needs reform. It is simply unworthy of a member state of the European Union in the 21st century. The report makes 74 recommendations aimed at restoring credibility to Malta’s development planning system and making development more sustainable in the interest of current and future generations.

mepareformsrecommendationsAmong other things the report recommends that policies governing development outside the development zone and in other protected areas should be made legally binding. It should no longer be possible for projects to receive approval in blatant contravention of such policies. They should be overridden only in exceptional cases where a proposed development is of critical national importance and is approved by Parliament with a two-thirds majority.

The report also recommends that MEPA should start pre-screening development applications against the policies that are made legally binding. Applications that are found to contravene such policies should normally be rejected without going through the full consideration process. This would save time and money both for MEPA and for applicants, and it would go a long way to restoring faith in the development planning process.

Development planning decisions often fail to give sufficient weight to environmental considerations because MEPA’s Environment Directorate is weak and has a limited role. The report recommends that the Directorate should be strengthened and given a greater say in decision-making. To eliminate overlap and fragmentation, the Malta Resources Authority should be incorporated within the Environment Directorate.

Existing legal provisions should also be better utilised. Currently, developers who ignore MEPA enforcement notices can be fined or even imprisoned. However, these legal provisions have hardly ever been used even though there are over 6,000 illegal developments bearing enforcement notices.

Furthermore, in 2001 the law was amended to permit the imposition of a daily fine against developers who ignore enforcement notices. However, this amendment was never brought into force. The report recommends that the amendment should be brought into force forthwith and, indeed, that the daily fine should be increased.

To eliminate conflicts of interest, the report recommends that members of MEPA boards should be barred from undertaking work which would conflict with their role as board members. Members of the Development Control Commission and the Planning Appeals Board should also be appointed on a full-time basis.

Development planning procedures also need to be improved. MEPA should ensure that development applications conform to sanitary laws and uphold third-party rights. The planning appeals process should be overhauled to make it less legalistic and to eliminate unnecessary deferrals.

Enforcement is vital, and to make this task more manageable the report recommends that district management teams be set up to monitor specific green areas and urban conservation areas. These teams would initiate immediate remedial action against illegal developments.

Finally, the report makes various recommendations aimed at strengthening public participation in the development planning process. Among other things it proposes that neighbours should be directly informed about developments that might affect them, and development applications should be given more prominent publicity particularly if they relate to protected areas. The public should also be better informed about their rights.

The NGOs which support this document are encouraged by the Government’s willingness to reform MEPA. They will continue to contribute to the reform in the hope that it will put the citizen and the environment at the heart of development planning.

windturbineFriends of the Earth Malta is pleased to note that Government is finally taking the initiative on the renewable energy front by allocating money to develop an array of wind turbines that will eventually supply around 4% of our energy requirements.

This can be hailed as a positive step forward, which should eventually lead us to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels in the longer term. This would be of great benefit to our environment, our social commitments and sovereignty as a nation.

Friends of the Earth although very enthusiastic about this progress, is also cautious about the site selection process. FoE Malta believes that all major projects should undergo a serious Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process as much as we believe that delaying such a project will have more serious impacts to the well being of our planet.

FoE Malta believes that other sites, both offshore and onshore, should be assessed along with Sikka il-Bajda. That way if the EIA rules against Sikka l-Bajda, we will have backup sites. This will deal a great blow to Malta’s energy policy and would throw us back to square one; a blow that we can ill afford.

Friends of the Earth Malta is also glad that government is no longer considering deep offshore wind farms, which are still astronomically expensive and in experimental phase. Hence Malta should not consider them until they become fully established over the coming decades.

FoE sees nothing wrong in exploring the potential of onshore wind farms as long as they are sited in reasonable locations and planned on a scale appropriate to our landscape.. These could provide the cheaper and faster route towards our renewable future.

However, much more needs to be done in the development of clean and renewable energy at household level. The deployment of small-scale wind turbines and solar panels over the roofs of the Maltese houses should be encouraged and given the right importance, also with fiscal and economic incentives. Whilst many Maltese families are ready to invest in a cleaner future, the Government is not offering the appropriate incentives.

Friends of the Earth Malta welcomes the motion related to Climate Change as presented by, Hon. Leo Brincat yesterday in Parliament. We believe that this is the way forward to make sure that the current, and subsequent, governments are committed to act on the pressing issue of climate change. Friends of the Earth is thus urging all MPs to put aside all political differences and to support this petition.
stormalarmFriends of the Earth has been campaigning on the issue of climate change for the past few years and also have been working on an educational campaign with the aim to reduce emissions, by improving energy efficiency and by using sustainable renewable energy sources.

As part of this campaign, FoE Malta has been collecting signatures for a petition since February 2008 asking government to reduce CO2 emissions by 3% year on year.

Climate change is considered to be one of the most pressing concerns that will be faced by our country and the EU within the next 5 to 10 years. According to recent statistics the Maltese electorate is worried about escalating fuel and relative costs such as energy prices and an increase in surcharge rates. A legislation committing the country to a sustainability plan that tackles emissions and renewable energy will have to define strict parameters if Malta is to reach the targets set by EU regulations.

Friends of the Earth Malta believes that through the integration of environmentally friendly systems of transport and energy, CO2 emissions are reduced through legally binding commitments to cut emissions year-on-year. These cuts should be equal to at least a 30 percent reduction of EU-wide domestic emissions by 2020 and 90 percent by 2050.

Friends of the Earth Malta urges the government to consider the full implications of the situation. By committing to legislating the bill the govenment will be taking the lead and answering the call for a groundbreaking piece of legislation that all political parties should be proud of. Concurrently, only two other countries in the EU – England and Finland – have made this important step.

Our question is, will the government commit to support the new legislation in favour of a strong law tackling climate change?

There are only two choices. Urgent action is required. A 'no' is a failure to rise to the challenge and make it an opportunity. Friends of the Earth Malta reminds the government  of the recently signed bilateral accord pledging that 'All developed countries' should make cuts 'in the range of 80 percent - 95 percent by 2050'. FoE Malta therefore urges all ministers to vote in favour of amendments that address these issues when they are tabled and called for debate at Report Stage, to put aside all political implications and simply think of what's best for Malta.

Friends of the Earth Malta calls all citizens to show support by sending a letter to their local ministers asking them to vote in favour of the enactment of a strong Law to tackle Climate Change. You may do so by clicking here where you will see a letter you can send to your local minister. Simply type your name, select your town and type in your email address. Then click on send so your minister knows you care.  The climate is changing… are you?
Throughout summer of 2006, the authorities justified the Rationalisation scheme to use more countryside for construction purposes by claiming that this would seal shut the development zones and prevent further building Out of Development Zone (ODZ).  Before and after this year’s general elections, the electorate continued to be promised more environmental awareness and respect, with emphasis on protection of the countryside.  Six months down the road and this promise is far from materialising.


Over the last six months alone, MEPA approved not less than 318 permits to build structures in the countryside or ODZ, many of which are to be built on fresh agricultural land.  Although MEPA regulations stipulate that only bona fide agricultural structures, parks and recreational facilities are normally permitted to be built in ODZ, the NGOs are dismayed to see that these permits included flats, garages and light industries. It is therefore hardly surprising that developers are still confident of obtaining permits to build in ODZ and that in spite of official declarations of “no more speculation in ODZ” such applications continue to flood into MEPA, with over 1,160* submitted to MEPA over the last twelve months, at an average rate of 20% of the total of applications submitted.

20081001-piechartThe rate of take-up of agricultural sites has further escalated recently with the setting up of small industry complexes such as the micro-industry park on fields at ‘Telgha t’Alla u’Ommu’, Naxxar and several other sites which consume a great many tumoli of previously arable land when the carcasses of unfinished showrooms and empty factories litter the island. This could have been avoided by a Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) on the sector’s present facilities and future needs. Similarly agro-industries are also being permitted to re-locate to cultivated fields in an unregulated manner rather than being incentivated to re-use abandoned farm buildings.

The lack of revision of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations, which actually facilitate ODZ projects, and the sixteen-year delay in setting up the Consultants’ Register and Code of Ethics, which could have taken place well before MEPA reform, also leaves the countryside more vulnerable to predatory mega-projects such as those at Hondoq ir-Rummien, Ramla l-Hamra and Mellieha Bay.

In view of this, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA), Friends of the Earth (Malta) MOAM, Light Pollution Awareness Group, Ramblers Association of Malta, Save Wied Garnaw Group, Birdlife (Malta), NatureTrust Malta and Gaia Foundation are calling on Government to stop this unsustainable destruction of Malta’s rural areas.

The damage inflicted on the limited remaining open undeveloped land and the environment is irreversible and leads to increased dependence on food imports, loss of biodiversity and rural character, decreased water catchment and infringement of EU regulations.  Most importantly, we are depriving present and future generations of the physical and mental health benefits as well as improved quality of life that only the countryside can provide.   With MEPA reform still very far from being implemented, the environment NGOs are extremely concerned that the countryside is as much under threat as ever and that the promised protection of the countryside is still very far from becoming reality.


* Data as published by MEPA on-line.

Friends of the Earth Malta donated €150 worth of books to the Birkirkara Local Council. These books will now form part of the resources found at the Birkirkara Civic Centre library. The books deal with local and international environmental themes and aim to increase the environmental awareness of the public.

 

During the presentation of the books, Friends of the Earth representatives thanked the Mayor for hosting the Friends of the Earth office at the Civic Centre. They augured that future cooperation will lead to further environmental benefits both to Birkirkara and Malta.

 

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Ms. Rebecca Borg from Friends of the Earth Malta presenting the books to Mr. Michael Fenech Adami, Mayor of Birkirkara. Mr. Martin Galea De Giovanni, Chairperson of FoE Malta looks on.

During the third week of September, many EU countries celebrated the European Mobility week. During this week, people are encouraged to be “in town without my car” as the initiative’s motto says. Since 2002 this event has been growing from strength to strength and this year, with no less then 2000 towns and cities across Europe organising various events and initiatives.

The European Mobility Award is one award Malta will definitely not be rewarded. This award is given to 10 towns and cities that come up with the most original event during this week. Unfortunately a few “Car Free Day” events had been organised in Malta during the first couple of years since this initiative started, but no events have been organised locally ever since.

Local and European citizens are very worried about pollution and urban mobility. In many of our polluted towns and cities, people complain of a poor quality of life. Exhaust fumes from old cars and busses, traffic jams and noise pollution all affect our quality of life. And yet, the numbers of cars on the Maltese roads keep on increasing. carfreeday

It has now been many years since two local doctors published their research showing that the residents of Fgura have the highest level of respiratory problems amongst all the towns and cities studied worldwide. These health problems are very likely to be related to motor vehicle and power station emissions, yet very little has been done since then to reduce the number of cars from our towns.

That is why the overall aim of the European Mobility Week campaign is to encourage public awareness of the need to act against pollution caused by the increase in motorised traffic in the urban environment. In fact, it is not just a question of fighting atmospheric pollution or noise but also of improving the quality of urban life.

Although no official events were organised, Friends of the Earth Malta believes that this should not discourage individuals from taking action throughout the whole year. Consider alternatives to driving, especially for journeys under 2 Km. Walking or cycling is not only better for the environment; it's better for your health and pocket. Consider the reduction in traffic, pollution and your petrol bill. If you have to use a car to get to work, organise a car-share with your workmates.

cclogoFriends of the Earth Malta is glad to note that the labour spokesperson for the environment, Mr. Leo Brincat is taking  political action on climate change, in particular the proposal to pass a Private Members' Bill at Parliament level. We believe that this is the way forward to make sure that the current, and subsequent, governments are committed to act on the pressing issue of climate change.

Friends of the Earth has been campaigning on the issue of climate change for the past few years and also have been working on an educational campaign with the aim to reduce emissions, by improving energy efficiency and by using sustainable renewable energy sources.

On a political front, we are participating in the European wide Big Ask campaign with the aim to lobby the government to adopt a Climate Change Bill in Parliament by the end of 2010.  Friends of the Earth Malta has been collecting petitions since February 2008 and this campaign has been very successful and popular with the public. However little action has been taken in Malta to foster renewable energy and thus contribute to the fight against climate change. Although proper research and debate are required, organising conferences and writing voluminous reports are not enough to combat climate change. The country needs to move forward; there is a need for immediate reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions and this can only be achieved by increased investment in renewable energy. We believe that this will also assure energy security to the Maltese population.

The petition that is being circulated by Friends of the Earth Malta states that the European Commission has requested that by 2020, 10% of our energy requirements will be derived from renewable sources. We have also been granted a 5% increase in carbon dioxide emissions above 2005 levels. Friends of the Earth Malta welcomes this agreement. However Friends of the Earth Malta believes that we can better this target.

Friends of the Earth Malta is lobbying for the enactment of a National Climate Change Legislation that enforces a net decrease of 10% below 1990 levels. This would promote:
•    national legal enforceable targets;
•    encouragement towards investment in Research and Development for innovation in the renewable energy sector;
•    inspiration for new business markets;
•    promotion of a low-carbon economy.

We are voicing our concern regarding the threats to our environment and to the welfare of future generations posed by unmitigated climate change. For this reason Friends of the Earth Malta is advocating the enactment of a National Climate Change Legislation to ensure a net decrease of 10% in carbon dioxide emissions below 1990 levels.

We trust that the concerns illustrated here by Friends of the Earth Malta are taken into consideration within a national climate change legislation.


The petition can be signed online at www.foemalta.org/bigask
Friends of the Earth together with seven* other environmental NGOs today called upon MEPA to publish online the fresh plans submitted for the application to extend the existing hotel at Ta’ Cenc in Gozo. In a statement, the NGOs called on MEPA to honour the commitment made to NGOs on 15th July 2008 to give “NGOs and Local Councils free, unlimited access to digital plans for all planning applications through its e-applications systems”

Whilst planning applications have been made accessible to the NGOs through the government’s online e-applications systems, the fresh plans submitted for Ta’ Cenc have not been uploaded, making it more difficult to assess them.

New plans for development were submitted on the 22nd July 2008 after which MEPA sent written confirmation to BirdLife Malta that “in accordance with Article 32 of the Development Planning Act, BirdLife may view these plans and make representations within fifteen (15) days of receipt of this notification.” In spite of this, these plans have not been uploaded on the MEPA e-application systems for vetting by the NGOs. This was confirmed by MEPA who advised that the plans could only be seen at the authority’s offices. However, when BirdLife Malta personnel called at MEPA to view the plans, neither the case officer nor anyone who could provide further relevant information were available.

It is unacceptable that NGOs are expected to submit their objections to a proposed development on the basis of a quick viewing of the plans. MEPA should honour its commitment to NGOs to provide online access to documents and should live up to its commitment to transparency in its processes.

Repeated requests were made by the NGOs for the new plans to be made available online.  

The NGOs expressed concern at the fact that fresh plans were being submitted for only a part of the original proposed development whilst the rest was subject to an appeal. The project should be assessed in a holistic manner, said the NGOs. Furthermore, the fresh plans still encroach over about 30% of the existing area designated as a bird sanctuary. The issue is currently subject to a pending infringement procedure opened by the Commission against Malta on the 27th June 2007 for insufficient special protection area (SPA) designation.   

In withholding accessibility MEPA is violating the EU Directive on access to Environmental Information as well as the Aarhus Convention signed by Malta. It is to be stressed that this is not just any application, but one that concerns all residents of the Maltese Islands.
 
* BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Helwa, the Gaia Foundation, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Light Pollution Awareness Group, Nature Trust and the Ramblers Association
Friends of the Earth Malta is concerned over the way the transport issue has developed recently. The NGO deplores the violence and illegalities which occurred during the protests. The NGO urges all political parties to unite on environmental issues such as this one since it is of national concern and not partisan.
 
Friends of the Earth Malta believes that the government must once and for all tackle our national transport problems which have been left to fester for the past decades. It has now been six years since two local doctors (Balzan and Bonnici) published their research showing that the residents of Fgura have the highest level of respiratory problems amongst all the towns and cities studied worldwide. The doctors pointed out that the cause of the health problems are very likely to be related to motor vehicle and power station emissions, yet very little has been done since then to achieve sustainability in the transport sector.
 
By now the government must have realised that the public transport operators want nothing more than a status quo. This must not be allowed to happen. Friends of the Earth Malta would support initiatives which challenge this state of affairs in a just and environmentally sound manner.
 
Malta needs an integrated plan designed to improve the efficiency and reliability of transport methods giving due consideration to social and environmental impacts. The public deserves a public transport service that suits their needs and not the needs of those who run a private monopoly which exploits our tax money.

A record 1,050 objections have been sent to MEPA to protest over plans by St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation to extend its museum, the NGOs Flimkien Ghall Ambjent Ahjar and Friends of the Earth said today.

The foundation is proposing to create an underground museum chambers by excavating St John’s Street. Alternatively, it has suggested building structures within St John’s graveyard along Merchants’ Street.

“We maintain that we cannot accept that a sizeable portion of our EU budget be spent on a project which will lead to exploitation and possibly damage Malta’s most precious national monument, when other feasible and simpler alternatives exit,” the two organisations said.

“A project of more reasonable dimensions would also leave funds available for more pressing projects, like the restoration of crumbling Fort St Elmo.”

The organisations argued that other parts of St John’s complex would be better used as exhibition space and funds earmarked for this project could also be used to purchase and restore a deteriorating palazzo close to St John’s to be used as a museum extension.

Friends of the Earth Malta  together with the environmental NGOs Birdlife Malta, Gaia Foundation, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Light Pollution Awareness Group, NatureTrust (Malta) and Ramblers Association of Malta, today strongly criticized the MEPA decision to give the green light to Mistra mega-project and questioned the reason why this and similar permits are being rushed through when  MEPA reform is  imminent.

The NGOs are adamant that it is not possible to justify a project to create 868 new apartments in an area that has 9,000 empty properties. MEPA and ADT are well aware that both the Halcrow Report and the T10 study clearly state that Xemxija Hill is already overloaded with traffic and cannot support any increase. It is for this reason that neither a Tall Building nor any project that develops the site more intensively than the previous Mistra Village should be permitted considering the road’s limitations. Alternatives have already been explored and found to be unfeasible, therefore granting a permit which would increase traffic through Xemxija Hill would be highly irresponsible of the MEPA Board.

The Mistra permit was granted in spite of the fact that the NGOs pointed out that the FAR regulations specify that tall building projects are not to be allowed on ridges due to a great negative impact on the landscape, both from land and sea - once highrises are permitted on Xemxija ridge, the uniformity and harmony of Maltese ridges will be forever destroyed as this will set a precedent for all other areas. The development will also imperil our heritage as the EIA stated that the unique Underground Flour Mill would be placed at risk by the building works which will involve the road that forms the ceiling of the mill.

The proposed set of tall buildings will block air and sunlight reaching residences even streets away. A Richmond Foundation Conference recently raised the issue that over-urbanisation contributes to mental illness and social isolation; does MEPA refuse to recognise that by approving such projects simply to enrich developers it is inflicting  very serious problems on our communities?  

Malta’s mega-projects are being approved in spite of the fact they do not conform to the full energy/water efficiency 2007 regulations; without rigorous assessment using an established international sustainable development rating system (such as LEED) they will not only cause further deterioration to our climate change situation but also expose the taxpayer to major fines for not conforming to EU Energy Directives.

With emissions from particulate matter at some 38 times higher than the highest international recommended levels, Malta’s air pollution problems will also be aggravated.

The environment NGOs call for a moratorium on major projects until MEPA reform is implemented. It is ironic that a project as unsustainable as the Mistra towers was approved on World Environment Day, and at a time when so much emphasis has been laid on Malta’s sustainable development commitments. The environment groups call for an immediate inquiry into  how such a permit could have been recommended and approved in violation of not only the  Local Plan, FAR and EU regulations but also our Constitution and new sustainability goals.

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