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State of Environment Report: Steps made, but more action needed

State of Environment Report: Steps made, but more action needed

The State of the Environment Report (SoER), which provides “an overview of the quality of the environment we are living in”, shows that while important steps forward have been made, more action is needed for a better environment.

The SoER, launched today by the Ministry of Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change. goes over a variety of areas which are directly, or indirectly, connected to the environment – with 10 chapters going over areas of the environment such as biodiversity, marine and fresh waters, resources and waste, land and coast, ambient air, environmental health, climate change, and the possible policy responses to all the related issues that may come from any of the aforementioned areas.

Minister’s Address

Addressing the launch of the SoER, Minister Jose Herrera said that the reports “acts as a snapshot, reporting the status of the environment and covers 7 years of data from 2009-2015”. He went on to explain that the report will be used as a basis upon which future policies and strategies concerning the environment should be developed.

Whilst acknowledging the existence of environmental implications from the economic gains Malta has made, he did note that we have much to contend with. Particularly the fact that our population density is significantly higher than the EU average, which stand at 1,450.2/km2 and 118/km2 respectively.

He went on to explain that the Environmental and Resource Authority (ERA) has been focusing on implementing a number of Natura 2000 management plans, including work being done on plans for marine environment sites.

Bring up the budget, he reiterated that the ERA is already working on Malta’s first Nation Environment Strategy which will serve as a framework to “outline the nation’s priorities in this sector and will be steering us all towards overcoming our environmental challenges”.

Report Summary

Arguably the most topical issues with regards to the environment that are handled in the report are waste generation, which a recent overhaul in the garbage disposal system has still to bear fruit as people get used to the new implemented methods; land and coast, an issue which has been coming up for years especially with regards to development on ODZ and the increased “popularity” of high-rises; and air quality which is very closely linked to the high private car use on the island.

Beginning with waste, the report notes that waste generation per capita in Malta remains high when compared to EU countries, also saying that resource productivity has also dropped when compared to previous years, “indicting that we have become more ‘wasteful’ of resources”.

“More efforts on waste management are required over the next few years. These include solutions for residual waste management, whilst a landfill supporting other waste infrastructure is being pursued.”

Moving onto our land and coast, and using present data for 2005-2011, there are indications that there is a proportional increase in both the actual dwelling stock and the vacant dwellings – although the need for a more detailed assessment is acknowledged.

The report notes that “the largest proportion of non-dwelling total approved floor space in Malta pertains to environmental leisure (30%), followed by office (13%), warehousing (13%), and leisure development (10%)”.

With regards to contributors to the total floor-space approved in predominantly urban coast are cultural (18.1%), warehouse (17.7%), and leisure projects (13.5%). The most affected areas is the Grand Harbour Local Plan which absorbs 40% of the total approved floor space.

Air quality did see some improved a slight positive shift in Malta’s car fleet towards fuel-efficient vehicles was observed during the review period for the report. Although private car use and low consumption of alternative fuels is still low, and this makes it one of the key forces for environmental concern.

Climate change in Malta is seen through a warming trend of +0.38oC per decade for the annual mean minimum temperature, with the Mediterranean Sea surface increasing at +0.35oC.