The NGOs Friends of the Earth (Malta), Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA), NatureTrust (Malta), Malta Organic Agriculture Movement (MOAM) and Ramblers Association of Malta share Environment Minister De Marco’s conclusion that the Rio+20 Summit lacked ambition.
The Rio+20 declaration reaffirms the 'Rio Principles' first agreed at the 1992 Earth Summit but does not go any further. It ignores the needs of developing countries and highlights the lack of political will on the part of governments. Politicians around the world are understandably concerned about the economic crisis – but it will only be remedied when politicians stop treating it separately from social and environmental problems.
At the same time the NGOs observe that such comments are often made by local politicians when it comes to international environmental summits, but then the same politicians accept a far slower pace of environmental progress in Malta.
The NGOs refer to various reports and studies which have been issued locally over the years. Many of these have produced voluminous and detailed proposals which have been announced with much fanfare, yet they have resulted in very little tangible action. Amongst others, these include the National Strategy for Sustainable Development and the Climate Change Strategy reports (National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and the National Climate Change Mitigation Strategy).
The latest of these is the National Environment Policy (NEP) whose very valid guidelines will not be introduced immediately by the different Government authorities who are to put into practice, but will be implemented gradually. Should the forthcoming elections occur before the NEP is implemented, it risks being shelved like so many reports and policies before it.
The environment NGOs are also wary of comments made recently by Joseph Muscat. Ominous declarations to ‘cut bureaucracy’ come at a time when MEPA applications are often processed with inadequate study due to pressure from developers to speed up timeframes.
Joseph Muscat then publicly declared his mistrust of MEPA’s studies on land reclamation, declaring that the issue should be left up to developers, the very stakeholders who have an interest in promoting the ‘concretisation of Malta’.
The NGOs similarly deplore the continued lack of real information on the emissions situation at Marsaxlokk arising from the current testing of the Delimara Extension.
The NGOs insist that more action to implement national strategies and enforce existing policies is required now more than ever before, instead of the lack of action and wavering political will being experienced in the present pre-election climate. The mistaken but oft-repeated message that the construction industry is the main driver of our economy and the policy of “development at all cost” are damaging our financial sector, residents’ health and tourism, the real pillar of our economy.
"This country cannot afford more unsustainable rape of our environment and heritage; we need to act now if we are to save what little is left to be saved. Only immediate implementation of policies will prove that the pro-environment proclamations of politicians of all colours are more than just hollow words," the NGOs said in a joint statement.