Three environmental NGOs including Friends of the Earth Malta, Nature Trust (Malta) and BirdLife Malta, expressed their support for the Government’s long awaited initiative to invest in renewable energy to meet its EU obligations to cut down CO2 emission.
The NGOs also stated that the selection of locations for wind farms and associated infrastructure is a key to avoid impacts on wild birds and other biodiversity.
The environmental NGOs said that government’s investment in renewables can be hailed as a positive step forward, which should eventually lead Malta to decrease its 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, NGOs added.
BirdLife Malta Executive Director Tolga Temuge said: “At the same time, the conservation of biodiversity and resilient ecosystems is not only a stand-alone priority of global and European policy, but also an essential element for mitigating and adapting to climate change. Therefore, any significant damage from renewable energy development on biodiversity needs to be avoided.”
The environmental groups stated that all major wind farm projects should undergo a serious Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process and also Appropriate Assessment as required by the EU nature conservation directives for projects like Sikka il-Bajda that would have adverse impact on the near by Rdum tal Madonna Natura 2000 site.
“We are glad that government is finally considering land based wind turbines, something that we have been arguing in favour of for a long time.” said Friends of the Earth Malta Chairperson Martin Galea De Giovanni. “Although we are aware of the potential sites, we would still want to see appropriate studies made prior to, and during, the construction of the turbines” he added. “These land based sites could eventually serve as an experience for other sites, both from a technical and environmental impacts point of view. When this experience is gained, Malta could potentially be able to undertake more ambitious wind turbine projects.”
The NGOs added that much more needed 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.
Nature Trust (Malta) Executive President said that”. This should be done in conjunction with a major effort to increase efficiency in every sector of society including individual needs. By changing our habits a little and becoming more conscious of how much energy we use, each and every individual can successfully limit their own carbon footprint and save money on energy bills.”
The NGOs believe that if the country focuses on a more diversified renewable energy mix this would reduce demands on fossil fuel energy needs and also the need to build a waste to energy incineration plant, especially since the latter also comes with a high financial and environmental cost.