The Malta Independent 25 April 2019, Thursday

On air quality

David Casa Monday, 15 April 2019, 10:25 Last update: about 9 days ago

Air pollution is a hidden killer that is getting more lethal by the day. It is all around us and nobody is safe from it. It is worrying to know that Malta suffers some of the worst air pollution in Europe, mainly due to transport pollution and construction dust.

Our country is the most urbanised, most densely populated, and smallest Member State in the European Union. The continuous reduction of green lungs and open spaces for public use has created greater awareness on environmental issues. . The out of control construction is detrimental to Malta's architectural landscape, but it also means that towns are suffering the release of enormous amounts of dust that have big implications on everyone's health. Time is of the essence. We must safeguard what remains of Malta's natural environment for future generations. We owe it to them and to us that we preserve a Malta that is a good place to live. We must also not overlook the importance of our tourism sector and the impact of environmental degradation on those visiting our country. We face many challenges in this area.   

In Malta, premature deaths due to air pollution continue to rise. Heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and lung cancer are the common reasons for premature death and air pollution is linked with these diseases. Emissions from motor-vehicles are the largest source of pollution in Malta. This can take in the form of road transport, however ships sailing or bunkering just off the Maltese coast generate more toxic emissions than our domestic energy production. The number of premature deaths related to air pollution in Malta is also higher than the EU average.

Air pollution also has a significant societal and economic impact, increasing medical costs and reducing productivity through lost working days. The negative effects air pollution has on society is of great concern. We must reduce exposure to harmful elements of pollution through legislation, cooperation with various sectors responsible for polluting, and through research.  

The EU should be a pioneer in creating and using carbon-free and low carbon technologies, as well as in the clean-tech sector. The transport sector needs a rapid decrease in the use of fossil fuels and a major cut in the production of greenhouse gases. These objectives will never be achieved without the full deployment of sustainable and safe low-carbon energy sources to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. It is imperative that more integrated, cost-effective EU mechanisms to support renewable energy technologies are developed. This will lead to a reduction of the mortality rate of deaths related to air pollution by 55%.

In the European Parliament PN MEPs have been strongly committed to protecting the environment and the fight against climate change. It was always and remains high on our agenda. This is one area that truly necessitates a European and global approach. The consequences of a deteriorating environment are not confined by man-made borders. The European Parliament has played a very decisive role in this area.

We must support the development of comprehensive strategies and action plans to tackle traffic congestion and other industrial and agricultural pollution sources. It is necessary to reduce emissions and set limits and target values for air quality.

In Malta one way to improve air quality is to get cars off the roads. And one clear way to do that is through an effective mass transport system. Mass transport is not just about alleviating the major congestion issues and allowing people get from one place to another in a less stressful manner.  It is about our health. The proposal that formed part of the PN's manifesto in the last election showed very clearly that this was not dependent on massive further increases in population with all the issues that causes.

Improving air quality is achievable and it must be a priority. I will be pushing for legislation for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and investments in alternative energy sources. I aim to encourage support for current EU legislation concerning air pollution. It is crucial that we work together to achieve the goals for improved air quality and reductions in pollution-related mortality rates across Europe.

David Casa PN MEP and one of the PN candidates for the MEP elections

 

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