The Malta Independent 5 August 2021, Thursday

Watch: PL in transition from focus on economy to environment – Farrugia

Jake Aquilina Thursday, 17 June 2021, 07:51 Last update: about 3 months ago

When it was first elected, the Labour Government set its sights on reducing unemployment and gearing up the economy, but now it is shifting towards a more environmentally aware strategy, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning Aaron Farrugia told The Malta Independent.

Last Sunday, during an interview, the Prime Minister said that the Labour Government has the environment at heart. It was met with widespread criticism on social media platforms, as many people were left disappointed by the way that certain decisions which had a negative effect on the environment were being taken.

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Asked about this reaction, Minister Farrugia said that the Labour Government was initially more focused on wanting to improve the economic situation and create jobs; now it is putting the environment “at the top of the agenda”.

“I think that in 2013, the Labour Government had different challenges. It focused on reducing unemployment and incentivising the economy, and we did it. In truth, the attention was put a lot on how the economy will grow,” he told this newspaper. “As we did in the past 7 years, I believe that we have started to gather momentum to move towards an ecological and environmental transition to continue balancing these two sectors.”

However, the Minister said that “this won’t mean that the government will abandon the economic sector”. The government “will continue to work on so that we give people more jobs and better quality of life.” Rather, this is an additional shift so that the environment is given more importance than it was in the previous years, he said.

Farrugia said that people showed trust in the Labour Party when it comes to the environment “as in 2013, they chose the Labour Government and in 2017 they chose the Labour Government with more votes. Another general election is coming up, and the people will make their judgement,” he said.

The minister observed that the Prime Minister “decided to combine planning with the environment”, which is the Ministry Farrugia oversees, and said that they “always work to reach this balance.”

“We find balance on two issues. First, with the big environmental projects that we are implementing without precedent. We have spent millions of euros in gardens, parks, vertical gardens, roof gardens, and so forth. Secondly, one has to look at the reforms that we have done in terms of construction,” the Minister said.

Farrugia also mentioned the “changes in fuel stations policy, rural policy, the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED) review that the Government is currently undertaking.”

On the latter, the minister said that the information to be obtained from it will help the government decide “what types of buildings and how many we need in the 20, 30 and 40 years that will follow.” 

The government is additionally working on politics of aesthetics for the country, "which the country doesn't have," he said. "In truth, while I understand this sector is controversial and sensitive, someone needs to wake up in the morning and decide between planning and development.”

He defended the development that takes place in the country, saying that “it is important, as the people get their bread and butter from it.” However, he said that the government is “conscious enough that we have put the Environment at the top of the agenda, and we need to continue working every day to reach this goal.”

The minister referred to the Low Carbon Development Strategy for Malta this week, which is an ambitious but well-needed plan to tackle emissions in our country and for the country to do its part when it comes to climate change.

“[On Tuesday] we announced this plan [and] I am extremely happy about it. The story lies in our hands now. This is a very ambitious goal that our country is taking because it believes in the environment and we want our children to have cleaner air, more than we had in past years,” he said.

The minister also left the door open to criticism, saying that it helps the Government be a “better version” of itself.  

“The truth is we need to continue to explain; I do understand certain criticism. We welcome, understand and encourage people and NGOs to continue to criticise us, so it helps us to be a better version than we were yesterday,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

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