The Malta Independent 5 December 2021, Sunday

A future based on a green economy

Thursday, 21 October 2021, 08:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

Aaron Farrugia

There is no more noble and more important duty than to ensure that our children inherit a country that is strong and healthy, that has a liveable community, social safety nets, opportunities for growth and functioning ecosystems. A country that they would want to live in, an environment they would be proud of.

The theme of Budget 2022 has encompassed precisely this sentiment. And in order to achieve this, we cannot shy away from discussing the very real challenges that we face: financial limitations, our small size as a country, water scarcity, the sustainability of sectors such as construction.

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COVID-19 has had devastating impacts globally. Due to our resistant economy and the government's impactful measures we have ensured that industry and businesses remain afloat and our residents continue to enjoy a good quality of life, while government continues to address our country's biggest challenges. We have said that a post-COVID recovery will be green, and this is clearly evidenced by this green budget.

Going green does not mean tree-hugging, it doesn't mean stopping development, but it also doesn't mean ignoring the realities of our people who are crying out load for more green spaces, for more of mother nature. Going green means creating a balance between people's need to grow and develop, to have comfortable homes, and to have access to nature-based recreational spaces where our children can appreciate the world as nature intended it not as man has fashioned it.  Going green means giving nature the space to recreate itself, giving this wonderful miracle of life the chance to thrive. In Budget 2022 it was announced that Inwadar National Park will become the largest afforested area after Buskett, covering half a million square metres and with 52,000 trees. New urban green areas in Zabbar, Qormi, Hamrun, and Mosta through projects by GreenServ will become a reality and the regeneration of family parks and intensification of works on the National Park in Ta' Qali will result in around 60,000 trees planted. The Environment and Resources Authority & Ambjent Malta will continue work on Management Plans on Natura 2000 sites; intensify the works on Comino, il-Magħluq ta' Marsaskala, Victoria Lines, and Għadira s-Safra.

As government we are fully cognisant that other crises are in full swing: climate change is threatening to cause widespread upheaval unless humanity addresses the much-needed reduction in greenhouse gases emissions as well as the spiralling loss of biodiversity and damage to ecosystems and the environment that surrounds us. 

Climate action is clearly at the very top of the agenda with Budget 2022 including measures such as free public transport for all, home ​​visits to vulnerable households to help them become more energy-efficient, more assistance to NGOs and sports organisations to invest in energy-efficiency, establishment of funds so that more public buildings use solar energy, more investment to enable the use of fast ferry services on Malta.

An existing grant to scrap polluting vehicles was raised by €1,000 in Gozo in a further effort to speed up the process to make this island carbon-neutral. Apart from this, the grant to purchase an electric or hybrid vehicle was increased by €3,000.

No registration tax and no road license will be needed for the first 5 years of a newly registered electric or hybrid car, 1,200 charging points for electric vehicles will be installed, and a new Malta Enterprise scheme will help firms convert to using electric vehicles. Our EV schemes are the most advantageous in the EU. A monitoring board will be set up to assess adherence to our Low Carbon Development Strategy.

In the construction sector, an entire reform is underway. The newly-established Building and Construction Authority will address a number of issues including enforcement and regulation through new measures, some of which have already started to be implemented. Other budget measures which will serve to further improve the way we plan and build include a set of measures aimed to preserve Maltese heritage through incentives in the property market. There will be no stamp duty or capital gains tax on the sale of certain vacant properties, properties in UCAs or properties that have traditional Maltese features. Those purchasing certain vacant properties, properties in UCAs or properties that have traditional Maltese features can receive a VAT grant of up to €54,000. First-time buyers purchasing vacant properties, properties in UCAs or properties that have traditional Maltese features will also get a grant of €15,000, rising to €30,000 if the property is in Gozo. Apart from this, the Planning Authority will be launching an Aesthetics Policy which will guide our planning principles towards smarter, better-looking planning and construction which truly respects our islands' topography and character.

Traditional linear models of production and consumption have proven to have a devastating impact. A business-as-usual approach is no longer viable.  We cannot continue consuming beyond the planet's limits, and this means that our type of economy requires a significant shift. We are working to revolutionise the waste management sector and shift our economy to a circular one; Budget 2022 includes the €500 million investment in ECOHIVE, the largest investment into waste management our country has ever seen. This investment will work hand-in-hand with other recent reforms in this sector, including the Long-Term Waste Management strategy, to drive the country towards a circular economy with all waste streams being reutilised to their full potential, and move Malta away from over-reliance on landfilling, once and for all.

Aaron Farrugia is the Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning

 


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