The Malta Independent 25 May 2024, Saturday
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PN again appeals to government to discuss bill that would include environment as a fundamental right

Tuesday, 23 April 2024, 15:35 Last update: about 1 month ago

The PN on Tuesday again appealed to the government to push a bill that would include the environment as a fundamental right onto Parliament's agenda, and to take a collective vote in support of it.

PN MPs Rebekah Borg and Darren Carabott, as well as PN MEP candidate Norma Camilleri, spoke about the country's environmental problems, with government failing to make daily important and conscious decisions for the environment.

Borg said that in a parliamentary question she had made to Environment Minister Miriam Dalli, it was revealed that almost 4,000 protected trees were uprooted and transplanted from their original places since 2017. These only include trees which are protected by law.

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She continued that trees along a stretch of road in Gozo are also due to be uprooted, deeming the reasons for doing so as invalid.

"How can government truly say it has the environment at its heart," Borg said, questioning if the environment is truly government's priority, as marketed on a PL billboard.

Borg said that the government engages in greenwashing, where it promises it will do many things for the environment, yet is doing the opposite by uprooting trees.

She appealed for the bill that would include the environment as one of the fundamental rights of the individual in Malta's constitution to be discussed in Parliament, and that both parties should support and vote in favour.

Carabott said that the PN wants to grant the highest level of protection to the environment, and said that the PN's bill has been on Parliament's desk, accumulating dust, since June of last year.

He said that if the environment becomes a fundamental right, no government can go against this right, nor would the people need to go to court to defend and explain this right.

Carabott said that the bill also provides the tools for enforcement, as the law is there to serve as a deterrent, with each authority being responsible for the decisions it makes on the environment.

Carabott said Minister Dalli was lying when she, as well as Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms Rebecca Buttigieg, said that the environment is already a fundamental right, and challenged her to mention an instance when this right was enforced.

He said that PL MEP Cyrus Engerer also said that government should agree to the principle of having the environment as a fundamental right to the individual.

Carabott called on more Labourites to come out in agreement with the PN's proposal, and vote in favour in Parliament, to have better access to enforcement and to better protect the environment.

He mentioned that this environment should include the country's air quality, sea quality, ecosystems, open spaces, workplaces, built environment, rural environment, and more, mentioning that thousands in Malta suffer from respiratory diseases as the country classifies in the worst category for air quality in the European Union.

Camilleri spoke in the local and European context, where she pointed out that supposedly, in less than six years, each EU country is to reduce 55% of their greenhouse emissions.

"How can this be done when traffic is increasing, rather than decreasing, and only 3% of thousands of vehicles in Malta are electric," Camilleri said.

She said that respiratory diseases and poor air quality affects mental health, and spoke about a lack of enforcement on all sectors, mentioning the disposal of toxic waste onto Natura2000 zones, or people proceeding with barbecues in protected areas.

Camilleri said that government is the primary entity responsible for the environment, as it needs to create policies and provide resources, such as a financial budget allocated to the Local Council to manage organisations related to the environment.

She appealed for the Cleansing Department to assure that this summer, bins around the coast and bays are emptied frequently, and spoke about issues of noise pollution, revising the rural policy design guidance, as well as implementing a protection status for agricultural land.

Camilleri said that each activity of any kind happens in an environment, and if the environment is not strong, the economic activity would not be strong.

She said that there needs to be a balance between long-term and short-term goals, and a holistic plan for improving the environment.


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