The Malta Independent – 13th September 2008, by Michael Carabott –
The environment has been placed so high on the government’s agenda that it is one of three equal pillars, along with the economy and education, said Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi yesterday.

Dr Gonzi was speaking during a round-table meeting with stakeholders in the environment sector at the Hotel Excelsior as part of the run up to the Nationalist Party’s independence celebrations on the theme: Together, with commitment.

Dr Gonzi said that when dealing with the environment, one had to talk and evaluate matters with substance. “Some of the decisions of the past haunt us, but the important thing is to learn from them,” he said. Dr Gonzi said that one of the most difficult things for a small country such as Malta is to strike the balance that leads to sustainable development, especially in view of the very high population density. He said that the environmental was a very complex web which is intrinsically linked to many others. “You have the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, development permits, light pollution, dust, barbecues, police, wardens, heritage, culture, green spaces, littering, village cores, climate change, house loans… these are all linked together along with many more,” he said.

Dr Gonzi said that climate change was a particularly important matter on the agenda. “Not many people realise that if current sea levels rise by two inches, our natural water table will quite simply be ruined.”

He said that in 10 to 15 years, Malta was aiming to reach its obligations on CO2 emissions and other targets. “Yes, we have challenges, but we also have a tool that we have never had before and that is e855m to overcome them,” he said,

Dr Gonzi said that the days of using water and power as if it grew on trees were over. “We need to curb our consumption and yes, we also need to get in gear on the matter of solar and wind energy production,” he said.

Dr Gonzi said that land-based wind farms were out of the question for Malta, and deep sea technology to place them offshore was still not reliable enough. “However, we have had developments on wind energy generation and we will be announcing some new options that we have in front of us in the near future,” he said.

The Prime Minister also said that Malta needed to look at how it constructs buildings and dwellings in an effort to make them more energy-saving. “We also want to look at increasing green and open spaces with parks and recreation areas. Maghtab, which was a mess, will be a flagship of what we are trying to bring about,” he said.

He also said that the country needed to step up its efforts in waste separation and that plans to build an animal centre in Ta’ Qali were almost completely approved at the MEPA stage.

Dr Gonzi was flanked by deputy leader Tonio Borg, Minister George Pullicino and MEP Simon Busuttil.