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‘Construction industry well beyond its carrying capacity’ – Church environment commission

A country’s economic development will surely falter if the quality of its environment and its social fabric are not given priority

The policy document on sustainable development completely ignores the “root cause of problems” such as the construction industry and the excessive number of vehicles on the roads, the Church’s environment commission said.

In its submission in the consultation exercise related to Malta’s Sustainable Development Vision for 2050, the Interdiocesan Environment Commission (KA) also warned that the country’s economic development will surely falter if the quality of its environment and its social fabric are not given priority.

“There are issues, such as the excessive number of private cars populating our roads and the negative impacts on the sustainability of the construction industry, which have been completely disregarded by the document despite being the root cause of problems. The construction industry has gone well beyond its carrying capacity and is impacting negatively our living spaces and social fabric,” the KA said.

While commending the environment ministry for presenting a long‑term vision for sustainability and for relating it with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it found it “rather strange that in a document addressing sustainable development in a densely populated country like Malta the concepts of ‘carrying capacity’ and ‘limits to growth’ are not sufficiently explored.”

It added that “one needs to examine whether what goes into increasing our Gross Domestic Product is, in fact, contributing to the sustained wellbeing of current and particularly future generations.”

Among others the KA said government should tackle the causes of issues, not their symptoms. On the need to integrate environmental, social and economic policies, the KA said the document, “repeats the mistake of addressing them separately. A country’s economic development will surely falter if the quality of its environment and its social fabric are not given priority.”

While saying that a wide consultation and participation of citizens is key to generating ownership and consequently implementation of the sustainable development strategy, the KA warned that “participation cannot be relegated to a once‑in‑every‑5‑years approval of an electoral manifesto.”

Pointing out that education is crucial towards achieving sustainability, the commission highlighted the lack of proper education, particularly of policymakers and local councils.

However it commended the proposed upskilling and development of an adaptable flexible workforce. “This would help Malta move away from unsustainable short‑term gains for the few who profit from a pro‑business approach to long‑term benefits for the community who would gain from a pro‑person approach to economy.”

Sustainable development should fall under Prime Minister’s responsibilities 

Among its recommendations, the KA suggested that sustainable development should no longer fall under the responsibility of the environment ministry but should be absorbed by the Prime Minister’s Office.

“As to responsibility at ministerial level, various ministries tend to be too focused on their own remit to respond to sustainability issues. Moreover, housing sustainable development within the Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change tends to reinforce the misconception that sustainable development deals with ‘environmental stuff’. Consequently, the KA suggests that SD should form part of the portfolio of the prime minister.”

Moreover, the KA suggested the creation of a parliamentary committee made up of both sides of the House that decides on a national sustainable development strategy with its accompanying policy actions.

While saying that commitment at all levels is important, the KA urged government “to do its part.” It said sustainable development implementation at times might require positive discrimination of policies to safeguard the environment and promote social wellbeing over short‑term economic gains,

The KA added that the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) should evolve into the Malta Council for Sustainable Development (MCSD), and consultants on matters concerning development should be chosen from a cohort of persons who know what sustainable development means.

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