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Where do MEP candidates stand on environmental protection?

Birdlife puts 10 questions to each MEP candidate on issues ranging from climate change to hunting, and from ODZ development to fisheries.

Birdlife Malta has called on all MEP candidates to answer 10 questions on environmental issues such as ODZ development, transport, climate change, fisheries and the hunting and trapping of birds, for voters to assess their stand on issues of concern.

The organisation’s ‘manifesto’ has been sent to all candidates, the organisation said in a statement, adding that the aim was to pick apart each individual’s intentions and commitment to both the environment. The issues that arise will be debated at an event organised by Birdlife in the run up to the European Parliamentary elections on 3 May. 

This is about putting “the natural environment on the agenda,” Birdlife said. Here’s a look at what they’re asking, and why.

Protecting nature

Birdlife points out that Malta is on course to miss its 2020 target of halting biodiversity loss. “Biodiversity continues to vanish, mainly due to intensive farming, damaging infrastructure development and serious under financing of effective conservation action”.

The first question in the list relates to a European Commission’s evaluation which notes that the EU only finances between 9-19% of what is needed to implement Natura 2000. Candidates are asked if they agree that the the budget needs to increase and whether they intend to prioritise the protection of biodiversity.

Another report by the European Commissions said the government must “pull its socks up” on Natura 2000 site designation process and management. Candidates are asked how they would ensure that Malta meets its obligations, as well as whether they would protect the “ever-decreasing Outside Development Zones (ODZ)”.

An additional two questions tackle the issue of Nature Directives, and ask “are you comfortable with Malta derogating from these Directives solely for the enjoyment of a small party of the population, such as for hunting in spring, and trapping?”

Bringing oceans back from the brink

Birdlife has focused on two main issues: The protection of sensitive species and habitats, and fishing quotas.

“Due to inadequate implementation and wrong targeting of funds, oceans continue degrading because of human activities, resulting in seabird bycatch, pollution, uncoordinated offshore development and climate change. EU institutions have repeatedly put the short term interests of powerful fishing lobbies before scientific advice,” the organisation said.

Earlier this year, the tuna laundering scandal broke involving the Director General of the Fisheries and Agriculture Department, Andreina Fenech Farrugia, allegedly taking bribes and abusing her position for years.

Birdlife questions seem to to point to this issue, asking: “Would you support taking fishing quotas and authorisations out of the direct control of EU member states (Ministers).” The organisation believes such decisions should be based on binding scientific advice and principles that would ensure stock recovery and the preservation of threatened species.

Giving Europe healthy food

The EU spends almost €60 billion each year for the Common Agricultural Policy which “supports the intensive model of agriculture that is damaging nature and climate,” Birdlife said. This is leading to a situation where smaller farms are at risk.

The loss of biodiversity as well as decreasing farmland and the pollution of water is driven by unsustainable farming. Birdlife is saying that MEPs should support the idea of allocating at least 50% of the EU budget to environmental and climate measures.

Preventing climate change

As Birdlife points out, the fight against climate change is one of the biggest challenges that our societies are facing today. As a result, there is a big need for a long-term climate protection strategy, including the transition to clean, renewable, and sustainable energy.

Birdlife first take this to an EU level, and ask whether candidates agree that the EU needs to “step up its climate change ambition”. This would include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55%, increasing energy efficiency by 40%, and upping the share of renewable energy by 45% before 2030.

The matter of Malta’s “alarming pollution readings” is also raised, and the manifesto asks: “How do you see Malta solving this health issue?” With only 1.5% of cars in the country running on electric, the cruise liner industry mentioned as a contributor to high air pollution levels, Birdlife asks whether MEP candidates would support the drive to designate the Mediterranean Sea as an Emission Control Area.

Waste and plastic

Increased awareness on plastics made it to the list of MEP candidate demands this year. Birdlife asks a simple question: “Do you support the removal of all single-use plastics across EU Member states?”

An investigation by The Shift News revealed the White Flag project as an elaborate scam run by a fraudster, endorsed by the government with Environment Minister Jose Herrera being hailed as “an environmental pioneer” on a project sponsors abandoned.

Environmental concerns require serious commitment and action, rather than cosmetic changes. The Birdlife campaign aims to get MEP candidates to put their words in action.

Petra Caruana Dingli at The Shift News

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