Plastics to be banned by 2022 but no date for conversion to electric cars

Except for the innovative concept of green bonds, the Budget mostly renews previously announced measures promoting electric cars, renewable energy and significantly a ban on single-use plastics

There is still no date for a cut-off date for conversion to electric cars as promised last year and more studies are promised before a final decision on mass transit system.

Except for the innovative concept of green bonds, the Budget mostly renews previously announced measures promoting electric cars, renewable energy and significantly a ban on single-use plastics

Last year’s budget which coincided with heightened global awareness on climate change brought to the fore by activist Greta Thunberg admonishing world leaders to get their act in order, came with a promise to set a date for the electric conversion of Malta’s car fleet, a decision which was to be taken some time in 2020.

But the decision, which has widespread social implications but is vital for reducing carbon emissions, was not taken as promised in a year dominated by the pandemic. Neither does the budget contain a date, despite a recognition in the same budget that COVID-19 had brought greater awareness on the link between traffic and air quality.

Green bonds to fund green projects

The two most significant environmental measures are the issue of green bonds by the Malta Stock Exchange to finance renewable energy projects and others aimed at reducing pollution and the restatement of last year’s commitment to stop the imports of single use plastics like plastic straws in 2021 and to ban their sale in 2022.

The budget hints that the issue of green bonds will be accompanied by an attractive package for investors but is scant on detail on what kind of fiscal incentives will apply and what specific projects will be financed.

Cars, some carrots and no sticks

While failing to identify a date for the conversion for electric cars, the budget does set the groundwork, through the installation of 130 fast and medium fast charging pillars which will be available to the public.

Fiscal measures in favour of electric cars have also been extended.

Moreover, the government is also leading by example in embarking on the conversion of its own public sector car fleet.

But instead of a cut-off date the budget comes with a promise to conduct a “study” on this issue in 2021.

As regards car use the budget contains no sticks but foresees a new registration system for owners who use their cars only on weekends and public holidays.

Those choosing this option will benefit from a 35% annual reduction in the payment of license fees.

More studies promised

But the budget once again falls short of a decision on a mass transit system.  The budget announces that the first part of a study on an underground light rail system has been concluded.

But the second part of the study consisting geotechnical and seismic investigations is to be conducted in the next year.

It is only after the conclusion of this study that the government will be in a position to take a decision on whether the project is viable or not.

As regards land use the budget announces a new scheme to encourage private residences and shops to create green walls.

The budget also reiterates the commitment to extend the Ta’ Qali national park, a project, which was first announced in 2019.

The budget also refers to the revision of the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Planning which is the most important policy regulating development in Malta but falls short of any commitment on revising the local plans, a process commenced in 2013 but which was subsequently stalled.

As regards the countryside the budget refers to the setting up of a new unit of rangers, which would “help” the public understand better the diversity in sensitive areas by avoiding activities, which cause harm to biodiversity.

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