Labour and PN play tug of war with the environment, both claim it's top priority

Environment Minister José Herrera announced that he is working on a legislation with an August deadline that would empower the Environment and Resources Authority to impose environmental conditions on every development project approved by the Planning Authority

Joseph Muscat and Adrian Delia focus on the environment ahead of the local council and MEP elections
Joseph Muscat and Adrian Delia focus on the environment ahead of the local council and MEP elections

At Labour and Nationalist Party political activities on Wednesday, both party leaders spoke extensively, almost exclusively, on the environment.

PN and Opposition leader Adrian Delia and Labour leader and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat dedicated Wednesday evening's proceedings to the natural environment with the former claiming that government had completely forgotten the environment and the latter saying that the environment was a priority.

"There is no zero-sum game because when decisions are taken, such as the development of new and improved factory buildings, some land will be taken up but when these decisions are taken they are taken holistically," Muscat told the Birzebbugia crowd, adding that open recreational spaces were on the government's agenda.

"We started with the basic measures first such as resorting to the cleaner natural gas powerstation. That, in itself, was an environmental measure. The next thing we'll be tackling is cars. We will be transitioning slowly to electric vehicles," he continued.

Joseph Muscat at a political activity in Birzebbugia
Joseph Muscat at a political activity in Birzebbugia

On the other hand at a political activity in Zejtun, Delia said that Muscat was a hypocrite with regards to clean energy.

"Joseph Muscat used to say that he wanted to close down the 'cancer factory'," Delia said, referring to the old Marsa powerstation. "Instead, now, we have a country that is a giant industrial estate that constantly pollutes.

"600 people are dying before their time every year because of the polluted air. The government's solution? Spending €700 million of your money on roads to make space for even more cars on the road."

Delia referred to a recent Eurostat report that revealed that Malta has increased its carbon emissions by 6.7% since last year. He said that instead of government investing in inhalers, it was spending €700,000 of taxpayer money for a marketing campaign to tell the electorate that there were no environmental problems.

Adrian Delia at a political activity in Zejtun
Adrian Delia at a political activity in Zejtun

"Where are the open spaces? Nowhere. Where is the clean energy? Malta has the potential and resources for sustainable energy but the government hasn't found someone with whom it can make millions in this regard. We have the lowest energy target in Europe and we still haven't reached this goal," Delia said, adding that the PN was making a serious commitment to make the environment a priority.

Muscat, in Birzebbugia, accused the PN of not being credible on this issue. Environment Minister José Herrera, who was present for the activity, said that while the government was investing in the afforestation of the Benghajsa area in Birzebbugia, a PN administration wanted to use that land in the past to expand the Freeport.

"I am also announcing that I am currently in talks with the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and the Planning Authority (PA) to come up with a new legislation by the end of August. This will aim to grant ERA the power to impose environmental conditions on every project that is approved by the PA," Herrera said.

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