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You are here: Home / The European environment – state and outlook 2010 / Country assessments / Malta / Country profile - Distinguishing factors (Malta)

Country profile - Distinguishing factors (Malta)

SOER Country profile from Malta
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011

Malta’s small-island state nature, high population density and location at the southern tip of Europe are important distinguishing factors that set Malta apart from many other European nations. These characteristics, particularly its strategic location, have driven much of its socio-economic and cultural history, and thus land cover (Map 1). These factors have also influenced its governance style and practices, which over the last decade have been under review in the light of the EU membership. They also influence which environmental issues are viewed with most concern. For example, the emblematic environmental issues of the eighties and nineties were mainly land-use and waste-related.

Land Cover By Type (2006)

Map 1: Land cover by type (2006)

Environmental Governance

The responsibility for environment lies with the Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, the Environment and Culture within the Office of the Prime Minister. Within this context, the Malta Environment & Planning Authority (MEPA) has the responsibility for environmental protection and development planning. In some areas, such as with respect to climate change, responsibility for environmental issues falls under another ministry – in this case the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs.

Environmental policy and implementation is largely carried out at national level due to the nation’s small size. However, local authorities also have an important role in environmental management. They are responsible for waste collection, management of local urban green areas, traffic management and parking, and urban embellishment. MEPA is the competent authority for implementing the 2001 Environment Protection Act, including responsibility for environmental monitoring, nature protection including area management, waste policy and regulation, and permitting and enforcing activities with the potential to cause serious pollution. MEPA is currently undergoing a reform process, which should increase resources for environmental protection.

 

Climate

Malta’s climate is typically Mediterranean – with long hot summers and mild winters. The islands are windswept, relatively humid (with humidity averaging 65-80 %), warm (the mean from 1990-2005 was 19.02 oC), and bright (an average of 8.07 hours of sunshine daily during the period 1990-2005).1 Average rainfall is highly variable but was 466.1 mm in this period. The islands’ natural water resources are entirely rain-fed, while over half of the drinking water produced by Malta’s major supplier is sourced from desalinated sea water (link to water chapter of TER 2008). The only mineral resources of note are Globigerina and Coralline Limestone, both of which are used in construction, a fact that gives Malta’s built heritage particular conservation interest.

In common with other Mediterranean countries, and also due to its small island Geography, Malta is particularly at risk from climate change (link to climate change chapter of Malta TER 2008). The IPPC’s Fourth Assessment Report2 states that small islands have characteristics that make them especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, sea-level rise, and extreme weather events. Indeed, Malta is expected to suffer moderate impacts from climate change,3 mainly related to drought, deterioration of freshwater quality and availability, increased risk of floods, soil and coastal erosion, desertification, changes in sea level and biodiversity loss and degradation.  With 100 % of the population living in coastal areas, mostly in densely populated coastal settlements, the challenge of climate change adaptation is a serious one for Malta.

 

1 National Statistics Office. 2006. Environment Statistics, Project implemented under the technical supervision of Eurostat and Plan Bleu, National Statistics Office, Malta.

2 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 2007. Climate Change 2007: Synthesis report. An Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC.

3 MRAE (Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment). 2004. The First Communication of Malta to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Report prepared by the University of Malta Physics Department (Sammut, C.V. and Micallef, A.) for the Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment, April 2004.

 

 

1 National Statistics Office. 2006. Environment Statistics, Project implemented under the technical supervision of Eurostat and Plan Bleu, National Statistics Office, Malta.

2 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 2007. Climate Change 2007: Synthesis report. An Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC.

3 MRAE (Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment). 2004. The First Communication of Malta to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Report prepared by the University of Malta Physics Department (Sammut, C.V. and Micallef, A.) for the Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment, April 2004.

 

Malta obtained independence in 1964. In 1967, Malta had a population of 314 216 persons,4 with 6 240 persons employed in agriculture, 9 770 in services, and 18 580 in manufacturing. In 1985, the population was estimated at 345 418, and the employment structure was as follows: 4 608 employed in agriculture, 25 188 in services, and 31 690 in manufacturing. At the end op 2008, the population was 413 6095 and the employment figures stood at: 2.8 % in agriculture, 77 % in services, and 16.7 % in manufacturing. These changes were results of a modernisation of the economy and ongoing policy direction to encourage the development of the industrial and services sectors (including tourism). These changes resulted in Malta obtaining developed-country status in the United Nations in the last decade of the 20th Century.

 

During the period following independence, Malta experienced a period of significant economic development, in part related to tourism and ownership of housing, which sparked a construction boom. This resulted in the urbanisation of significant coastal and rural areas, which continues today, as Maltese households prefer to live in more newly-urbanised areas rather than the older historic settlements. As historic centres are valorised, there is an increase in demand for such housing.

 

From an environmental policy perspective, the main difference between the 1950-1980 period and the 1980-2010 period is that the later period saw the development of increasing environmental awareness in the population, which resulted in the enactment of Malta’s first environmental legislation in the 1991 Environmental Protection Act and its daughter regulations. Furthermore, in 1992, the Development Planning Act set in place a land-use planning system based on a national structure plan, to address land-use issues.

 

Following its 2004 accession to the EU, Malta invested heavily in environmental infrastructure and regulation, and the new Environment Protection Act was enacted in 2001, under which some 250 pieces of subsidiary legislation had been passed by 2008. Some improvements, such as with respect to air pollution, soon became apparent.6 At the same time, the increased availability and lower prices of imported goods have increased household consumption, with impacts on environmental issues such as waste generation, energy use and transport. The latter give an indication of the level of demands required from the natural and physical environment and which given time, may recover slowly. With the rise in climate change awareness, society is gradually investing into alternative sustainable solutions such as renewable energy sources, with the possibility of Government covering a percentage of their capital cost.

Research on the impact of immigration is still somewhat new and thus synergistic efforts are required to effectively identify the impact(s) that such a phenomenon is leaving on the islands (water usage, waste production, energy consumption and others) in concert with tourism, particularly in peak seasons7.

 

4 NSO (National Statistics Office). 2007. Census of Population and Housing 2005, Volume 1: Population,

NSO, Valletta. (http://nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2048, accessed on 4th November 2009).

5 NSO (National Statistics Office). 2009. Demographic Review 2008, NSO, Valletta.

(http://nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2550, accessed on 4th March 2010).

6 http://www.mepa.org.mt/ter.

7 http://www.msp.gov.mt/ministry/content.asp?id=796

 

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