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Malta

Country profile (Malta)

What distinguishes the country?

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

 

What have been the major societal developments?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

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

 

What are the main drivers of environmental pressures?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Demography and land use

At the end of 2008, Malta’s population was estimated to have reached 413 609, up by 2.6 % since 2004, higher than the EU-27 average population increase of 1.8 % for that period. Malta remains the most densely populated EU Member State,8 with an average of 1 309 persons per km2 in 2008,9 increasing by 9.08 % or 109 persons per square kilometre (km2) between 1995 and 2005.10 The continued movement of population from older urban areas around the main harbour into newer coastal settlements is a matter of concern as it represents inefficient use of land and dwellings (Map 2). This has also had the effect of habitat fragmentation in certain areas.

 

Population Density Change

 

Source: NSO (National Statistics Office). 2007. Census of Population and Housing

2005, Volume 1: Population, NSO, Valletta

Map 2: Population density change 1995-2005

Note: Due to changes in locality boundaries of certain councils in the intercensal period (particularly at Rabat and St.

Paul’s Bay), densities for 1995 and 2005 are not directly comparable in these regions.

 

Housing

The housing industry is responsible for a sizeable share of construction activity, and trends in housing permissions (Chart 1) provide a snapshot of the pressures on land from construction. New dwelling permissions amounted to 6 836 in 2008, decreasing by 40 % between 2007 and 2008, most likely reflecting the economic climate. Nonetheless, the amount of housing permissions granted still heavily exceeds the annual increase in need of new dwellings, which may be estimated at 2 000 dwelling units per annum.11 In parallel with these trends, the number of vacant homes in the islands has continued to rise. Vacant dwellings amounted to 27.6 % of total stock in 2005: a 49 % increase over 1995 figures.12 Permanently vacant dwellings (22.4 % of total stock) increased by 89 % (20 352) in this period.

 

Permissions for dwelling units and applications

Chart 1: Permissions for dwelling units and applications[1]


[1]               Housing permissions exceed total application in 2004-2007 due to the increasing trend for development applications to involve multiple dwelling units.

 

Tourism

Tourism is an important economic sector, but it places significant pressures on the environment due to additional consumption of resources (and related waste generation and transportation demand) and land take-up. Between 2004 and 2008, the annual average increase in tourist volumes was 3.44 %, accompanied by an annual average increase of 5.48 % in guest nights14 (Chart 2). In 2009, mainly due to the economic and financial crisis, tourism performance in terms of volume declined by 8.35 % compared to 2008, with a decline of 13.8 % over the corresponding period in 2008.15 Whilst tourism is by its very nature seasonal, Malta’s tourism industry is a year-round operation. The uneven distribution of tourists throughout the year remains a challenge as it subjects the environment and environmental infrastructure to high pressures in summer: during the period 2004-2008, the number of daily tourists in August increased by 4.9 %.16 At the same time, the less popular months allow some breathing space for the environmental resources.

 

Average daily number of tourists

 

 Chart 2: Average daily number of tourists

 

Energy

The inland consumption of fossil fuel provides an indication of fuel use and changing energy demand. Energy generation and transport are the principal consumers of primary energy in the form of fuels.

 

Between 2004 and 2008, fuel released for inland consumption increased by 14 %. The shift to lower-sulphur fuels was made in 2004, and leaded petrol was phased out in January 2003. In 2008, 68 % of fuels17 released for inland consumption went to electricity generation, six % more than in 2004.18 After a decade of overall growth, electricity generation decreased by almost 1 % between 2007 and 2008.

 

The nationwide introduction of smart meters will help raise awareness about electricity and water consumption whilst the higher water and electricity tariffs should encourage the better use of electricity and water to reflect real costs.

 

The promotion of energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy technologies is an integral and ongoing part of the national energy policy. 19

 

Electricity generation

 Chart 1.5: Electricity generation

 

Transport

Malta’s continued rise in vehicle numbers is a matter of concern due to the environmental and social impacts of private motor vehicle use. Registered motor vehicles reached 294 658 in 2008,20 increasing by 2.6 % between 2007 and 2008, and 8.7 % between 2004 and 2008. The high percentage of imports of older and more polluting second-hand vehicles is also of concern. The renewal of Malta’s car fleet with smaller and more efficient vehicles is urgently required and there is a need to make public transport alternatives at least as reliable and attractive as private car use.

 

Notwithstanding very high taxes on motor car purchases, motor vehicle numbers have continued to rise with registered motor vehicles reaching 294 658 in 2008,21 increasing by 2.6 % between 2007 and 2008. In 2009 the vehicle registration taxes were updated to include emission levels.  Developments are also under way towards making public transport alternatives as reliable and attractive as private car use, which should result in decreasing levels of low level pollutants and particulate matter.

 

More stringent fuel quality requirements for vessels in local ports came into force during the year and reduced emissions of SOx and particulate matter from ships are expected. However as global economic activity increases, Malta is likely to suffer increased pollution effects from passing maritime traffic.

 

Agriculture

 

Although it is small in terms of employment and contribution to GDP, the agriculture sector is a major environmental player. Agricultural practices may have serious impacts in terms of pollution, over-abstraction of groundwater, and introduction of alien species, on the countryside. However, good farming practices can positively influence countryside and landscape quality and sustain key environmental resources such as biodiversity, soil and water.

 

8 http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/eurostat/home/, accessed 28th May 2009.

http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/eurostat/home/, accessed 28th May 2009.

9 NSO (National Statistics Office). 2009. Demographic Review 2008, NSO, Valletta.(http://nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2550, accessed on 10th August 2009).

NSO (National Statistics Office). 2009. Demographic Review 2008, NSO, Valletta.(http://nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2550, accessed on 10th August 2009).

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

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

11 PA (Planning Authority). 2001. Demography Topic Paper, Final Draft May 2001, PA, Floriana. This estimate has lately been further substantiated by the fact that between the 1995 and the 2005 Census, the number of households grew by 17 percent or 20,000 households. See 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).

PA (Planning Authority). 2001. Demography Topic Paper, Final Draft May 2001, PA, Floriana. This estimate has lately been further substantiated by the fact that between the 1995 and the 2005 Census, the number of households grew by 17 percent or 20,000 households. See 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).

12 NSO (National Statistics Office). 2007. Census of Population and Housing 2005, Volume 2: Dwellings, NSO, Valletta. (http://nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2096, accessed on 4th November 2009).

NSO (National Statistics Office). 2007. Census of Population and Housing 2005, Volume 2: Dwellings, NSO, Valletta. (http://nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2096, accessed on 4th November 2009).

13 Housing permissions exceed total application in 2004-2007 due to the increasing trend for development applications to involve multiple dwelling units.

Housing permissions exceed total application in 2004-2007 due to the increasing trend for development applications to involve multiple dwelling units.

14 NSO (National Statistics Office). 2009. Departing tourists: December 2008, News Release No. 015/2009, 27 January 2009. (http://www.nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2413, accessed on 4th February 2009).

NSO (National Statistics Office). 2009. Departing tourists: December 2008, News Release No. 015/2009, 27 January 2009. (http://www.nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2413, accessed on 4th February 2009).

15 NSO (National Statistics Office). 2009. Departing tourists: June 2009, News Release No. 132/2009, 30 July 2009.  http://nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2548, accessed on 10th August 2009).

NSO (National Statistics Office). 2009. Departing tourists: June 2009, News Release No. 132/2009, 30 July 2009.  http://nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2548, accessed on 10th August 2009).

16 NSO.

NSO.

17 Gas oil and fuel oil.

Gas oil and fuel oil.

18 NSO.

NSO.

19 NSO (National Statistics Office). 2009. Motor Vehicles: Q4/2008, News Release No. 016/2009, 28 January 2009. (http://www.nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2414, accessed on 2nd February 2009).

NSO (National Statistics Office). 2009. Motor Vehicles: Q4/2008, News Release No. 016/2009, 28 January 2009. (http://www.nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2414, accessed on 2nd February 2009).

20 NSO (National Statistics Office). 2009. Motor Vehicles: Q4/2008, News Release No. 016/2009, 28 January 2009. (http://www.nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2414, accessed on 2nd February 2009).

NSO (National Statistics Office). 2009. Motor Vehicles: Q4/2008, News Release No. 016/2009, 28 January 2009. (http://www.nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2414, accessed on 2nd February 2009).

21 NSO (National Statistics Office). 2009. Motor Vehicles: Q4/2008, News Release No. 016/2009, 28 January 2009. (http://www.nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2414, accessed on 2nd February 2009).

NSO (National Statistics Office). 2009. Motor Vehicles: Q4/2008, News Release No. 016/2009, 28 January 2009. (http://www.nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2414, accessed on 2nd February 2009).

 

What are the foreseen developments?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

It is projected that the total population will continue to increase slowly (2.3 % overall) between 2008 and 2025, and then decrease progressively to reach 400 300 in 2050.22 In addition to demographic growth, it is expected that increasing living standards will place continuing pressure on the environment, particularly through growth in the sectors of housing and other land development, transport, and tourism.

 

With a decreasing mortality rate and increasing pressures on all resources, the strain on water availability, soil, land and marine resources is increasingly being felt. Projections for environmental pressures, including air emissions and waste generation, are in the process of being prepared. However, they indicate that the major challenges highlighted in the 2008 Environment Report, in the areas of waste management, biodiversity protection, land use, water management, and air pollution, particularly the control of traffic emissions, are expected to remain pressure points. The economic crisis has put additional pressure on the environmental regulator when it is facing significant challenges in implementing almost all the EU environmental aquis in a very limited timeframe. Changing lifestyle and leisure patterns place a significant weight on the environment and health of society at large. Hence current efforts are being directed towards achieving a low-carbon economy and society.

 

Environmental sustainability of the energy sector is one of the main objectives of the draft Energy Policy for Malta23. This policy advocates for the replacement of the old electricity generation plant with a new, more efficient plant, an electricity interconnector with Sicily, a reduction of energy consumption through measures such as those illustrated in the NEEAP24 and an increase in the renewable energy consumption according to a NREAP25. All these measures are expected to contribute towards reducing emissions to air. However, public commitment to reduce energy consumption will play a major role in the success of any national initiative aimed to reduce the impact of the energy sector on the environment.

Local media plays a major role in increasing environmental awareness and changing behaviour as the various strata of society are reached. Structural funds such as the ERDF and the Cohesion Fund investments are occurring in several schemes encouraging environmental ventures. At the same time, the overall high level of public support for environmental protection augurs well.

Recognising the environmental pressures facing the country, government has embarked on a process of formulating an environment policy for the Maltese Islands.

22 NSO (National Statistics Office). 2008. Demographic Review 2007, NSO, Valletta. (http://nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2325, accessed on 4th November 2009).

NSO (National Statistics Office). 2008. Demographic Review 2007, NSO, Valletta. (http://nso.gov.mt/statdoc/document_file.aspx?id=2325, accessed on 4th November 2009).

23 Draft energy policy for Malta, April 2009; http://www.mrra.gov.mt/htdocs/docs/Energy%20Policy%20for%20Malta.pdf, accessed on 30th March 2010

Draft energy policy for Malta, April 2009; http://www.mrra.gov.mt/htdocs/docs/Energy%20Policy%20for%20Malta.pdf, accessed on 30th March 2010

 

 

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