Malta has been without a sustainable development commission for three years but the government insists this has not hampered its efforts to implement a strategy drawn up by the now-defunct institution.
The commission was meant to oversee the implementation of the strategy approved by the government in 2008.
A spokesman for the Environment Parliamentary Secretariat in the Office of the Prime Minister said the government was committed to the principle that sustainability be “integrated” into government policies and the daily decisions made by “the government, the private sector, civil society and individuals”.
Just before Parliament rose for the summer recess, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, who is responsible for environment matters, confirmed that the National Sustainable Development Commission was disbanded in 2008 after the government approved the sustainable development strategy.
Dr Gonzi also confirmed that the commission had last met in 2006 when three meetings were held.
Writing in The Times recently, Alternattiva Demokratika environment spokesman Carmel Cacopardo criticised the state of affairs, adding the action plan to implement the sustainable strategy was transformed into “a dead letter”.
“I doubt whether there was ever any intention to implement such a declaration,” Mr Cacopardo wrote. The commission had been set up in terms of the Environment Protection Act and was intended to fulfil an objective of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
But the parliamentary secretariat said the government’s commitment would be strengthened with a new law, now before Parliament, that would place the responsibility for sustainable development at the highest level of government. The Sustainable Development Bill will be presented for the second reading when Parliament reconvenes in October.
“Enacting this legislation is a bold step forward because sustainable development will, by law, need to be integrated in the workings of the public sector,” the spokesman said. The competent authority responsible for sustainable development, he added, would use the 2006 strategy as its departure point. However, the authority would also take stock of what had been achieved to date and what developments occurred that needed to be taken into account.
The spokesman said the environmental actions identified within the strategy were being implemented and some targets, such as bathing water quality, had already been achieved. Another aspect of the strategy is the creation of a national environment policy, which the spokesman said would be issued for public consultation in September.
The government was also tackling the social and economic aspects of the strategy that dealt with economic growth, employment and labour productivity, labour force participation of women, health and education.
“Other actions outlined in the strategy relating to cross-cutting issues are in the process of being implemented, with some of the actions envisaged to be finalised by the end of 2012,” the spokesman said.