Environmental Policies

Key Findings
With challenges defined by its island geography, Malta scores relatively poorly (rank 32) in the area of environmental policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

The renewable-energy share remains very small, at just 6%. The country has had difficulties meeting renewable energy, energy efficiency and emissions targets, in part because of the high dependence on cars, the growing dependence on air conditioning, and reductions in forest and parkland cover. The country is buying Bulgaria’s extra emissions allowances.

Solar-power projects, an electrical interconnection line with Sicily and a planned gas-fired power station may ease this dependence in the future. A new waste-management plant is also in the works. The country suffers from scarce water resources, but a flood-relief plan aimed at collecting more water has helped systematize a previously spotty strategy.

Biodiversity is threatened by development, invasive species and climate change. A policy on this issue aims to halt biodiversity loss by 2020. However, the recent increase in building-permit grants and new policies for hunters will make this goal harder to reach.



How effectively does environmental policy protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment?


Environmental policy effectively protects, preserves and enhances the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.

Environmental policy largely protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.

Environmental policy insufficiently protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.

Environmental policy has largely failed to protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
Environmental Policy
Malta’s environmental challenges are complicated by large population density, a constant challenge to create employment opportunities, attract foreign investment and improve standards of living. As an EU member state, Malta is bound to fulfill key climate targets within the context of the Europe 2020 Strategy. Only 6% of Malta’s energy consumption was obtained from renewable energy sources; ongoing efforts are required to ensure that the established national target of 10% is met. Moreover, Malta is one of the few EU member states experiencing difficulties in staying on track with regard to renewable energy, energy efficiency and emissions not covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Consequently, Malta is paying several hundreds of thousands of euros for Bulgaria’s extra emission allowances. This shortcoming is largely a result of the country’s continued high dependence on cars, the growing dependency on air conditioning and the slow reduction in the island country’s forest and parkland area.

Several initiatives aimed at the targets have been undertaken. These include the generation of photovoltaic power, the establishment of photovoltaic farms, construction of an interconnected electricity system with Sicily, promotion of fuel-efficient cars, plans for a more cycle-friendly road network, the promotion of car-sharing facilities, free public transport access to young people and the construction of a gas-fired power station. A new waste management plant that will manage 40% of Malta’s waste is in the pipeline, while a differentiated waste-collection system that had previously been voluntary became mandatory at the end of October 2018. New regulations have been introduced to strengthen the environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure. The effect of these initiatives will primarily be felt in the future. Also, an assessment of government spending indicates that less is being spent on the environment than in previous years.

Fresh water is a scarce resource in Malta, yet until recently the government’s approach to this important issue was inconsistent and in general inadequate to protect the island country’s water reserves. The production of water for domestic and commercial use is heavily dependent on reverse-osmosis plants. To relieve pressure from reverse-osmosis water generation, a National Flood Relief Project was concluded at the end of 2015 with the aim of increasing the amount of water collected annually. Government re-piping has also reduced loss of water from leaky pipes by 35%, though theft still accounts for a loss of between a 1/5 and 1/4 of total production. Moreover, the 2015 – 2021 Water Catchment Management Plan for Malta identifies several key measures that need to be implemented if optimal water conservation is to be attained. The plan’s implementation is being supported by a €17 million EU-funded project. A €400,000 project to train businesses on water sustainability was also launched in October 2018.

The Maltese countryside is protected from unsustainable development through a regulatory process of permits and enforcement. Proposed amendments to the environment impact assessment regulation in order to correct identified and persistent shortcomings have been made. Nonetheless, EU data highlights the fact that Malta has one of the highest proportions of artificial land cover, coupled with a population density that is among the highest in the EU. The annual number of building permits for new dwellings has increased by 230% since 2013, with 283 approvals for dwellings in outside development zones in 2016. The Malta Environmental and Planning Authority (MEPA) has been restructured and is now divided into two separate entities (Planning Authority and Environment and Resource Authority) which are respectively responsible for planning and environmental issues. However, this split and many of the related changes have generated considerable controversy, including increased ministerial powers in the selection of board members, reducing the autonomy and independence of these boards and the strange anomaly that allows a representative of the environmental authority to sit on the planning authority boards only when invited to do so. A new agency called Ambjent Malta was established in August 2018. This is not a regulatory institution, but instead is intended to bring together every environmentally related directorate. Its aim is to improve people’s quality of life and appreciation of the environment. The idea of setting up an environmental court with jurisdiction over areas in the public domain has also been mooted.

The government has introduced various policies to preserve Malta’s biodiversity, as the small island country is home to a “varied and interesting array of habitats and hosts endemic, indigenous, and migratory species,” as stated in the National Environment Policy. Yet Malta’s biodiversity continues to be threatened through land development, invasive species, overexploitation of species and climate change. The policy outlines measures aimed to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2020. These include the compiling of a dedicated National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, the creation of additional marine protected areas and strengthening the management of existing protected areas. The recent establishment of Ambient Malta may also contribute positively to preserving the island’s natural capital. However, the government decision to extend the hours of hunting to 12:00 in the Majjistral Nature and History Park, Malta’s first national park, against the unanimous objection of the advisory board undermines these policies, as did the decision to allow autumn hunting in 2018 despite flagrant abuses. The introduction of a fuel service-station policy deemed to be negatively impacting virgin land was meant to be reassessed; however, this had not taken place by the end of the review period. Spending on environmental protection has decreased by around €86 million as compared to 2012 levels.

Commission Staff Working Document - Country Report Malta 2018 SWD (2018) 216 final p. 39
Times of Malta Malta again fails emission test, has to pay “hundreds of thousands”
Malta Today 15/02/2018 A new quest for land: Malta’s solar farms set to cover an area as large as 94 football grounds
Times of Malta 28/02/2018 Waste-to-energy plant will be built in Magħtab
The Malta Independent 27/08/2018 Bins for waste separation being distributed to households nationwide
Times of Malta 31/12/2015 Work on national flood relief project concluded
Times of Malta 16/08/17 Leaky Pipes would fill 1,600 pools each year
The 2nd Water Catchment Management Plan for the Malta Water Catchment District 2015 – 2021
Times of Malta 25/10/2018 €400,000 programme on water sustainability launched
Malta Today 07/03/2018 Permits for new dwellings in Malta have increased by 230% since 2013
TVM 04/04/2016 Split of MEPA into two independent authorities comes into effect
Times of Malta 12/07/2015 MEPA split: ‘We’re all in for a rough ride’
National Environment Policy 2012 p.76-77
Times of Malta 03/12/16 Renewable energy in Malta
Malta’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2012-2020)
Times of Malta 21/08/2018 Permits for new dwellings in Malta have increased by 230% since 2013
The Malta Independent 30/08/2018 Updated: Autumn hunting season between 1 September-31 January; BirdLife writes to PM
Times of Malta 30/01/2018 Whichever way you measure it government spending is less green than ever
Times of Malta 03/08/18 New agency geared towards environmental protection launched

Global Environmental Protection


To what extent does the government actively contribute to the design and advancement of global environmental protection regimes?


The government actively contributes to international efforts to design and advance global environmental protection regimes. In most cases, it demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, fosters their advancement and initiates appropriate reforms.

The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally fosters their advancement or initiates appropriate reforms.

The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but neither fosters their advancement nor initiates appropriate reforms.

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
Malta’s small size has traditionally hindered it from being a key player in international global policy forums. Nonetheless, since independence, it has been influential in the Law of the Sea and was instrumental in the adoption of the Protection of Global Climate for Present and Future Generations of Mankind resolution, which gave rise to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol in 1988. Moreover, Malta has played a dynamic role in efforts to meet climate resolutions agreed to in Copenhagen in 2009 with former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon describing Malta as a key player in the efforts to “seal the deal.”

Malta is party to a large number of multilateral environment agreements. As an EU member state, Malta is bound by the obligations of the EU’s extensive environmental acquis. When Malta joined the European Union, it adopted some 200 environmental laws, which are now part of the overall Maltese legal framework. Malta has attempted to play a part in formulating a Mediterranean strategy for sustainable development. Nonetheless, the island fell eight places in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals ranking in 2018.

In the run-up to the Paris Summit on Climate Change, Malta’s prime minister hosted a special session on Climate for Leaders during the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta. More than a quarter of the 2015 CHOGM participants attended the Paris Summit and the 2015 CHOGM was used as a forum within which support was consolidated. In 2016, Malta became one of the first countries to complete domestic preparations for the ratification of the Paris Agreement and subsequently deposited its Instrument of Ratification to the UN together with other EU member states.

In October 2017, Malta hosted the EU’s Our Ocean Conference. The conference led to the adoption of 437 tangible and measurable commitments, among other deliverables. Moreover, Malta recently proposed the establishment of a framework that would coordinate actions related to ocean governance both within and outside the UN. However, Malta remains an insignificant, if active, player in global environmental protection.

Times of Malta 12/12/2008 UN Secretary General recalls Malta’s climate change initiative BT4qfl95PY
Newsbook 11/10/2018 Malta falls 8 places in UN Sustainable Development Goals ranking
The Malta Independent 07/09/2015 CHOGM 2015 to give final push to Paris climate change Summit – Environment Minister
The Malta Independent 30/09/2016 Malta among first countries to finalize preparations for ratification of Paris Agreement Environment and development in the Mediterranean
Times of Malta 30/07/2018 Malta proposes UN panel on ocean governance
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