Environmental Policies

Key Findings
With challenges shaped by its island geography, Malta scores relatively poorly (rank 34) in the area of environmental policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

The renewable-energy share remains very small, with a goal of reaching an 11.5% renewables share by 2030. The plan is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19%, also by 2030. Energy-sector emissions have dropped by 63% between 2005 and 2019, thanks to the launch of a direct connection with Sicily, as well as a domestic shift from heavy fuel oil to natural gas.

Overall, more focus is being placed on solar power, electric cars, car sharing and free public transport. However, emissions in the transport sector have risen by 22% since 2005, and there is growing dependence on air conditioning.

Overdevelopment is hurting the environment despite a statutory permitting process. Enforcement of rules has not been strict. The country is party to a large number of multilateral environmental agreements, but is not a leader in global environmental protection initiatives.



How effectively does environmental policy in your country protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and environmental quality?


Environmental policy goals are ambitious and effectively implemented as well as monitored within and across most relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.

Environmental policy goals are mainly ambitious and effectively implemented and are monitored within and across some of the relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.

Environmental policy goals are neither particularly ambitious nor are they effectively implemented and coordinated across relevant policy sectors.

Environmental concerns have been largely abandoned.
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. In line with the European Union’s environmental targets, Malta is set to achieve a 19% reduction in GHG emissions and increase the share of renewable energies in the energy mix to 11.5% by 2030. The country accounts for less than 0.1% of the EU-27 GHG emissions and has reduced its emissions at a faster pace than the EU average since 2012. While energy industry emissions dropped by 63% between 2005 and 2019, emissions in the transport sector grew by 22% over the same period, though during the pandemic they temporarily declined by over 70%. The drop in GHG emissions is due to the launch of an electricity interconnector with Sicily and a shift from heavy fuel oil to natural gas. The volume of plastic waste in Malta has increased by nearly one-third over the last decade, making the country one of the worst performers in the European Union. However, Malta was among the first to ban some single-use plastic items, ahead of EU deadlines. Shortcomings are 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 to fulfill these targets have been undertaken. These include the generation of photovoltaic power, the establishment of photovoltaic farms, construction of an interconnected electricity system with Sicily, a shift to the sole use of electric cars paired with a phase-out of fuel-inefficient cars, plans for a more bicycle-friendly road network, the promotion of car-sharing facilities, free public transport for young people and senior citizens, grants for electric scooters and cars, and the construction of a gas-fired power station.

Building permits in 2020 fell by 37.2% for new residential buildings. However, building permits for Gozo have increased threefold since 2015, with one in every six involving projects in outside development zones. In 2021, the Gozo regional council warned of substantial damage to the environment due to rampant over development. The Maltese countryside is protected from unsustainable development through a regulatory process of permits and enforcement. Nonetheless, a third of all outside development zone (ODZ) permits approved in 2020 were for dwellings. This is coupled with the fact that the number of ODZ permits on Malta’s sister island, Gozo, has increased by 240% since 2013. The entity responsible for the issuance of permits, the Planning Authority, is often seen as lacking when it comes to timely action, especially within the context of enforcement. An undertaking by the minister to introduce a register where all meetings with stakeholders and lobbyists are logged has not transpired. Though new legislation has been introduced to regulate developers, sub-standard buildings continue to surface. The Planning Authority has over 5,000 pending enforcement notices, 14 date back to 1993. In 2010, the government refused to ratify the European convention that would oblige it to protect heritage buildings and respect threatened landscapes. Many government road-building projects have not followed proper planning procedures. Moreover, the government is proposing to reduce the penalties for breaches of environmental regulations and introduce the right to petition a tribunal to waive infringement fines. In 2020, the minister of environment set up the Intelligent Planning Consultative forum, bringing together representatives from different organizations. One of its members, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, resigned from the organization in February 2022 stating that several issues are leading to planning and environmental disasters in the country. These issues range from the quiet amendments made to building height guidelines in 2014 to the rampant destruction of heritage houses to the development of open spaces and massive projects in small villages (e.g., Sannat and Qala).
An agency called Ambjent Malta was also established in August 2018. Rather than being a regulatory institution, it is intended to bring together all of the country’s environmentally related directorates. Its aim is to improve people’s quality of life and appreciation for the environment. However, the government decision to hand over the management of one of the few woodland areas in Malta to the local hunting association undermines this objective. The decision has also generated considerable objections among the general public and NGOs. The government once again allowed autumn hunting in 2021 despite flagrant abuses. The wild birds regulation unit remains under the Ministry of Gozo since it was removed from the Ministry of Environment in 2020 in breach of EU practice. Statistics indicate that the number of illegally shot birds has trebled over the last six years. Malta has also been taken to the European Court of Justice for violating a ban on bird trapping.

Malta’s 2030 National Energy and Climate Plan p. 5
European Parliament Climate Action in Malta – State of Play p. 1
Times of Malta 13/06/2019 Malta One of Europe’s Worst Offenders for Plastic Waste
Malta Today 13/01/2021 Not Bold Enough: the Fight Against Plastic Pollution
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 secure-its-energy-future/
Lovin Malta 02/11/2021 Third Of ODZ Applications Approved In Malta In 2020 Were For Works On Dwellings
Lovin Malta 02/03/2021 Permits In Gozo Increase By 240% Since 2013 With ODZ Permits Increasing Rapidly
Times of Malta 05/01/2022 Planning Authority Took Three Days to Halt Illegal Works on Barracuda Building

09/10/2020 Government Signs Off Miżieb and Aħrax to FKNK in Private Event
The Malta Independent 01/04/2021 Amid Covid Pandemic, Families Could Lose Access to Parts of Ahrax, Mizieb During Hunting Hours
Newsbook 14/07/2021 NGOs Can Challenge Lands Decision on Miżieb and Aħrax Woodlands – Court
Malta Independent 22/03/2020 Malta sees big decrease in air pollution after corona virus mitigation measures come into force
European Parliament -Climate Action in Malta: Latest State of Play
Times of Malta 20/01/2021 Pledge to end construction cowboys as reform report finally revealed
Long term renovation strategy 2050 Consultation document May 2021 Government of Malta
The Shift 05/06/2021 Gozo under siege: More than 6,000 development permits issued since 2013
Malta Independent 21/01/22 Planning Authority says that there are over 5,000 pending enforcement notices
Malta Today 27/01/20 Hunting regulator pulled out of environmental ministry and given to hunter minister
Malta Today 04/02/22 Illegally shot birds have trebled in four years
Malta Today 28/01/22 Environmental culprits to get petition rights on fines
Times OF Malta 19/02/22 FAA quits intelligent planning forum in protest

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, contributes to their being advanced and has introduced appropriate reforms.

The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally contributes to their being advanced and/or has introduced some appropriate reforms.

The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but does not contribute to their being advanced and has not introduced 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 UN 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 environmental agreements. As an EU member state, Malta is bound by the obligations of the European Union’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. Nonetheless, the island fell five places in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals since 2019.

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 United Nations together with other EU member states.

In October 2017, Malta hosted the European Union’s Our Ocean Conference. The conference led to the adoption of 437 tangible and measurable commitments, among other deliverables. The Ocean Tracker (an interactive map that follows over €10 billion in commitments made by governments, businesses and NGOs), which was launched at the EU level, was one of the commitments made during this conference. More recently, Malta’s prime minister stressed the grave danger that climate change poses to small island states during the UN-led COP26 Climate Summit. Malta also doubled its contribution to the green climate fund in a bid to help developing countries navigate the challenges associated with climate change.

However, Malta remains an insignificant, if active, player in global environmental protection, attempting to play a role in climate diplomacy with a focus on islands. To this end, in 2020, Malta appointed an ambassador to deal specifically with island and small state issues.

Times of Malta 12/12/2008 U.N. Secretary-General Recalls Malta’s Climate Change Initiative BT4qfl95PY
Times of Malta 03/08/2021 Malta Drops Five Places on Sustainable Development Goals
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
European Commission Press Releases 22/10/2019 EU makes 22 new commitments for clean, healthy and safe oceans and launches The Ocean Tracker
Times of Malta 02/11/2021 Small Island States in ‘Grave Danger,’ Robert Abela Warns COP26 Climate Summit
The 21/08/21 Malta’s Climate Change Battle, A holistic effort is a must
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