A Sustainable Development Vision for Malta

November 6, 2018

By the Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change

Aerial view of Mosta and the Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady

IMAGE: Malta Tourism Authority

The concept of sustainable development was coined by the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission) and defined as “a form of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.


Development comes in many forms and is not limited to physical development as many may erroneously assume. Development in a sustainable manner maximises economic, social and environmental goals whilst utilising resources in an effective and efficient way.


Sustainable development is a challenge which comes with more complicated issues within the context of small island states like Malta. The management of a comparatively small, and hence vulnerable, economy which supports a high population and urban density presents a challenge to strike the right balance between socio-economic and environmental well-being.


Sustainable development avoids ‘boom and bust’ scenarios. The perception that sustainable development is an environmental issue that limits economic growth cannot be further away from the truth. On the contrary, by maximising economic, social and environmental goals, a sustainable development approach seeks to maintain a stable developmental pace, supporting growth whilst also advocating inter and intra generational solidarity such that any form of development does not diminish the opportunity for future generations to enjoy the same, if not better, opportunities that were endowed upon us. Indeed cheating the enjoyment of future generations would be irresponsible!


The International Agenda


The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted by the United Nations (UN) in September 2015 represent a unique achievement for the international community. Together they reflect an ambitious and transformative framework that has the potential to steer global development onto a path where human welfare and human rights, economic prosperity and stable societies can be secured in an environmentally sustainable manner, while extreme poverty is eradicated.


The 2030 Agenda contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which have clear targets to be achieved by 2030. These goals and their corresponding targets give the impetus for urgent action.


The European Union is also one of the pioneers of Sustainable Development and an EU Sustainable Development Strategy was adopted in 2001 and reviewed in 2006 and 2009. Such reviews were carried out in order to ensure that the Strategy remains relevant and to set new objectives.


In June 2017, the Council adopted conclusions on 'A sustainable European future: The EU response to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. These Council Conclusions set out the EU’s response to the 2030 Agenda and its approach to how it is being implemented at EU level. They cover the next steps, the means and resources required, how multilateral stakeholders can be involved, and measures on future monitoring and review. The Council urged the Commission to set out an implementation Strategy with timelines, objectives and concrete measures to implement the 2030 Agenda in all EU policies. Malta as an EU member state following the obligations which are outlined from time to time.


A history of Sustainable Development in Malta


The notion of Sustainable Development in Malta was introduced in the Development Planning Act of 1992, where it mentions the “promotion of proper planning and sustainable development of land and at sea of both public and private”.


However, the initial work of setting up a Sustainable Development Agenda in Malta commenced in September 2000, when some 150 Heads of State including Malta signed the Millennium Declaration and reaffirmed their support for the principles of sustainable development and Agenda 21. The Environment Protection Act of 2001 gave the Authority responsible for the environment the power to “advise the Minister in the formulation and implementation of policies relating to the promotion of sustainable development, protection and management of the environment and the sustainable management of natural resources...”. It also set up the National Commission for Sustainable Development with specific powers at law. This Commission was set up in 2002.


A Sustainable Development Strategy 2007-2016 was drafted in 2006 highlighting 20 priority areas which the NCSD considered as warranting foremost attention for the attainment of sustainable development goals in Malta.


During the year 2012, the Maltese Parliament promulgated a legislative framework through which government can integrate sustainable development in its operations as well as raising awareness on sustainable development issues across all strata and sectors of government and society in general. The Sustainable Development Act provides for the establishment of three structures to drive the country’s sustainable development agenda. The Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate change is currently the de facto Competent Authority responsible for a number of functions as defined by the Act; the Guardian of Future Generations “for safeguarding inter-generational and intra-generational sustainable development in Malta”; and the Sustainable Development Network responsible for promoting sustainable development locally.


A Vision for 2050


Sustainable development is a long-term, inter-generational process and Malta has been working on a vision which goes beyond the Agenda 2030. Malta’s Sustainable Development Vision for 2050 sets out our aspirations and priorities for mainstreaming sustainable development for current and future generations. Sustainable development is not a stand-alone discipline that can be achieved single-handedly but requires all Ministries to tailor their actions along the principles of sustainable development and in line with achieving the targets set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


The main aim is to formulate a clear direction for the long-term development of the Maltese Islands, which defines our strategic focus and outlines the image of our islands that we all want to see in the future. Malta’s Sustainable Development Vision for 2050 is set to become our main guiding principle for developing policies, and when planning and implementing projects. The Vision itself answers the question of why we need to think about the future today. It motivates us to face the challenges of the modern world and helps us achieve common objectives, while also giving meaning to our actions.


It is through this approach that we would be in a position to safeguard future generations’ right to meet their needs unhindered by what they have inherited from previous generations.


This Vision is being structured and designed on the following key normative governance principles for steering sustainable development:





The Sustainable Development Vision’s first normative governance principle for sustainable development is Enhancing Economic Growth. It is being aspired that by 2050 Malta’s social and economic development occur in a low-carbon and climate resilient manner. In this way,

Malta will be able to mitigate against greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) thereby reducing its vulnerabilities, and increasing its adaptive capacity, to climate change.


Malta’s economic development will be also geared towards closing the loop between consumption and production cycles. Unlike the traditional linear economic model based on a ‘take-make-dispose’ pattern, a circular economy is based on sharing, leasing, reuse, repair, refurbishment and recycling, in an (almost) closed loop, where products and the materials they contain are highly valued.


The second normative governance principle embraces the Safeguarding Our Environment. The Vision seeks to enhance the sustainability and resilience of communities and territories through enhanced green infrastructure; protecting landscapes as well as biodiversity; and the secure and sufficient supply of low-carbon energy and water resources.


It is foreseen that in support of decarbonisation Malta will continue to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects mainly by further exploiting solar energy (photovoltaic and solar water heaters), heat pumps, biofuels, and energy recovery from waste.


Enhancing sustainability implies the appropriate use of natural resources both for the immediate and distant future. Our vision for biodiversity and ecosystem services is that by 2050 these are more effectively protected, valued and in so far as possible restored for their intrinsic value and for the benefit of society.


Social Cohesion and Wellbeing is the third normative governance principle aiming to have a dignified life for the entire population, so that everyone is enabled to fulfil his or her potential within a healthy environment.


Ensuring a healthy, strong and resilient labour market is key to social progress. The Vision focuses on the creation of more and better-quality jobs that meet the needs of every individual in terms of pay, security and prospects. To this end, Government shall continue building the necessary frameworks and the right incentives; however, employers, employees and trade unions have the prime responsibility for ensuring a healthy, strong and resilient labour market now and in the future.


Apart from being a fundamental human right, education is also the foundation for more equitable, inclusive and cohesive communities making it indispensable for the achievement of sustainable development. Embarking on the path of sustainable development therefore requires a transformation of how we think and act. To create a more sustainable future, citizens must become sustainability change agents. They require the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that empower them to contribute to sustainable development. This is key to couple a more service-based economy. Building on the work and achievements in recent years, our vision is to move towards a high-quality education system accessible to all.


Health is being increasingly seen as a resource to one’s daily living. The Sustainable Development Vision actively promotes a society that fosters an environment that is conducive to persons attaining their maximum potential for health and wellbeing.


Malta’s aspiration for 2050 is that everyone will feel welcomed and proud of their identity and heritage; take advantage of the opportunities that the Maltese Islands offer whilst recognising their responsibilities to other groups and to our wider society. Race, colour, ethnic origin, age, disability, religion, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity are merely characteristics not a social status that determines the level of rights one can enjoy.


The image of Malta outlined in this Vision Document cannot be realised without the broad consensus and commitment of all citizens. A better future can be realised even from the smallest commitment or action by any one of us.


To further add value to the outlined sustainable development principles, the Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change is launching a consultation exercise to stimulate the process that will eventually lead to the development of Malta’s 2nd Sustainable Development Strategy and Action Plan.




Electronic submissions should be sent on


Postal submission should be addressed to the Directorate General for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change Division, 6 Qormi Road, Santa Venera SVR 1302.


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