Minister Carmelo Abela virtually met with a number of young people, ranging from students from the Junior College and the University of Malta, to those who are already in the labour market. They spoke and asked about the government’s work on sustainable development. They showed particular interest in the environmental field, including waste management, plastic use, infrastructure development and green energy. Minister Abela explained how sustainable development, apart from being the environmental pillar, also consists of the economic and social pillar, and that, through 17 United Nations targets, 193 countries are working to achieve the targets in these areas by 2030.
During the meeting, young people emphasised that the time has come for the people to have more “ownership” of their country and to recognise that our country is our home. The Minister was asked about what is being done in Malta to attain the goals of sustainable development of the United Nations by the year 2030. He said that, in recent years, much work has been done on these same targets and that the government will continue to work and adopt a policy where every project or policy that emerges combines environmental, economic and social development together. He also added that the development of the country, in any field, must keep in mind the law that entered into force in 2012 on sustainable development, which states that this should not be detrimental either to present generations, nor to future ones.
Young people asked about the importance of ongoing educational campaigns, so that the public can be reminded of the importance of recycling and protecting the oceans from plastic. They also mentioned that they would like to see further measures aimed at strengthening the use of alternative transport. On the latter, they focused on efforts to improve public transport, so that young people do not feel compelled to turn to buying a car when they turn 18 in order to move from one place to another. They also spoke about the importance of protecting the local product and discussed how they would like to see more information campaigns so that more Maltese people choose and consume the local food product as their first natural choice. They said that they would like to see more help in the Maltese agricultural sector, in order to strengthen the export sector of local Maltese products around the world. They also said that it was time to look at an alternative to the methods used in farming and agriculture, particularly when it comes to the use of technology and water preservation, to make this area more sustainable.
Interestingly, during this discussion, a particular young woman put forward her wish for the government to study the effects and benefits of the diet known as veganism. Another young woman stressed the need for paternity leave, in order to strengthen the equality of family responsibilities in parenting. Young people also recognised the benefit of the shift from polluting fuel to gas, which brought a better quality of life.
In his response, the Minister said that many of the ideas the young people spoke about are very practical ideas. He said that, in every change that has taken place, history shows that young people have always been catalysts for changes to take place. He said that their comments lead us to ask how prepared we are as a nation to change our culture and attitude, from the method of transport we use, to the products we use in cooking, to the way we dispose of waste. He said that he agrees that all of this brings with it the need for life education, that it is taught in a practical way through life experiences.
With regards to the farming sector, Minister Carmelo Abela said that we want to encourage more young people to embark on this, which can also be seen as a career, where it requires professionalism and the functioning of technology. Minister Carmelo Abela also said that another aspect of sustainable development is the intention of recognising a human’s quality of life, so that one can better enjoy life with his loved ones. He said that, with this aim, the government had introduced for the fourth consecutive time in its budget the increase of a one-day leave to the workers for those public holidays that fall during the weekends.
The coordinator of this meeting, Mrs Stephanie Fenech from the Żejtun Local Council, thanked Minister Abela for believing in the value of the ideas and thoughts of young people in the formulation of policy. She said that young people want to feel active in society and have a lot to offer for the wellbeing of their country.