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Tuesday, 20 November 2018
Less Form-Filling, More Action
Tractor in corn fieldRunning a small business should to be simplified under a new approach steered by the Information Secretariat. During the first in a series of dialogues, the Better Regulation Unit unveiled an action plan to cut down on red tape with the aim of improving competitiveness.

Businesses involved in the environment sector that had been invited for the first round of consultations, were given a chance to flag some administrative burdens.

Businessmen often have to wade through complicated legislation and meet multiple demands for the same information on non-financial aspects of the concern.

A leaner way of doing things could lead to both time and money being saved while helping the sector to meet its legal obligations.

However, the notion of having a one-visit super inspector replacing inspections by a number of different authorities was shot down by the Health Inspectorate.

John Attard Kingswell noted that each type of enforcement required a different strain of expertise. Inspectors from different authorities could still help each other just as the customs office often did with port health authority.

Sharing of information gathered between government departments would ease the burden on everyone and do away with excessive form-filling for small enterprises.

Commercial operators across sectors, including tourism, agriculture, fisheries and textiles, are to be consulted for their input on the action plan up until the end of April.

Currently, the consultation process is underway for both the waste management and climate change strategies, which the government is bundling together in a joint process. A meeting with the Chamber of Engineers was held last Monday.

Next week, European leaders will be under pressure to come up with a robust funding mechanism to back global climate measures. Clear commitment from the EU is needed before the US comes forward to match it.

In the heat of the financial crisis it is not easy to think of ways to cool down the planet. Large scale interventions have been considered in the form of massive sunshades suspended in space to reflect sunlight away from the earth.

This geo-engineering solution has been dismissed as 'trillion-dollar pie in the sky', but a counterpart idea is knocking on Europe's door.

Growing crops worldwide with more solar reflectivity in their leaves could reduce regional warming by one-fifth of projected temperatures.

A waxy or hairy leaf such as barley or sorghum reflects greater amounts of sunlight away from the earth. Modifying other grains to increase reflectivity could counteract the warming effect of the melting poles as they turn from reflective white to a heat-absorbing dark colour of ocean mass. Bio-geoengineering of crops could buy time, but it is not a long-term alternative to reducing global CO2 emissions.

The bio-tech industry reacted angrily to the latest setback for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) when Europe's environment ministers voted down an attempt by the European Commission to force the lifting of national bans on GMOs.

Austria and Hungary have made the cultivation of genetically modified maize on their territory illegal. French and Greek national bans are to follow this spring.

Last December, EU environment ministers concluded that long-term environmental risk assessment should be improved and member states must be allowed to establish GMO-free zones. The expert committee appointed by the Commission could not agree on the ban. A few weeks ago, the Council of Ministers again voted against an industry-fuelled proposal to lift the ban, rejecting GMOs for the fourth time.

"What part of 'no' does the Commission not understand?" quipped Greenpeace's GMO policy director Marco Contiero.

"EU member states have every right to maintain total control over what is grown on their own territory until the recommendations for a review of the GMO process are taken seriously by the Commission," he added.

As things stand now, getting a new genetically modified crop approved for growing is difficult. If ministers also fail to agree on a GMO ban, the applications would then return to the Commission. If that happens, the Commission could probably issue standard 10-year licences for cultivation of GMP crops by default, but this may take some time.

In a letter to the Commission, the Green parliamentary group has expressed its concern over the attempt to force through authorisation of "highly controversial genetically modified plant varieties" in the EU. Greens are threatening a motion of censure which would require the support of 10 per cent of MEPs to be tabled.

Choosing a solar-reflecting crop solution could open the floodgates for GMOs. A safer way to respond to the climate crisis can be made up of many small but simple, effective actions.

A reduced carbon footprint may be helped along by switching to systems already widely in use which allow a single computer to serve 10 different workstations. This could bring governments big energy savings while cutting back on carbon emissions.
source: Times of Malta: 15/03/2009 
Last Updated on Monday, 13 April 2009 14:51