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Reference Number: PR2673, Press Release Issue Date: Nov 29, 2013
We live in urbanised environments and we are likely to still live in cities – that is the result of human civilization. The resulting impacts are known to all of us – loss of biodiversity, increased run-off and storm water flooding, traffic congestion with air pollution and the overarching threat of climate change as we keep consuming energy to support our daily lifestyles. It is this generation that has within its reach the difficult challenge to use the knowledge that we have and steer sustainable development on the right track.  
In Malta we have gained a lot of experience in policy and plan making. We have an encyclopaedia of policies that guide, dictate or instruct how development is to be undertaken and energy saved. Yet, we have very few examples of how this can be done on the ground. Most often than not we tend to use technologies from elsewhere and try to implant them locally without addressing the actual characteristics that make up our local environment.
We have reached a stage in Malta where we need to start implementing actions – we have increased our understanding of how things work but need to start implementing action locally, adapted to local environment.  The construction industry in Malta like elsewhere in the world will not disappear, but it needs to transform itself to become a leader in tackling climate change. Energy efficiency in buildings is a challenge that must be met head on in Malta. We assume pride in property ownership, we should be able to assume greater pride if that property is energy efficient.
The concept of green roofs has considerable potential for Malta. The significant degree of urbanisation that has taken place over the past 3 decades has improved our lifestyles and brought about new architectural models. The way we have carried out the construction and infrastructural development in the Maltese Islands, like elsewhere, has led to unwanted impacts. These include inefficient use of energy, neighbourhood noise due to close proximity of densely populated areas as well as loss of green open spaces. Consequential impacts affect residents due to high energy costs and negative impacts on their everyday life.
The concept behind this project may well serve to demonstrate how we can improve our urban environment to improve our quality of life whilst contributing towards the achievement of environment and climate change objectives.
Our small islands have more than 23% of their territory urbanised. The available land area for wild the flora and fauna that grow here, is a limited resource. This threatens their expansion, leading to significant impacts particularly for endemic species (species that grow only in one country, in this case Malta, and nowhere else in the world). Whilst we do have an extended territory of protected areas, we need to ensure that we do not limit it with boundaries, such as those created by urban areas. Green corridors such as rubble walls already provide routes for animals to move from one place to another. Green roofs have an equal role, particularly for pollinating insects that are useful in agriculture.
Greening of roofs is also in line with our goal of greening urban areas.  The presence of more green space in urban areas not only helps to improve local air quality but also enhances the aesthetic quality of our living environment. It is a known fact that nature reduces the impacts of stress in urban areas.
The fact that this project is being undertaken in partnership between research institutes, the private sector and the public sector augurs well. Sustainable development is dependent on different actors. Developing models that are applicable to the locations where green roofs are to be deployed through research should lead to further work in multiple sectors – from the built environment to horticulture as well as integrating multiple data sets from different environment fields (air quality, biodiversity; composting and waste management) that can also lead to improved policy development. Positive outcomes are expected from this demonstration project; outcomes that can also generate new employment opportunities.
Demonstration projects are gravely needed – it is only with practical application that one becomes convinced that things work and thus enable others to invest in new techniques and approaches. If demonstration projects work and information on the direct and indirect costs and benefits are known, more support is garnered for the take-up of new concepts.
Although the project is intended to end in 2017 I look forward to interim results that could shed a light as to the potential application of this approach and its usefulness to the Maltese Islands, with a view to guide policy development in the respective fields of urban planning, biodiversity management, energy efficiency, waste management and climate change, not to mention environmental health.​