Crane - construction

Two of Malta’s most prominent business leaders, Marisa Xuereb and Paul Abela, have epressed their support of guidelines and incentives to help reduce the environmental impact of the construction industry in the country.

Speaking during a webinar held jointly by the European Investment Bank and Malta’s Central Bank titled “Investment in the post COVID-19 era, digitalisation and climate change”, they were asked whether it would be possible to ever make the local construction industry, which is a “laggard” in terms of environmental impact, greener.

“I think the biggest opportunities [for environmental improvement] lay in the construction industry,” explained Ms Xuereb, President of The Malta Chamber, “because it started at a low point”.

The construction industry, she described, has an environmental impact through very different facets, including through the equipment, vehicles, waste and the materials used, which, she said, can either lower or raise a buildings environmental impact in the long term.

In order to remedy environmental problems in the construction industry, communication and incentivisation are key, she argued: “If we put the right standards in place, if we communicate the right information, and put into place the right incentives for investment”, then change can be made.  

However, quantifying environmental impact is difficult, she continued, because the environmental impact of certain pieces of equipment and materials are hard to quantify. 

To help fix this, a clear framework is needed, she said, and this is something the Malta Chamber is working on. 

On the part of the Malta Chamber of SMEs, President Paul Abela explained that he has seen positive developments in recent years, as profits rise, contractors have been able to invest in more efficient equipment. 

However, there needs to be a level playing field through both policy and enforcement, to solve the “problem” of some contractors refusing to take certain environmental measures, thus undercutting competitors.

This is something that Mr Abela is hopeful about in Malta, however. The recently formed Malta Business Authority, he believes, will bring this level playing field is much closer to realisation.

Also attending the meeting, Mahmood Pradhan of the International Monetary Fund explained that “public policy has a role to play” in incentivising the construction industry to invest in practices and resources with a lower environmental impact. 

He acknowledged that “all this will impose costs on the construction industry” and on the price of the product, but said that he hopes this increase in costs will be internalised by the industry.

One way to help make this happen would be to provide fiscal incentives, such as tax credits, in order to push businesses to make investments, he explained.

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