Opening Speech delivered by Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change Jose Herrera at the ‘Sustainable Regeneration of Built Heritage Workshop’ which was held under the auspices of the President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca as a joint collaboration between the University of Bath, UK and the President’s Foundation for the Well-Being of Society

Climate change and its threat to our society is becoming increasingly recognized globally. Immediate action is required in order to address huge challenges. Quite interestingly enough – a less known fact on climate change policy is that it was one of Malta’s Prime Ministers who first launched the issue of climate change into the international arena, during the 1988 United Nations General Assembly.

This means that Malta played an important role in setting the foundation of climate change and a milestone that sparked several decades of negotiations and discussions. Discussions, which carry on to this day, most recently here in Malta during the CHOGM conference, which featured a special session on climate change when international leaders reaffirmed their commitment to this cause.

The effects of climate change can be wide ranging, and can impact not just on our environment, but also on our social development, living standards and quality of life.

This government is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a variety of mechanisms. We are developing a forward-looking low carbon development strategy to provide a concrete plan of a low-carbon Malta and ensure that all sectors develop in a sustainable and climate-friendly manner. This vision will be our tool to reduce our emissions and have a cleaner air and better quality of life. Whilst this holistic strategy is still being developed, we have adopted a Climate Action Bill which enacts a Climate Action Board providing governance to our Climate Action policy.

Retro-fitting is an innovative action towards climate change adaptation. The fossil fuel used for building operations are contributing towards greenhouse emission. Residential buildings alone account for 6% of greenhouse gas emissions in Malta. Energy demand in itself has risen sharply as a result of advancing technologies and increasing population.

Consequently, the development of strategies targeting a decrease in energy consumption in buildings has become an international priority.

The importance of Energy Efficient Retrofitting, or eco-refurbishment, is obvious when considering the significant proportion of present building stock there is in Malta. Whereas international research has shown that significant gain may result through eco-refurbishment, rendering it an accepted means of achieving energy savings, a typical and practical strategy is rarely proposed. Therefore, this project is a way for us to pilot a proposal to customise it into Maltese architecture in order to support sustainable development in the local context.

In this project we are also contributing towards another a primary focus of European targets for 2020 and 2030.

Commitment to sustainability goals is evident in European directives such as the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. The existing building stock has been highlighted as a key area for potential energy use reductions through eco-refurbishment. More specifically, the European Commission underlines the need for Energy Efficient Retrofitting of existing buildings.

The potential for reducing energy demand and pollutant emissions is notably significant within the Mediterranean building sector. This is especially true in the case of heritage buildings. However, this specific typology presents a special and particularly challenging case, as a result of the numerous factors that must be considered in the development of eco-refurbishment solutions.

Given Malta’s abundance of heritage buildings, huge potential exists to exploit the benefits of eco-refurbishment. However, whereas the regeneration and reuse of older properties is encouraged, the role of eco-refurbishment remains generally unacknowledged. This initiative is, therefore, very welcome since it touches upon an area which has so far not been adequately addressed.

Despite the profusion of this building type, Malta has yet to achieve a balance between heritage and energy conservation. The research being undertaken here at San Anton Palace seeks to contribute to the development of an effective strategy in order to bridge this gap. There are a number of questions that immediately come to mind when thinking on this theme:

o How can we maximise the potential of our architectural heritage, sustainably and sensitively, in order to contribute to national-scale energy savings?

o Do we recognise & optimise the green features of this type of building?

o What can government do to support such undertakings, both in the public and private sector?

The work being carried out here at San Anton Palace could provide answers to some of these questions. It could also act as a standard-bearer to what I augur will be a fruitful journey in the exploration of solutions that will help us address the problem of energy efficiency in heritage buildings.

Before I officially open the proceedings, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Her Excellency, the President of Malta, who was courageous and avant-garde enough to embrace the challenge that this work presents. Also, thank you to the main contributors, the University of Bath and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, for their invaluable expertise, and their input during the workshop sessions. Thank you to the President’s Foundation for the Well- Being of Society for their contribution to this event. Thank you to Prof Torpiano – who will be chairing the panel discussion – for his support, and also to the esteemed panellists. Finally, thank you to Perit Amber Wismayer for her enthusiasm and dedication in seeing this work through.

Whilst wishing you all an interesting discussion, and a successful workshop session, I would now like to officially open the proceedings. I look forward to hearing about the outcome of the workshops together with the various perceptions and suggestions, which I’m sure will be invaluable input in formulating a way forward.

Source: Government of Malta