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Campaigners petition Parliament for climate change action

Johnny Bugeja

A joint petition started by a number of local non-governmental organisations was handed to MPs from each political party during a protest yesterday calling for action on climate change.

The petition to Parliament calls for MPs to endorse an independent body to be set up with a mandate and timeframe to roll out a climate change action plan to fulfill the Gibraltar Government’s stated carbon reducing targets, cross party support and funding.

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The event was organised by Anne Marie Morello and the petition was the brainchild of different NGOs including the Environmental Safety Group, The Nautilus Project and Sustainable Gibraltar. These NGOs believed Ms Morello's march would give them the perfect opportunity to deliver their petition.

Outside Parliament, it was handed to Dr John Cortes, the Minister for the Environment, who was accompanied on the occasion by the GSD’s environment spokesman Trevor Hammond and Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon, who leads the Together Gibraltar party.

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Following the announcement of the global strike in September Ms Morello decided to do something in advance of this.

“I am aware that as a result of the first climate change strike organised by Iona Sacarello a draft bill came out which I think is great. However, in my view the intermittent targets could have been more aggressive.”

“More needs to be done and sooner.”

“I do recognise that this Government has done a lot for the environment but there is still a call for more robust action.”

The march was due to take place last week but the fire at the petrochemical plant in nearby Spain resulted in it being postponed to ensure everyone stayed safe.

Conchita Triay from the ESG said: “The event went very well considering it is a hot afternoon and activism is not something that is that usual in Gibraltar.”

Around 150 people marched down Main Street chanting ‘”what do we want? Climate change action” and were greeted by applause and shouts of encouragement along the way.

“The idea of shouting out like that was a bit of an impromptu decision but I think it was to make people aware of what it was that we were doing,” Ms Triay said.

“I think it did have an impact, people were sitting up or standing in the cafes and they were looking and they were listening.”

“And hearing what we were saying, which is important as we need to get the message out and more people need to join us.”

Outside Parliament, Dr Cortes said the demonstration was “great”.

“It’s also great that people want to stand up and be counted,” he said.

“I have replied to the petitioners supporting them and asking them for help in getting the rest of the community to taking definite steps to reduce our carbon footprint.”

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In this reply, Dr Cortes asked for people to decrease any travel that depends on fossil fuels and suggested actions such as not using their cars for at least one day a week and increasing their use of public transport.

Other measures he suggested were to reduce their consumption of meat by introducing one or more meat free days a week, reducing their use of single use plastic, reducing electricity consumption, reducing use of water, planting more greenery on terraces, patios and window boxes, and approaching businesses and asking them to introduce polices to reduce their corporate climate impact.

In addition, he put the onus on people to encourage their family, friends, workmates and employers to adopt all of the above points.

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The GSD’s Mr Hammond said: “It was very positive to see a march take place. Very positive to see it very well attended considering the weather has taken its toll and the fact that they needed to move it from the original date as I think there was a lot of momentum built on that date. Ironic that it was something that was not very good for the environment that caused the march to be postponed.”

“It is great to see so many people out. It is a really important issue.”

“Yes I have ideas, I think everybody has ideas, and what we need now is the political will to deliver on some if not all of those ideas.”

“We need some really brave decisions and I think receiving petitions is great, marching is great but the people who can really make a change are here in Parliament and in government,” he added.

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Gibraltar’s elections are due to happen this year and he said it was really important that the environment becomes the number one electoral issue.

“We need to side line some of the issues that have been really important in Gibraltar and I do not want to take importance away from them but we need to elevate the environment,” he said.

“Not necessarily for ourselves but for the generation we saw many of here today, the next generation that is going to take up this mantle from us.”

“They are the ones who may find themselves in an impossible situation. If the latest science is anything to go by, we may only have 20 years. Not to stop it, but to reverse climate change. That is no time at all,” he added.

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