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Govt and GSD at odds over environmental progress

Gibraltar by Eyleen Gomez

The Gibraltar Government has hit back at GSD claims that it has done little to improve the environment during its administration, as it insisted that “huge progress” has been made since 2011.

Initiating the spat, the GSD said in a statement that eight years under the GSLP had done little to improve the environment despite its numerous claims.

It added that with the amount of building going on Gibraltar has taken a backward step.

Although the Opposition welcomed Government proposals to expand the use of renewable energy sources having put to tender the placement of solar panels on Government sites, it said figures in terms of potential energy production do require further scrutiny.

Additionally, GSD MP Trevor Hammond said: “Air quality remains poor and projects such as this are important for our future and must be delivered.”

“The GSD is committed to expanding the opportunities for increasing our power production from renewable energy, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and improving our air quality.”

In response the Government highlighted how it has previously published figures showing year on year reductions in carbon emissions from power generation.

They have dropped by 39,000 tonnes since 2013, a drop of 21%.

“This must hurt Trevor Hammond. He should welcome it openly, but instead chooses to ignore the fact,” a Government statement read.

The GSD is also wrong on air quality, the Government said adding that it aims to improve this further but insisted “the improvements are undeniable”.

“Already, as the new power station has gone through its current commissioning, at least 50% of Gibraltar’s power needs have been met for long periods from gas.”

“While this is a fossil fuel, it emits 25% less carbon and very much less of other pollutants, almost all in many instances, than the diesel to which the GSD was fully committed.”

“Moreover, the new power station is fitted with filters which go above and beyond what is normally required for such plants.”

It added that air quality data, which the Government publishes regularly, shows downward trends in pollutants continuing.

On environment in general, the huge progress made since 2011 is undeniable. Hundreds of new trees, a new park, legal protection to green areas, vastly improved animal welfare laws, an increase in the surface area of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve of 37% since 2013 are just some examples.

Minister for the Environment and Climate Change Dr John Cortes said: “When I became a Minister, after many years being a fairly lonely voice in the wilderness being ignored by the GSD Government, Gibraltar had to make a quantum leap into the present century on these matters.”

“Renewable energy and energy efficiency were not even in the Government vocabulary, and there was no knowledge or even support for these concepts in either the public or private sectors.”

“It was a struggle to make progress. The Environment Department was under-resourced and unsupported, and Gibraltar was heading towards perpetuating the use of diesel for power with a diesel power plant planned right next to the Nature Reserve.”

“This has taken years to overcome, but we have overcome it. We sometimes forget that in 2011 you couldn’t even recycle paper and cardboard in Gibraltar,” he said.

“The planet is facing a huge environmental challenge, and we are a part of it. We have a lot more to do, but as far as Gibraltar goes, the future is bright for the environment. Some find it hard to accept this and to recognise the progress we have made. I relish the fact that we will be making a lot more.”

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