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Political spat over emissions continues

Gibraltar’s air quality falls “woefully short” of acceptable standards, the GSD said yesterday as it urged the Gibraltar Government to accept constructive criticism instead of resorting to self-congratulation and personal insult.

But, the GSD’s remarks drew strong rebuke from the Government last night as it insisted that GSD MP Trevor Hammond had ‘deliberately tried to twist’ its comments on emissions.

The GSD was responding after the Government accused GSD MP Trevor Hammond of being “out of his depth” on environmental issues.

Mr Hammond had raised concerns about the bunkering industry and its impact on air quality, but the government said the GSD MP had sent contradictory messages on pollution and was ignoring improvements in key areas.

For the GSD, however, the government’s response was indicative of a style of politics that sought to avoid constructive debate while praising “mediocre success”.

“The issues at stake strike to the heart of public health and it is a great shame that Government are not willing to engage in constructive dialogue which recognises that there remains a serious issue with air quality in Gibraltar and it is the responsibility of everyone to contribute to making improvements, whether in Government, Opposition, a Non-Government Organisation or indeed a member of the public,” Mr Hammond said.

“Government and ministers may wish to continually congratulate themselves, but the fact is that whenever an independent expert assessment of our air quality has been conducted, the
results have fallen woefully short of acceptable standards.”

“It is high time that Government dropped the jibes and insults and that we work together as a community to address this issue which is affecting public health now and will affect generations to come.”

“On the issue of bunkering I have called for a review, not for a cessation of the industry as
Government suggests, because there are always improvements that can be made and if
these can be identified then they can have a positive impact on public health.”

“Why Dr Cortes would be so reluctant to agree to such does not make any sense and does him no credit.”

In hitting back, the Government insisted that contrary to Mr Hammond’s comments, “which are anything but constructive in spirit,” the Minister for the Environment has on many occasions commented that more needs to be done and is actively engaged in dialogue with NGOs and industry and in action to improve air quality further.

“Despite the challenges, never has so much been achieved,” the Government’s statement read.
“The ‘independent expert assessments’ of air quality to which he refers, do not stand up to scientific scrutiny, as has been pointed out before, but as Mr Hammond clearly does not understand.”

“He refers to the success achieved over the past few years in improving air quality as ‘mediocre’, ignoring the fact that pollution figures are the lowest since monitoring began, that burning of fuel at our power station is down, and that the new LNG power station will reduce emissions tremendously, to almost zero for some substances.”

These achievements are hardly mediocre, the Government said adding: “Mr Hammond’s understanding of science clearly is.”

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change Dr John Cortes said: “No-one will believe Trevor when he suggests that I am not willing to engage in reviewing any activity that may have a negative effect on the environment, so I don’t understand why he is suggesting that I am reluctant to do so.”

“It seems that he has run out of arguments and is clutching at the ridiculous. My battle for environmental improvement started decades ago and I will continue working just as hard while I am a Minister, and beyond. It is most unfair for Trevor to belittle the progress being made and for him to fail to acknowledge it in a constructive way.”

“I hope he will one day, especially as improvements continue.”