Prior to Brexit, most of Gibraltar’s environmental law and policy derived from the EU, and EU structures and processes provided for oversight and enforcement.
The recently published Environmental Governance Bill 2023 sets out the measures needed to ensure that there is no environmental governance gap now that Gibraltar has left the EU. The Bill requires the setting of long-term, legally binding and joined-up targets tailored to Gibraltar, and it embeds consideration of environmental principles in future policy making.
The Bill places a statutory requirement for the government to prepare and maintain an Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP), the first being the 25 Year Environment Plan which is close to completion, and creates a new statutory cycle of monitoring, planning and reporting to ensure continuing improvement to the environment. It also establishes a new framework for setting long-term, legally binding and joined-up targets (covering at least air quality, resource efficiency and waste reduction, water and biodiversity).
The Bill legislates for environmental principles to protect the environment from damage by making environmental considerations central to policy development process across government. The principles work together to legally oblige policy makers to consider choosing policy options which cause the least environmental harm.
The Bill also includes a commitment to review the biggest developments in environmental legislation from around the world every other year and use the findings from that review when considering Gibraltar’s own environmental plans. It also makes provision for new policy to conserve and enhance nature and biodiversity.
This Bill allows Gibraltar to enshrine better environmental protection into law. It provides the Government and public bodies with powers and duties which together, provide accountability, consistency, and progress towards environmental improvement. These issues are too important to the wellbeing of current and future generations to be left to party political variance, and the Bill will ensure that future Governments are bound by environmental principles and are not able to simply undo progress in this area without accountability and transparency.
Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Prof John Cortes, said, “This is an ambitious Bill which enhances the legislative safeguards already in place for the protection of Gibraltar’s natural environment, including the Nature Protection Act and the Climate Change Act 2019. This Bill will improve the way this Government and future governments develop policies which are capable of having an impact on the environment. It will affect the way public authorities carry out their duties, with a focus on safeguarding the environment. In doing so, it is our intention that this Bill will ensure that Gibraltar’s natural environment can be enjoyed by our children, and children’s children, for years to come.”