GIBRALTAR’S Minister for the Environment slammed ‘increasing support for right-wing politicians’ that question the climate change argument after the Earth had the three hottest days ever recorded recently.
Minister John Cortes, a keen environmentalist who regularly supports campaigns in the region and abroad, said these politicians were ‘actively working against the measures we actively need’ to reverse climate change.
His words were set against a stage of increased support for far-right party in Spain ahead of a 2023 election that could see it come to office with the Partido Popular.
The much-touted right-wing coalition could see Spain reverse the moves Spain has made to tackle climate change.
In a recent charged Budget speech he pointed to the need for the private sector to follow the government lead to create a climate change department and push toward Net Zero.
“The effects of climate change continue to hit community after community, country after country,” Cortes said in his budget speech.
“Parts of our planet are becoming uninhabitable, drought and heat and hunger are forcing peoples to migrate and wars to break out.”
“Figures just released estimate that 62,000 people died in Europe from heat related causes in the summer of 2022.
“The future of our species is at risk.”
And he not only took on far-right theories that denied scientific research supported by the United Nations.
“Even moderate governments are failing to see that climate is the overriding priority that must govern policy, and are reversing decisions that future generations will not forget and will not forgive,” Cortes said.
“That is, if they survive.”
And rather than just talk the talk, he has shown in the last 12 years he can also walk the walk.
Apart from initiatives across the British territory, he will soon publish his 25 year plan for the environment.
He called it a ‘high level but critical document’ that ‘sets important standards as we embark on our collective goal of delivering a clean, green, pleasant, safe and resilient Gibraltar’.
He echoed calls for ‘revolution – in the way we think and in the way we act’.
But he is realistic that it is important to act in a way that does not negatively affect the economy or people’s lifestyles which the government relies on for votes to stay in office.
“Much work remains to be done in setting out detailed sectoral pathways to net zero and in understanding the likely economic impacts of climate change to Gibraltar’s economy,” the minister said.
Cortes’ work is now influencing the whole government and to this end the Minister for Transport has been trying to promote cycling and walking on the Rock.
But he said that with Gibraltar having ‘one of the highest vehicle ownership rates in the world’ and people preferring to take the car just for short trips, his efforts to push for more walking and cycling have been ‘unpopular’.
“I have often been jeered from a distance, insulted, I have been the subject of many, many, memes,” he said.
“The reality is, Mr Speaker, that there are few subjects more emotive than our cars and our parking spaces, and sparks often fly.”
Anger has especially built up on social media, even though his commitment to making cycling on Gibraltar’s narrow roads has been unrivalled in recent history.
“Change needs to be taken like bad medicine with much honey. I struggle somewhat with the honey,” he admitted.
But he said he would continue to work at it along with the rest of the government, despite the resistance to change.
“I sincerely believe that change is necessary if we are to create a better, greener, and environmentally sustainable Gibraltar for ourselves and our children,” he said.
“These changes will make Gibraltar beautiful, they will increase our health, make our city safer as a place to live and work and make us a more attractive, greener and vibrant place.”