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  • Open letter from the ESG

    An open letter from the ESG to the Minister for the Environment from the
    committee of the Environmental Safety Group.

    The Hon. Jaime Netto,
    Minister of the Environment
    Sir Joshua Hassan House,
    Secretary’s Lane

    16th Feb 2007

    Dear Minister,

    Having taken encouragement from the recent climate change discussion on GBC’s Viewpoint, we write to you with reference to three subjects directly related to this: climate change policy, solar panels and building standards.
    Solar Panels

    The ESG welcomes your announcement made during the course of the aforementioned programme that duties will be waived for the importation of solar panels. We presume that both water heating and photovoltaic panels are included in this initiative. With reference to the latter, we understand that the system employed throughout the EU allows for individual householders to connect to the community grid through a converter unit and meter. In view of this, we ask – will the importation duty waiver also cover these related components?

    Moreover, we believe that Government should allow private citizens to sell the electricity produced by photovoltaic panels to the grid and that this should be paid at a higher rate since it is being produced from small, renewable sources. The provision of financial incentives for renewable technologies has been seen to have a significant impact in other countries (e.g. Spain). Could you kindly comment on your position with respect to such incentivisation and on the likelihood of a GSD Government pursuing a policy that incorporates this?

    Climate Change Policy: Curbing Carbon Emissions?

    Though not specifically expressed on the GBC Viewpoint programme or elsewhere (to our knowledge) to date, we presume that the Government’s recognition of, and interest in, climate change is coupled with a desire to reduce – where reasonably practicable – Gibraltar’s contribution to this problem. Could you please confirm that this Government is committed to curbing Gibraltar’s carbon footprint?

    Building Standards

    The ESG notes that in the last 15 years or so Gibraltar has built a very significant portion of the present-day urban area. We believe that it is necessary to offset the damage of this continued new construction. With developers investing in Gibraltar’s property market making massive financial profits, we believe that it is a moral imperative that their developments be more sustainable; that they contribute more towards curbing our collective carbon footprint. If your answer to our previous question is in the affirmative, then we believe that a desire to reduce Gibraltar’s carbon footprint would be well demonstrated by your Government if you were to draft new and progressive building standards legislation.

    Such legislation would surely require all new developments – be they commercial, individual houses or even renovations – to incorporate solar panels for water heating into their design. As you will no doubt be aware, as of September last year all new buildings and renovations throughout Spain are required by law to incorporate solar panels to provide between 30 and 70 percent of their hot water (depending on where the building is located and on its expected water usage). We ask if Government is considering passing similar legislation and if so when?
    Furthermore, there are other elements of Spain’s new building code that the ESG believes Gibraltar should look to emulate. All new non-residential buildings in Spain will now have to use photovoltaic panels to generate a proportion of their electricity. The new code also enforces the use of better insulation, improves the maintenance of heating and cooling systems and increases the use of natural light. The Environment and Housing Ministries in Spain believe the result of these new standards will be a 30 to 40 percent saving on energy use for each building and a corresponding reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of 40 to 55%. They also affirm that the increases in building costs would be offset by the energy savings.

    We are of the opinion that a new building standards code – not too unlike Spain’s, as outlined above – would show the residents of Gibraltar and the wider international public that Gibraltar seriously acknowledges the gravity of climate change and moreover is prepared to take action to curb our growing demand for energy. We ask whether Government is considering a new and similarly progressive building standards code.

    Such efforts to bring Gibraltar’s building rules up to date should naturally fit within a new development plan and the need to rein in the amount of new building. But this is a subject probably better left for another letter or conversation.
    With respect to a new building standards code, we have shamefully missed out in gaining this advantage with the many projects that have already been approved and are in the construction stages at present. However, early implementation of such laws would make sure that future developments reduce their impact on the environment.

    Thanking you for your views on the above,

    Yours sincerely,

    For the ESG Committee

    CC: Minister for Trade, Industry, Employment and Communication