BY JON LEWES
As stated by Professor Daniella Tilbury with regard to the Together and Tomorrow initiative, “The wellbeing of people and the planet depend on the choices we make in our daily and professional lives. Sustainable events not only limit carbon footprints, they also support the green economy, seek to address inequalities in our community, raise awareness of sustainable issues and act as a catalyst for the wider adoption of sustainable practices. This policy helps us transition to a new way of living and working.”
The inaugural Vice-Chancellor and CEO of the University of Gibraltar, “an institution that embeds sustainability at its core”, Professor Tilbury, who has “long been involved in sustainability issues”, became Gibraltar’s first Commissioner for Sustainable Development in 2018.
She is working alongside government to “build up a solid framework of actions and measures to ensure that Gibraltar is able to provide a sustainable lifestyle for the community and to play a leadership role in taking steps to mitigate and adapt to the looming impacts of climate change.”
“My interest is very much in the future generations,” explained Professor Tilbury in a recent interview, “and that is the mandate I have been given, to help put some governance in place to assure that the future generations are considered and are part of the decision-making process in government.”
“My interest is very much in the future generations.”
While governments consider and work to agree on measures that are needed at a national level, such as support for the switch from burning fossil-fuels to renewable sources, including wind-power, to supply the world’s energy needs, action in communities has always been needed at local level, from the ground up, and indeed from the ground down.
The Climate Change Emergency
Leaders of many communities’ authorities, including Gibraltar, have a strong understanding of the steps to be taken, with calls to action in response to the climate change emergency.
A commitment was made by Gibraltar at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow – “Gibraltar will enshrine in legislation a commitment to include learning about the climate emergency and climate justice as fundamental principles in its education policies.”
The meeting, entitled Together for Tomorrow, was “a joint initiative by the UK Department for Education, Italy, UNESCO, Mock COP and Youth4Climate, and was co-planned and chaired by Professor Daniella Tilbury, Gibraltar’s Commissioner for Sustainable Development and Future Generations.”
Communities are understanding that the two aspects – one, developing sustainability in the Community and, two, the community working to reduce its carbon emissions footprint – are interwoven. While sustainability works to protect and conserve resources, including the environment itself, the other is to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon emissions and adapt to its looming impacts.
The 2020 Gibraltar Sustainability Awards, based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which celebrate local and regional best practice, were offered by the Office of the Commissioner for Sustainable Development and Future Generations which has responsibility to scale-up the adoption of sustainability in Gibraltar.
The awards covered 11 categories, presented in an awards ceremony funded by Kusuma Trust and were made to some 33 entities/groups in Gibraltar across education, business, technology and community.
They included initiatives such as Traffic Free Tuesdays and Sustainable Living (Sustainable Gibraltar), Health Conscious Eating: Habits for Habitats (AWCP, GHA, Promotions, Thinking Green) and #GibraltarSchoolStrike4Climate (Minister’s Future Generation Award).
An example of sustainable living and climate-change adaptation/mitigation working together is the switch from the carbon-emitting burning of fossil-fuels for oil/petrol energy for transport and buildings to renewable ‘clean’ supply from wind and solar power – carbon emissions are reduced, while environment and habitat are no longer subjected to destruction by resource extraction systems.
To achieve targets for clean transport, e.g., for electric vehicles (EV) to be successfully rolling out by target year 2025, many communities will have to accelerate plans to install accessible electric-charging points, preferably supplied by clean green electricity.
A zero-carbon, sustainable way of life can be developed in many, simple-to-do ways.
In Holland, the city of Utrecht is going further than just supporting the uptake of EV and is working towards a car-free city centre by eliminating 750 to 1,500 car parking spaces each year.
Important aspects of the sustainability and climate change actions for residents and businesses to understand is that a zero-carbon, sustainable way of life can be developed in many, simple-to-do ways. Supermarkets and businesses are already focusing on reducing product packaging, and homeowners generally have responded to the reasons for the need to recycle remaining packaging items, especially plastic.
Measurement of a household’s carbon footprint does not specifically include the packaging material used, but many other aspects of the household’s lifestyle, including travel/transport and energy use, if adjusted to become more sustainable, could bring down the average Gibraltar household carbon footprint by a third, from 12 tonnes/CO2e/year to 8 tons, with a target of 6 tonnes by 2030.
In Gibraltar, as well as in the Climate Change Act, and in the Sustainable Development and Future Generations Act, the government provides at details of the National Mitigation and Adaptation Plan, the Climate Strategy.
“Our emissions reduction targets are ambitious and a clear plan is essential to direct and communicate the actions across all aspects of society that will be required to achieve them…the plan outlines a road map of existing and planned measures to reduce emissions across numerous sectors in Gibraltar including energy, buildings, transport and waste. Initiatives to address this need to be stepped up urgently.”
The Government’s sustainable events policy “acknowledges the leadership role it can play in driving change for sustainability across the public service, business and local community and outlines how events can be planned, managed and delivered sustainably.”
Prof John Cortes, Minister for the Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change, Heritage and Culture explains: “Introducing sustainable considerations into our event planning, organisation and management will significantly reduce the environmental footprint of our events as well as creating a positive social impact and adding value to the local economy. From responsible procurement and sourcing, to accessibility and inclusivity, this Government is committed to creating a better and more sustainable Gibraltar.”