The EU has a very prominent view on the environment, incorporating it into the heart of the decision making process. The diversity in environmental legislation, which is incorporated into Gibraltar law, includes subjects such as drinking and bathing water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, control of wastes, solvent use, radiation emergency preparedness, air quality, pollution prevention and control, etc. The origin of these topics in Gibraltar law largely stem from our obligation to transpose applicable EU Directives. There are close to one hundred pieces of legislation transposed or in the process of being transposed into local law, all aimed at increasing levels of environmental protection.
The Public Health Act dates back to 1955. The Act, whilst originally dealing with issues of environmental concern, principally focused on health issues and on ensuring that sanitary living conditions were maintained. Since then, what started as a trickle of environmental directives has, since the mid 1980's, become a steady flow of more stringent, focused and demanding directives, all aimed at improving every aspect of our environment.
One issue of concern for Gibraltar, resulting from our small size and limited resources, is our ability to comply with every aspect of every Directive, as they apply to us. When such provisions are applied to a territory the size of Gibraltar, the resulting technical requirements can often present very complex issues for us to contend with. Implementation costs can also be greatly distorted when compared on a per capita basis to much larger communities. This said, Government aims to ensure that all reasonable, practical and necessary steps are taken to achieve compliance with all relevant environmental EU Directives.
When the EU introduces a new environmental directive, a process is set in motion locally to consider how this affects us, how best to go about its transposition into local law, and what systems exist or need to be put in place to ensure our compliance, including the establishment of monitoring, management and policing arrangements. This process involves consultation, as appropriate, between various government departments and on occasions with non-governmental organisations with whom Government works closely.
Depending on the type of legislation being contemplated, the Department of the Environment advises the Government's European Union & International Department (EUID) on technical matters, difficulties in implementation or enforcement, required resources, effects on existing or future installations or processes, benefits and on the possible resulting financial implications.
The European Union & International Department (EUID) is responsible for drafting legislation for the Government of Gibraltar. Legislation is drafted on the basis of information from other departments that are seeking to implement the policies of the Government. In addition to this, the EUID also drafts legislation to secure compliance with Gibraltar's international obligations. Of these international obligations, the European Union provides the most work, with the transposition of Directives in particular, being the most voluminous.