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Environmental Law Developments in Gibraltar
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Environmental Law Developments in Gibraltar

Hassans has been meeting up with Associates recently to discuss important developments in the sectors we are passionate about. Last week was my turn. It was my turn and I was pleased to be able to take a step back and reflect on the global legal developments in the area of environment law, and Gibraltar’s stance. This was a brief moment for blue sky thinking on an important area of my practice.

Q: What are the three most important factors that will influence Environmental law over the next three-years?

A: First, I believe that courts will move faster than government in advancing environmental protection in law. We have already seen European courts setting precedents regarding what environmental considerations must always be considered when making policy or business decisions.

In the case of Heathrow Airport’s new runway, the court ruled that planning authorities had failed to consider the fact that the UK has signed the Paris Agreement, committing to reduce its carbon emissions. The Paris Agreement is an international obligation and therefore is not even domestic law in the UK, but the court found that it did constitute “government policy” and therefore should have been considered by the planning authorities.

Another important influencing factor in this area is going to be the increasing cost of failing to “go green”. While carbon prices rise, businesses will search for cheaper fuels. This will result in new technology, new infrastructure, and possibly movement within the merger and acquisition market in certain industries. Large companies will acquire greener companies to improve their processes. Diversifying energy sources will be more important in countries with political instability.

Finally, stakeholder demand is more likely than industry to influence politicians and legislatures. Both consumers and voters are becoming more aware of the power they have to demand change. Any government, business, or industry that ignores the environment is likely be seen as unattractive.

Q: Is there any legislation that has been added to your practice area, or is it expected to? What benefits might this offer Gibraltar?

A: Yes, the Gibraltar Government’s latest manifesto was heavily focused on environmental issues. The Budget speeches highlighted new legislation that addresses a variety of issues, including traffic and clean energy, as well as waste and recycling. One piece of legislation which has the potential to be truly disruptive is a draft law to regulate and govern the trading of green financial instruments in or from Gibraltar, which our firm’s Environmental Team is particularly excited about.

Globally, there is a surge of activity in green markets. Private and institutional investors are looking for sustainable investments to replace traditional markets. This legislation will add to Gibraltar’s excellent reputation for high standards of regulation, by providing comfort to investors that the green projects underlying the financial instrument carry environmentally integrity and financial legitimacy.

Q: What potential do you think Gibraltar has to offer Environmental Law?

A: Gibraltar offers two distinct advantages in this space. First, because we are a smaller jurisdiction, we can make changes faster and more quickly than larger countries. Gibraltar, for example, was the first jurisdiction (rather than a local government) to ban balloon releases that are harmful to marine wildlife. Gibraltar also has one the strictest laws on ivory trade in the world. This is easier to enforce due to our limited borders, which can be easily controlled. It would be great if Gibraltar was one of the first jurisdictions that had all vehicles on the road fully electric and all public buildings powered by solar power. All vessels should also have access to plug-in, clean electricity.

Gibraltar also has a second opportunity in structuring the financing and development of environmental projects around the world. Gibraltar is known for its high standards of regulation as well as efficiency in structuring assets and corporate structures. This reputation can be used in the green markets, clean energy industries. While we are unlikely to have a significant impact on global warming through our domestic actions, our participation in international business markets could make a difference.

While we [Gibraltar]Although we may not be able make a significant impact on global climate change through our domestic actions, our involvement in international business markets could help us have an even greater impact on the environment.

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