Balearic parliament sets scene for groundbreaking change in the country’s energy and conservation policy

A few days ago, the Balearic parliament has unanimously approved the “Proposal of Law on the protection of the Mediterranean Sea under Spanish jurisdiction against damages that may result from the exploration, prospection and exploitation of hydrocarbons and other mineral substances”. The proposal aims to prohibit exploration and exploitation activities of hydrocarbons and seismic acquisition in Spanish waters. The decision reflects the strong stance taken by the islands’ representatives on a change in the country’s energy policy, moving away from fossil fuels.

In previous years the region has witnessed intensified campaigns by conservationists in close cooperation with representatives from local business – such as the tourism and renewable energy sectors – and local decision makers preventing the oil industry’s efforts to start exploring and exploiting in the waters of one of the most important tourist regions in the Mediterranean. The Coalition Alianza Mar Blava, of which OceanCare and NRDC are part, has been instrumental in these efforts and successful in gaining wide support from the public in demanding strict protection of the islands’ waters. Until today, all recent attempts by the petroleum industry to gain licences have been prevented. And while there are still pending applications by some oil companies, this decision is a significant step closer to the objective of the Alianza.

The Congress, the main chamber of the Spanish parliament, has also endorsed a motion to declare the migration corridor for cetacean species between the Balearic Islands and the mainland a Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance. This step goes almost hand in hand with the decision by the Balearic parliament, which will now also be discussed in the Spanish Parliament.

“Now begins the most important part of the process. We are optimistic that we will get the Proposal of Law passed, because a great majority in the Congress is in favour of protecting the environment, fisheries and tourism against the threats posed by oil exploration and exploitation activities,” said Carlos Bravo, Technical Coordinator of Alianza Mar Blava. “This would also be a very intelligent and coherent measure within the Paris Agreement. We hope that the Partido Popular, currently ruling in Spain, will be able to understand this and give their support to the proposal, too.”

“We are truly pleased with this development, as it would be a strong signal for a change of human activities in the wider Mediterranean region towards proper conservation efforts and sustainability” says Nicolas Entrup, consultant to OceanCare and NRDC.