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In June 2018, a breath of fresh air came into the Spanish politics, an air, for the first time in many years, with a sweet green aroma. The new government, chaired by the Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (PSOE, social-democrats), placed the fight against climate change and loss of biodiversity among its main priorities. For this purpose, the Ministry for the Ecological Transition was created, bringing together the competences of Environment and Energy what had never happened before. Teresa Ribera, a renowned international expert on climate change, was appointed as Minister.

Good news arrived soon, such as the declaration of the Spanish Mediterranean Cetacean Migration Corridor as a Marine Protected Area and its proposal for inclusion in the SPAMI list of the Barcelona Convention (which was finally formalized on December 3, 2019). The legal protection of this valuable natural space, strongly threatened by a set of hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation projects, is an issue to which OceanCare has dedicated great efforts, among which the gathering of numerous international scientific supports in favour of that declaration.

The new Government also announced a future Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition in which, as OceanCare requests, the prohibition of new hydrocarbon exploration projects throughout the whole Spanish marine territory would be included. Such a decision would be truly ambitious, progressive and welcomed; however, it does include some caveat. The last known draft of the Climate Change and Energy Transition Bill, in an inconsistent and unnecessary way, is intended to potentially extend research permits and concessions for the exploitation of hydrocarbons, which are already in force, for another 22 years (until December 31, 2042).

The National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 (NECP) was also elaborated with ambitious objectives of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy efficiency and heavily ramping up participation of renewable energies in final energy use and electricity generation. NECP is supposed to mobilize a substantial volume of investments in this decade, exceeding 200 billion €.

However, the government’s promising green agenda could barely be materialized because, due to political instability, 2019 was a practically lost year from the legislative point of view. Two general elections had to be called that year in a row and until January 13, 2020, a coalition government could not be formed between the PSOE and the left-wing party Unidos Podemos (UP).

The new PSOE-UP government started with strong political impetus, pushing vigorously the environmental agenda. In fact, just one week later, on January 21, the Council of Ministers approved a Declaration on Climate and Environmental Emergencies in Spain. Through this declaration, the Government promised to adopt 30 priority lines of action in the following 100 days, the star measure being the Climate Change Bill to begin its parliamentary procedure.

But then the coronavirus epidemic made its sudden appearance in Spain and everywhere. Not surprisingly, the green political agenda, like others matters, has been on hold since the declaration of the state of alarm on March 15.

Happily, the Spanish Government seems to have understood that the recovery from the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic must be based on of environmental protection and fight against climate change. In the same vein, on April 14, Teresa Ribera in her new position of Vice Prime Minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge signed, on behalf of the Government, to join the European Alliance for a Green Recovery. OceanCare supports this approach to get out of the current crisis and, in this sense, has endorsed an appeal of fifty European NGOs made public on April 23rd.

In this context, OceanCare urges the Spanish Government to increase the ambition of the Climate Change and Energy Transition Bill. In particular, OceanCare claims that allowing the exploitation of hydrocarbons to continue until 2042 runs contrary to Spain’s international commitments to achieve a deeply decarbonised energy sector, based 100% on energy efficiency and renewables. To achieve this goal, it is not enough just to promote clean energy, but it is necessary to apply all kinds of measures, economic and legal, to urgently phase out the use of fossil fuels, which are the main cause of climate change.

Spanish media articles

El Diario, April 2020

El Pais, April 2020

 

Carlos Bravo

Carlos Bravo

Ocean Policy Expert