Spain’s progress on climate and energy action under debate in Galicia

  • The conference ‘Which territories are leading climate and energy action in Spain’, organised by the International Institute for Law and the Environment (IIDMA), brought together specialists from Galicia, the Basque Country, the Canary Islands and Murcia in Santiago de Compostela.
  • Inter-administrative collaboration between regions and municipalities to achieve climate neutrality together with the identification of measures to reconcile the deployment of renewable energies (onshore and offshore) with biodiversity and territory in Spain were the central themes of the event.

Successful action against climate change requires the involvement of society as a whole. This includes all levels of government. The International Institute for Law and the Environment (IIDMA), in collaboration with the Second Vice-Presidency and Department of Environment, Territory and Housing of the Xunta de Galicia, organised a gathering this Monday that brought together specialists in climate change and energy transition from different autonomous communities and municipalities to exchange experiences, challenges and formulas for action.

During the event, which took place in the Cidade da Cultura de Galicia, in Santiago de Compostela, and could be followed live, the director and founder of IIDMA, Ana Barreira, wanted to highlight the work that the Institute has been developing for years to promote climate and energy action in Spain from a legal-institutional point of view

Among the speakers was the Regional Minister for the Environment, Territory and Housing of the Xunta de Galicia, Ángeles Vázquez Mejuto, as well as the Director General for Environmental Quality, Sustainability and Climate Change of the Xunta de Galicia, María Sagrario Pérez Castellanos.

According to the distribution of competences on climate change and energy foreseen in the Spanish Constitution, municipalities are a key actor to achieve the regional energy and climate objectives in the medium and long term. While a large number of Spanish municipalities are part of the European Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, many regional laws provide for the adoption of municipal climate and energy action plans that include objectives and measures consistent with the regional roadmap. “The diversity that characterises our country means that each territory faces a particular context that requires differentiated actions and responses to tackle climate change. Therefore, good multilevel governance at state, regional and municipal level is essential for policies to be truly effective,” said IIDMA’s environmental lawyer, Alba Iranzo. To this end, regional and municipal representatives from Galicia, the Basque Country and Murcia shared their experiences, highlighting the support given to local councils to strengthen municipal climate action in their respective territories.

Renewable energies and biodiversity protection

Another central topic of the conference was the reconciliation of the deployment of renewable energies (onshore and offshore) with biodiversity and the territory in Spain, which was discussed in depth during the second part of the meeting. As a starting point, IIDMA’s legal analysis of offshore renewable energy was presented. Marta Vicioso, environmental lawyer at the Institute and co-author of the report, explained the main points of the study, emphasising the administrative delay that exists in Spain with regard to the implementation of offshore wind energy. “Spain can learn from the mistakes and successes of countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom and Denmark, which have years of experience in this area,” she said.

In Spain, the draft revision of the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan foresees reaching 3 GW of offshore capacity by 2030. However, as of 26 June 2021, no applications for the reservation of areas for new offshore wind generation facilities in the territorial sea or for administrative authorisations will be accepted until a new legal framework is adopted to replace Royal Decree (RD) 1028/2007 of 20 June, which establishes the administrative procedure for the processing of such applications. “In addition, the recently adopted revision of the Renewable Energy Directive will have an indisputable impact on the new regulation in Spain, as it requires both the identification of areas for the acceleration of renewables and the development of plans that identify these areas and the applicable rules,” explained IIDMA director Ana Barreira.

This was followed by a round table debate in which the regulatory and planning advances that are taking place in strategic territories such as Asturias, the Canary Islands and Galicia were presented.

This event is in addition to the series of conferences that IIDMA organised last year in different parts of the country to discuss regional climate action and the integration of renewables and biodiversity, the summaries of which can be seen on the Institute’s Youtube channel.

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