Environmental specialists meet at the “1st conference on climate change and energy action at the regional level” organized by IIDMA

  • In attendance was Mireia Mollà, Councillor for Climate Emergency of the Valencian Community, Fermín Serrano, Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda of Aragon, and Ana Barreira, Director of IIDMA, and more.
  • One year after the approval of the Climate Change and Energy Transition Law, Spain continues to lack in inter-administrative coordination and transparency.
  • Specialists from the Valencian Community, Catalonia, Aragon, the Balearic Islands, and the Canary Islands participated in this first event where they exchanged experiences and best practices.

Participants exchanged experiences on climate and energy action at a regional level, discussed how to achieve climate neutrality and how to reconcile the deployment of renewable energy with biodiversity and the environment. The event, organized by the International Institute for Law and the Environment (IIDMA), took place at the Regional Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development, Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition of the Valencian Community with 15 specialists in attendance from political, academic, and environmental and energy law fields.

“In our country, autonomous communities play an essential role in implementing international commitments in the fight against climate change, with the Autonomous Energy and Climate Plans as their main tool.” With these words, Ana Barrerira, Lawyer and Director of IIDMA, highlighted one of the main conclusions of the report The Role of Autonomous Communities in the Fight Against Climate Change, recently published by IIDMA which set the theme to open the first block of the day.

In line with the report, there are several autonomous communities which have already created regional committees with experts on climate change and energy transition. This is the case in the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Catalonia, the Community of Madrid, and the Community of Valencia, which following the experience of other neighbouring countries, have strengthened their climate governance frameworks by setting up these committees to evaluate and issue scientific recommendations that will contribute to achieving the goal of climate neutrality by 2050.

All of this information is included in the new IIDMA report presented this morning entitled, The Regional Climate Change Expert Committees and their Contribution to Achieving Climate Neutrality, based on a previous IIDMA report titled, The UK Climate Change Committee: A Model for Spain? This work highlights that although the creation of these committees should be positively valued, their success at the regional level is failing because they lack the necessary mechanisms and resources to carry out their tasks. For this reason, IIDMA sees the need for these committees “to be accompanied by a clear and detailed regulatory framework, greater transparency, functional and budgetary independence, and a system of remuneration for the work carried out by their members,” explains Alba Iranzo, Environmental Lawyer at IIDMA. This recommendation can also be applied to the future Committee of Experts on Climate Change and Energy Transition, which is currently in the public consultation phase.

This was followed by a roundtable discussion in which the regional representatives of the five invited communities shared the progress and perspectives on climate change in their respective territories. The roundtable featured Guillermo Malagrava, Director General of Energy and Climate Change of the Balearic Islands; Marta Morera, Director of the Catalan Energy Institute; José Domingo Fernández, Director General of Climate Change and Environment of the Canary Islands; Paula Tuzón, Secretary of Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition of the Valencian Community; and Fermín Serrano, Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda of Aragón.

Renewable energy, biodiversity and the environment

The second part of the session focused on how to align the deployment of renewable energy with biodiversity and the environment, following a presentation of a report by the same name published by IIDMA. In a scenario like the one we are currently facing, where the fight against climate change is combined with the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, the push for renewable energy is posing as a multifaceted challenge.

In this report, IIDMA states that the fight against climate change is possible provided there is adequate planning and an appropriate legally instituted framework. “We must not forget the division of powers between the State and the autonomous communities, both in terms of the authorization of energy projects, as well as biodiversity protection and territorial planning. Some communities have already established criteria for the location of renewable energy in their legislation, however, it is necessary for them to be adopted in all autonomous communities,” said Ana Barreira, who also stated the need for the population to participate in decision making under the scope of so-called “environmental democracy.”

On the other hand, early identification of risks is essential to avoid significant impacts on biodiversity. As stated during the presentation, the most appropriate instrument to achieve this objective, and the first step in the fight against climate change, is the Strategic Environmental Assessment, which makes it possible to study the effectiveness of plans, programs, and policies.

Emphasis was placed on the use of damaged or disused environmental sites as the location for renewable energy facilities. “It is important to promote programs that facilitate the location of these projects on damaged land that is difficult to recover, such as closed landfills, former mines, or industrial areas,” said Massimiliano Patierno, an environmental engineer at IIDMA.

The regional representatives and specialists who made up the second roundtable of the day, debated and shared their perspectives for the future. Specifically, Pedro Fresco, General Director of Ecological Transition of the Valencian Community; Juan Manuel Pérez, PhD in Conservation and Management of Mediterranean Ecosystems by the University Migue Hernández; Pedro Machín, Executive Director of Atalaya Generación; and Albert Banal-Estanol, President of Som Energía.

The event was concluded by Mireia Mollà, Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development, Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition of the Valencian Community, and Ana Barreira, Director of IIDMA. “Spain is committed to achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and, in this context, the commitment to renewable energies is essential. We are in a transition period, and there is still time to achieve these objectives, but the role of autonomous communities will undoubtedly be crucial,” said Barriera.