- The International Institute for Law and the Environment (IIDMA) has organized, in collaboration with the University of Deusto and with the support of the Basque Energy Board (EVE) and the Basque Government, an event in Bilbao to discuss progress in the development of regional energy and climate plans, climate governance, and issues related to the deployment of renewable energies and the protection of biodiversity and territory.
- Following the success of an initial conference held in May in Valencia, this conference allowed for the exchange of experiences on climate and energy action at the regional level was attended by representatives and specialists from Asturias, Galicia, La Rioja, Navarra and the Basque Country.
- Amaia Barredo, Deputy Minister of Environmental Sustainability of the Basque Government; Enrique Monasterio, Director of Development and Innovation of the Basque Energy Agency and Ana Barreira, Director of IIDMA, were some of the speakers at this event.
The fight against climate change does not only concern local states: it is a shared responsibility that must include action at all levels of government. In Spain, due to the distribution of power, autonomous communities play a decisive role in achieving the objectives set out in the Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition, and in achieving climate neutrality by 2050.
Over the last year, the International Institute for Law and the Environment (IIDMA) has conducted several studies that are intended to be a useful working tool in the decision-making processes related to climate and energy action at the regional level. These findings were discussed at a conference that took place this Thursday, June 23, at the University of Deusto (Bilbao), which also had the support of the Basque Government and the Basque Energy Board (EVE) where each participated as speakers resulting in more than 15 specialists in the political, academic, and environmental and energy law of the five communities invited.
IIDMA presented its most recent study, the report on ‘The role of the autonomous communities in the fight against climate change‘, with updated data from June 2022, which analyzes the current status and content of autonomous energy and climate plans, including medium and long-term objectives that most communities are adopting. Placing the focus on regional climate and energy action is essential.
IIDMA values the work carried out by the regions of Galicia, Navarra and the Basque Country, for standing out as pioneers in the design of climate and energy planning within the 2050 timeframe. In the words of Alba Iranzo, co-author of the report and environmental lawyer at IIDMA, “The diversity that characterizes our country means each region poses a particular context that requires differentiated actions and responses to address climate change. Encouraging the exchange of knowledge and experiences between regions is key to promote greater coordination and consistency in Spanish territory as a whole while working towards climate neutrality”.
The analysis ‘The regional Climate Change Expert Committees and their contribution to achieve climate neutrality’ was also presented, based on a previous IIDMA report entitled ‘The UK Climate Change Committee: A model for Spain?‘ This work highlights that, although the creation of these committees should be positively valued, their translation to the regional level is failing because they lack the necessary mechanisms and resources to carry out their tasks.
These presentations were followed by a round table discussion in which the regional representatives of the five invited communities (Basque Country, La Rioja, Galicia, Navarre and Asturias) shared the progress and prospects for climate and energy action in their respective territories. The round table consisted of Amaia Barredo Martín, Deputy Minister of Environmental Sustainability of the Basque Government; Iván Moyá Mallafré, Director General of Energy Transition and Climate Change of La Rioja; María Sagrario Pérez Castellanos, Director General of Environmental Quality, Sustainability and Climate Change of the Xunta de Galicia; Martín Ibarra Murillo, Director of the Energy Transition Service of Navarra; Pablo Álvarez Cabrero, Director General of Environmental Quality and Climate Change of Asturias.
Expansion of renewables and protection of biodiversity
The second part of the conference dealt with the expansion of large-scale renewable energies in our country and how the expansions can be undertaken while respecting biodiversity and without provoking opposition from certain local communities. In this regard, IIDMA presented two studies in which it made a series of recommendations that emphasize the importance of planning and of having an appropriate legal-institutional framework.
“In the European context of the war with Ukraine, the need for an accelerated deployment of renewable energy has become clear,” said IIDMA director Ana Barreira. The key lies “in where and how projects are located to avoid impacts and conflicts,” she added. Among IIDMA’s recommendations at the regional level is the use of cartographic criteria to identify areas of low environmental sensitivity: “We must look for areas where there is no damage, for example, contaminated soils, disused industrial areas, old mines, etc.”, explained Barreira. (See here the report ‘How to reconcile the deployment of renewables with biodiversity and the territory’).
The second panel discussion on ‘The importance of reconciling the deployment of renewable energies with biodiversity and the territory: experiences and perspectives’ included Enrique Monasterio Beñaran, Director of Development and Innovation of the Basque Energy Agency (EVE); Esperanza Ursua Sesma, PhD in Biology from the University of Barcelona; Isabel Castro Sánchez, Deputy Director General of Energy of the Xunta de Galicia; and José Ignacio Mendoza, Manager of Ekisolar and territorial delegate of the Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF). The closing of the conference was led by Íñigo Arbiol, director of the master’s program in International Relations and Business Diplomacy at the University of Deusto, where the conference was held.