February 15, 2018
As the Balearic Government launches its first climate law, the president of this autonomous Spanish community looks expectantly towards Madrid and Brussels.
Guest post by Francina Armengol – President of the Balearic region of Spain
Today my Government is presenting the first climate and energy transition law in Spain, in what we hope will be a precedent for other regions, the Spanish government, and ultimately, the European Union. We hope both Madrid and Brussels will support our aspiration to become a truly sustainable tourist destination and fulfill our Paris Agreement commitments.
Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera will be known to many of you as holiday destinations rich in sunshine, beaches and clubbing. Now, we are planning on adding another element to the list: a low carbon footprint and an inspiring example of a green energy transition.
As islands in the Mediterranean, the Balearics are severely threatened by climate change. A recent study showed how 2 degrees of warming would reduce freshwater availability in the Mediterranean almost twice as much as 1.5 degrees. As islands, we are aware that our contribution to this global challenge is not enough to avoid the worst consequences of a warming planet. But we also know that only by demonstrating real ambition can we demand the same from the rest of the world.
Our Climate Change and Energy Transition Law will transcribe the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change into regional law, and pave the way to the full decarbonisation of our economy – that is, 100% renewable energy – by 2050. We want to make the most of our renewable sunshine and reap the benefits of cleaner air, more local employment, and reduced emissions.
On May 18th, 2017, the European Commission and 14 member states, including Spain, signed a Political Declaration on Clean Energy for EU Islands, which recognised that European islands can be architects of their own energy transition, and this is exactly what we are planning to do. We plan to achieve 35% renewable energy by 2030, well ahead of the target Member States and their energy ministers are proposing as part of the ongoing reform of the EU Clean Energy Package.
As the final negotiations on the package are starting in Brussels, we invite energy ministers to join us in the serious implementation of the PA in two ways: To aim higher than a meagre 27% target for renewable energy by 2030, and to see the governance regulation as a key tool to implement the Paris Agreement through proper national planning for net-zero emissions by 2050.
Our law builds on the EU’s emission reduction, energy efficiency, and renewable energy targets to plan a fast deployment of renewable energy generation. It includes the mandatory inclusion of solar power on open-air carparks and a proper spatial planning of wind and solar infrastructure taking into account the islands’ delicate landscapes and limited availability of land.
In Europe, transport is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in cities. For our part, we aim to make sure anyone visiting the islands will be able to use zero-emission, zero-noise electric vehicles. We have already installed more public EV charging points than any other region in Spain, and by introducing legally binding and progressive electric quotas for car hire companies starting in 2020, our goal is a 100% electrical fleet in 2035.
On renewable energy, we have started implementing specific measures, such as installing tens of thousands of square meters of solar panels on public buildings, or switching the Regional Government’s energy supply to renewable energy: since 2017, all our trains, hospitals, water treatment plants and public buildings have run on green power. We are also developing local energy communities to mobilise local investment, thus invigorating the local economy and rethinking the energy system.
At the same time as rolling out green power, we are working on the phased shut-down of the coal power plant which currently generates almost half of the Islands’ electricity – a task in which we are facing heavy opposition from the Spanish Government, which has stood out as one of the few Member States to actively oppose a coal phase-out plan. Not closing the power plant will require a huge investment of €100m to meet the EU Industrial Emissions Directive standards and is essentially an enormous subsidy to Endesa.
As Spain is already on Commissioner Vestager’s radar for dubious fossil fuel subsidies we consider it unwise to repeat the mistake. For the sake of the health of our local communities and children, as well as the planet, we ask Endesa (owned by Enel) and the Spanish government to stop subsidizing coal and accept that it is time to move beyond polluting fossil fuels: A message equally relevant to the other EU Member States.
Just over two years ago, Ibiza made international headlines by uniting all of society – from environmentalists to businesses to the entire political spectrum – against oil exploration in the waters around the Balearic Islands. Now, we are working to bring all of society together again to plan for a near future where we can wean ourselves off oil and fossil fuels altogether and use our own abundant local resources, starting with the sunshine.
The EU is still a global leader in the fight against climate change. We feel islands have the responsibility and the opportunity to lead the way, and that is why we call on the Spanish government not to stand in the way of islands trying to do it themselves. We also call on the Commission to set out a clear decarbonisation roadmap to 2050, supporting all member states to achieve their Paris commitments. Europe’s horizon is green: let’s work together to win the future.Guest contributor