The Spanish minister praises the agreement to protect the wetlands of Andalucía as an example for a sustainable transition.
The country’s environment minister stated that a significant deal has been made to protect a highly valuable wetland in Europe. This highlights the significance of utilizing public opinion to advance the shift towards sustainability and address the impacts of the climate crisis.
The Doñana in western Andalucía – whose marshes, forests and dunes extend across almost 130,000 hectares (320,000 acres) and include a Unesco-listed national park – has been at the centre of a furious national and international row over recent years.
Over the past thirty years, the park’s water resources have significantly decreased due to the effects of climate change, contamination from mining activities, loss of marshland, and the increased production of soft fruits.
In November, Spain’s environment minister, Teresa Ribera, made an agreement for €1.4bn (£1.2bn) in funding to safeguard the area and reduce its dependence on soft fruit for the local economy. This brought some optimism after a year of concerns raised by environmental organizations, the European Union, and grocery stores over the Andalucían regional government’s proposal to grant amnesty to farmers who were illegally drawing water from the aquifer to irrigate strawberry farms in the park’s vicinity.
In an interview with the Guardian, Ribera stated that the agreement was a response to both internal and external pressures, a shift in public sentiment, and a deliberate attempt to communicate with local communities about the urgency of taking action.
Ribera stated that there is a greater potential for the future beyond just strawberries and raspberries. Additionally, if proper care is not taken for water resources, these fruits may cease to exist. Therefore, there needs to be a shift in mindset and a strong comprehension of this concept.
Earlier this year, a report from Spain’s national research council revealed that 59% of the large lakes in Doñana have not been filled since at least 2013. The report also stated that the area is currently in a “critical condition”. In the past two summers, the largest permanent lake in Doñana has completely dried up and the park has recently been taken off the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s green list due to not meeting the required standards.
A group of major supermarkets in the UK, including Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Lidl, Aldi, and Morrisons, wrote to the regional president of Andalucía expressing concern about the proposed expansion of irrigable land. They warned that this move could potentially harm the region’s reputation and long-term growth.
Ribera emphasized the importance of convincing individuals to incorporate environmental measures into social and economic strategies in order to effectively address the climate crisis on a global scale.
Ribera emphasized the importance of integrating environmental measures with efforts to alleviate economic and social pressures in order to promote green infrastructure and restore natural spaces. This requires creating a positive relationship where local residents have access to alternative options that they can take pride in, rather than viewing them as restrictions or dangers.
She stated that conveying this message was the primary obstacle for Europe in the immediate future, as well as for the global community. She also mentioned that long-held beliefs about the significance of unified environmental policies are now obsolete.
She stated that it is a complex issue that cannot be solved solely through engineering or economic analysis. It requires significant social involvement and a shift in cultural and emotional behaviors. If we do not effectively address these changes in collective mindset and societal values, we may face challenges such as protests and opposition to regulations, like the gilets jaunes in France and Dutch farmers resisting soil protection rules. This could lead to complicated situations as individuals may not understand the immediate impact on their lives.
The minister stated that the 2024 European elections would play a crucial role in maintaining progress and safeguarding the valuable environmental achievements.
She stated that this change will be intense for everyone and it is important for us all to participate in the June elections. It is more challenging to implement this in an unfriendly environment.
Ribera criticized political parties that use “dangerous demagoguery” and try to ignore the seriousness of the climate crisis for their own selfish, electoral reasons.
She expressed concern about groups that oppose or challenge this plan, calling them anti-establishment. She also noted their contradictory actions, stating that their denial of environmental issues is not due to skepticism towards academic research. This is concerning and she believes it is necessary to unite, clarify, and offer alternative solutions with strong societal conviction and dedication.
The minister warned that politicians who do not listen to changing public views on environmental issues will face consequences. She criticized the decision by Madrid city council to cut down numerous trees in two well-liked parks in order to expand the city’s metro system, calling it “completely unacceptable”.
Despite lacking the authority to stop the action, which was made at a local and regional level, Ribera stated that she will be reaching out to regional officials to suggest a set of shared guidelines for safeguarding fully grown trees in urban areas.
According to her, there is a significant difference between planting two six-month-old saplings and having trees that have been around for 60 or 80 years. She compares it to the recent trend of new mayors implementing anti-cycling lanes, which she believes will have negative consequences and ultimately result in backlash similar to what Moreno Bonilla faced with Doñana.