Wednesday, 09 November 2016

Catalonia wants to be European benchmark in fight against climate change


Barcelona (CNA).- The Catalan Government wants to have a prominent role in the conference on climate change COP22 that is taking place until the 18th of November in Marrakech. Despite not having such a big impact as last year’s conference in Paris, the meeting is important to develop the Paris Agreement reached by 195 states. Although only UN member states can vote at the meeting, regional and local entities can participate. To demonstrate its commitment, a Catalan delegation has travelled to the conference in the Moroccan city, and the Catalan Minister for Planning and Sustainability will do so next weekend. “Catalonia wants to lead the fight against climate change, we are doing things reasonably well and we want to be the benchmark in Europe”, Rull said. In fact, Catalonia has held for the past six years the co-presidency of the Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development and it will now make its debut in the co-presidency of the so-called European Climate Group.

Catalan Minister Rull stressed that Catalonia is “doing its homework" and recalled that the region ratified the Paris Agreement last April to express its will "not to be only a mere observer, but to acquire prominence". Rull also lamented that Spain has not ratified it and stated that the lack of Government for 10 months is not an excuse, as the Spanish Parliament kept on working during that time.  

The so-called 'non-state actors', such as regions or 'subnations', cities, private companies and civil society will have a say in the concrete actions to combat global warming. Here Catalonia wants to have an important role and recalls that a climate change law is pending approval in the Catalan Parliament and could be passed in the spring.

Regarding the Catalan law on climate change, the Minister for Planning and Sustainability, Josep Rull, wants it to go ahead with a large majority that exceeds 100 members of the parliament, so that it endures in time despite possible future changes of government.

Furthermore, Rull pointed out the “success of the Covenant of Mayors at the local level” and Catalonia’s scientific career and participation in the COP since 2003, as well as the National Agreement for the Energy Transition and the Plan of Deployment of Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure.

Catalonia’s objectives regarding emissions

Catalonia aims at reducing by 25% its greenhouse gases emissions by 2020, compared to 2005, and by 15% diffuse emissions, such as those from vehicles. For 2030 the goal is an overall reduction of 40% of greenhouse gas emissions and a 28% decrease of diffuse gases.

2005 marked the peak of emissions in Catalonia, but since then the rate has fallen by 40%. In 2014 (latest official data), however, it rose 0.46%, due to economic growth. An increase is also expected for 2015. With about 6 tons per year, Catalonia is below the Spanish average, of 7 tons, and that of Europe, of almost 9 tons. There is a 14% growth in emissions in comparison to 1990, but 40% less than in 2005.

The Paris Agreement enters into force next Friday

The Paris Agreement, signed last year and demarcating a maximum of 2ºC global warming and 1.5ºC if possible, enters into force next Friday, after being ratified by more than 55% of the 195 signatory countries, which represent over 55% of emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). There were five years of margin for its application, but less than 12 months have been necessary to achieve the goal. This contrasts with the Kyoto Protocol, which was signed in 1997 but took eight years to come into force due to the lack of sufficient ratification.

Experts believe that if the agreement of the COP21 (Conference of Parties) in Paris was to establish a global pact against climate change, now it is necessary to make the laws and comply with them.  

The Paris Agreement includes provisions that mean that each state must submit every five years its commitments to reduce emissions. In 2018 will take place the first global assessment of emissions and in 2020 the states will have to present the first national objectives. In 2023 and 2028 the evaluation will return and in 2025 the emissions goals and national commitments must be resubmitted. One of the mechanisms to make countries meet commitments, as there is no system of sanctions, is the so-called 'will of embarrassment', which will highlight the difference between goals and achievements for each state.

COP22 conference in Marrakech

Only countries that have ratified the agreement in Paris are actively taking part in the discussions to develop this agreement at the COP22 in Marrakech. However, there are countries that have expressed their willingness to ratify it, despite not having done so for reasons of internal legislative process. Therefore, it is expected that the measures approved between this and next week will be extended while waiting for the ratification of a greater number of states.

The two main objectives of the meeting are the implementation of the Paris Agreement and to take action on reducing greenhouse gases. Thus, it is necessary to establish rules for monitoring and verifying emissions transparently; mobilise some 100,000 million dollars a year, whether public or private; promote green growth in underdeveloped countries; and contribute to the adaptation of the most vulnerable countries to global warming, such as those that may suffer severe consequences resulting from the rise in sea level.

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