Balearics launch pioneering plan to phase out emissions

The Balearic islands' government has launched a pioneering plan to phase out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, potentially setting itself on a collision course with the Spanish government.

Under the green manifesto, new diesel cars will be taken off the car market in Ibiza, Majorca, Menorca and Formentera from 2025 – the same year that all street and road lighting will be replaced by LEDs.

Solar panels will be installed on all buildings with roof spans of more than 1,000 square metres – car parks, hospitals, supermarkets and sports stadiums – coal plants will be phased out and, by 2035, all car hire fleets on the islands will be electrified.

Francina Armengol, the president of the Balearics’ socialist-green government, said their territorial limits made them “an ideal space to promote electromobility and to expand renewable energy so that it eventually becomes our only source of power.”

“We are very aware that plenty of the measures in the law we are announcing today demand efforts from the public and private sectors,” she said. “It has to be this way if the law is to be more than a mere statement of intent.”

Joan Groizard, the islands’ director-general for climate change said the move put them on a path to confrontation with Madrid, and his government was studying the legal implications “very carefully”.

“There is a live debate about what regions can and can’t do, and we are working very practically on the legal side of this,” he told the Guardian.

“We can’t ratify the Paris agreement on our own but we can take a decision to adhere to it. Climate change is already having a big impact on our islands and hopefully our actions can have a knock-on effect elsewhere.”

Water bills on the archipelago have surged recently due to more frequent droughts and storms, while warming waters have brought seasonal jellyfish plagues and degraded marine ecosystems.

Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has promised to bring forward a delayed national climate plan this year, as climate change concerns have grown.

But environmentalists have been alarmed by governmental attempts to seek a royal decree preventing the shutdown of coal plants in the country’s north.

A ministry spokesperson said that public consultations for a draft climate law were still under way and that Spain maintained an ambitious renewables policy, despite biting cuts to subsidies.

“In the Balearics, the difference [is that] the cost of energy production is subsidised and included in the electricity bill of all the Spanish citizens,” the official said. “Therefore, the energy policy [requires] consensus between the different Spanish administrations.”

The question of whether Madrid or Spain’s regions exercise responsibility for energy policy will ultimately determine the fate of the Balearics climate plan.

Last month, Spain’s constitutional court froze a similarly ambitious climate change act passed by the restive parliament in Catalonia.

The Balearics government says that if its climate plan is blocked, it will refuse to upgrade its Alcúdia coal plant in Majorca in time to meet a 2020 deadline for new EU emissions limits.

Most of the Balearics’ energy comes from this complex – whose planning permission approvals are controlled by the islanders’ government, according to Groizard.

“If we sit on our hands and do nothing then on 1 January 2020, the plant will not be able to work, because it will be in breach of the EU legislation,” he said. “We are hoping it won’t go that far. But we do have pockets of sovereignty – or power – that we’re planning to use if we need to.”

Groizard argues that rather than spend €100m in compliance costs for a polluting plant, the money should be invested in clean energies. The Balearics’ plan would close one half of the coal plant by 2020 and the other half by 2030, after consultations with plant workers.

Juan López de Uralde, a Green MP in Madrid said the plan had the potential to stir a wider rebellion. “If the government continues with its paralysis [on climate change], a united front could happen,” he said, citing Andalucia – currently drafting its own climate plan – Castilla La Manca, Valencia and Catalonia as potential allies.

Marta Subirà, Catalonia’s environment minister, said climate shocks from rising sea levels and damage to two local deltas – along with heatwaves and forest fires – provided “a reason for this kind of [united] front”.

The governments of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands have already combined to prevent offshore drilling along their shared coast, and the Balearics had taken Catalonia’s climate law as “a role model”, Subirà said.

“It is an alert to the Spanish government to tell them that this is the moment to act,” she told the Guardian. “They can’t hide anymore and we are ready to do it.”

Arthur Neslen

This article first appeared on the Guardian

edie is part of the Guardian Environment Network

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