Environmentalists sue the Government for failing to fulfill its commitments to combat climate change

Environmentalists sue the Government for failing to fulfill its commitments to combat climate change

Greenpeace, Ecologistas en Acción and Oxfam Intermón appeal to the Supreme Court because they consider that Spain is in breach of the Paris Agreement. If admitted for processing, it would be the first climate litigation in our country

Environmentalists sue the Government for failing to fulfill its commitments to combat climate change

While humanity seeks a common solution to the health crisis caused by the SARSCOV-2 virus, our planet is suffering the consequences of global warming, a phenomenon that requires a worldwide reduction in CO2 emissions to reverse the trend. Time is short. In November 2019, the European Parliament declared a climate emergency. Spain did the same in January 2020. From the Ministry for Ecological Transition, our country reiterated its commitment to ambition to achieve the objectives set in the Paris Agreement and limit the increase in the global average temperature to 1.5ºC with respect to to pre-industrial levels.

However, expectations have not been met . Greenpeace, Ecologistas en Acción and Oxfam Intermón have filed a contentious-administrative appeal before the Contentious-Administrative Chamber of the Supreme Court. They accuse the Government of “inaction” in the face of climate change. “The climate crisis is of the same category or greater than what we are experiencing now with the pandemic. But there are many delays and in our opinion, the procedures, based on European law, have to be followed,” he explained to EL WORLD Mario Rodríguez, director of Greenpeace.

“Spain has been emitting greenhouse gases for years above the established limit , say the three organizations. If between 2008 and 2012 we were allowed to increase emissions by 15% compared to 1990, in reality our country did so by 22.8%. The excess was offset by the purchase of emission rights for a value of 800 million euros. Since then, and only mitigated by the economic crisis, emissions have continued to grow steadily to date, as warned in a press release.

According to the three entities, the draft of the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC) and the Long-Term Strategy, which should have been definitively approved last December, do not comply with Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 of the European Parliament and the Council on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action. This document sets a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions of 23% in 2030, well below the commitment acquired at the international level. For environmentalists, the range of emissions should not be less than 55% in 2030 and approach net zero in 2040.

“More audacity and forcefulness”

We do not deny the government's efforts because for the first time the climate emergency has been declared in Parliament. But the emergency cannot be declared and insufficient measures taken that do not allow compliance with the Paris Agreement, ” said Rodríguez. “We understand that we have a sensitive government that understands the gravity of the situation, but we ask for greater audacity and greater forcefulness. As environmental groups it is our duty to do so.”

If admitted, the demand to the Government for failing to fulfill its commitments with the Paris Agreement, would initiate the first climate litigation in Spain. It is a judicial procedure in which the authorities responsible for their inaction in the face of climate change are denounced. They can also be directed against large corporations that carry out highly polluting activities that accelerate it. This is the first time that an appeal of this type has been filed in our country, in addition to that faced by other states such as Germany, France, Belgium, the United States, Canada, India or New Zealand.

With the entry into force of the Paris Agreement in 2016, it is possible to demand compliance with actions that reduce global warming based on the commitments acquired by the states. In the Netherlands, the Supreme Court accepted the Foundation and URGENDA's lawsuit and has condemned their government in 2020 for failing to meet its climate mitigation commitments.

“Spain did not comply with the Kyoto protocol . It exceeded the emissions that other European countries allowed it,” said Rodríguez. And when what is owed is not met, carbon markets are used to pay for emitting the surplus. Is it cheaper to pay than to comply? “The saying that the polluter pays, is always cheaper. Companies buy the right to emit and this has been used to avoid responsibilities. That is why we are so slow and that is why we make this call for attention, in a democratic country, through of the judges, “Rodríguez stressed.

The vulnerability of Spain

According to the European Environment Agency, Spain is, due to its location, desertification and its extensive coastline, among the countries in Europe most vulnerable to climate change. If the commitments to reduce emissions are not met, our country faces both severe drought episodes and the impact of heavy torrential rains, floods or an increase in the number and intensity of fires.

To reduce emissions and thus curb global warming, major changes are required in energy or production models, a costly investment that could in the long run avoid the large economic and life losses associated with adverse weather events linked to the climate change.

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