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The Basque Country, an example of how to balance economic growth and combatting climate change

The 2018 Environmental Profile of the Basque Country – Climate Change unveiled today shows that pollution and economic growth do not go hand in hand: the Basque Country grew 65% while it reduced its CO2 emissions by 18% between 1995 and 2016.

The Basque Country’s emissions coincide with the European average, with 19 million tons of CO2 in 2016, 0.4% of the total EU-28 emissions. The Basque Country will not escape the consequences of climate change: a 15% drop in annual precipitation is expected by 2100 and atmospheric temperature to rise by 1.5 to 5 degrees.

CO2 emissions have fallen in the Basque Country in recent years, a circumstance that shows that economic growth does not necessarily mean greater environmental pollution. This was stressed by the Basque Country’s Deputy Minister for the Basque Country, Elena Moreno, during the presentation of the 2018 Environmental Profile of the Basque Country – Climate Change in Bilbao this morning.

The conclusions of the document point out that “it is possible to grow economically and reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Specifically, between 1995 and 2016, the Basque economy grew by 65%, while simultaneously CO2 emissions fell by 18%,” as Moreno pointed out and who was accompanied by Aitor Zulueta,  the Natural Heritage and Climate Change Director.

The Basque Country has set the target for 2030 to cut total greenhouse gas (GHG) by 40% and is on schedule: it has already reduced its emissions by 26% on the baseline year, 2005.

This Environmental Profile presented in Bilbao this morning is intended to be an instrument that provides clear, concise and global information on the annual evolution of the state of the environment in the Basque Country by means of the most relevant indicators. The profiles relating to air, water and waste have been published so far.

The 2018 report focuses on climate change and is intended to be an instrument to study the situation of the Basque Country with regard to global warming. It thus established a monitoring framework that measures the progress with respect to the targets set in the Paris Agreement.

50 key Indicators

The climate change Environmental Profile is structured around 50 indicators. Those measure aspects such as what the responsibility of the Basque Country is in climate change, which measures are being taken by the main sectors of the Basque economy and if climate change risks are being managed to improve the resilience of the territory.

One of the most important data of the document is that, in terms of the total per capita emissions of European countries, the Basque Country is in fourteenth position, behind Germany and in front of Spain; in other words, at the same level as the EU-28 average, with per capita emissions of 8.7 tons of CO2.

In that regard, the main sectors of the Basque economy are implementing measures. With respect to 2005, according to the Profile, GHG emissions were reduced by 46.3% in industry, 39.7% in the agricultural sector, 33% in services, 26% in waste, 15.7% in the residential sector, 13.6% in the energy transformation sector and 8% in transport.

According to the document, the rise in sea level along the Basque coast was 70 mm between 1993 and 2017 and that were 12 severe weather events in the Basque Country in the last of those years (2017). It also reaches the conclusion that 100% of Basque municipalities are at risk of heat waves and increased droughts, 81% by flooding and 23% of flooding during to a rising sea level.

Climate Change International Conference and Week

The Basque Country is well aware of this situation. According to the Environmental Profile, 90% of the Basque population accepts that climate change is a reality and that same population percentage agrees that ambitious targets need to be established to mitigate it. One of the results, to take an example, is that 37% of the municipal waste generated in the Basque Country are reused, recycled and composted.

At institutional level, the Basque Country has its 2020 Plan Action of the Climate Change Strategy of the Basque Country-KLIMA 2050. According to the study unveiled this morning, it was already 45% fully implemented by 2017.

As part of the Klima 2050 Strategy, the Basque Government is one of the driving forces of the ‘Change the Change’ International Climate Change Conference in San Sebastián from 6 to 8 March, which is one of the most important environmental events of the year.

Fifty top-tier international speakers will gather in the capital of San Sebastián to reflect on this global problem. During the three days, 600 people are expected to attend the conference, which will make it one of the key events of the year in this field.

The 8 thematic panels will include one to showcase the most successful initiatives of cutting-edge regions, such as Baden-Württemberg (Germany), Central Denmark (Denmark), Lombardy (Italy), Scotland (the UK) and the Balearic Islands, with the participation of each of their ministers for the environment.

The Change the Change Conference will be the focal point of the first Basque Climate Change Week – Asteklima, which will be run in different locations of the Basque Country from 1 to 10 March 2019. There will an extensive calendar of activities with something for everyone.