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conferencia change the change

More than 600 experts pledge their allegiance to fight climate change in the Basque Country

The International Conference on Climate Change – Change the Change – kicked off today with an opening session featuring president of the Spanish Government Pedro Sánchez, president of the Basque Government Iñigo Urkullu, and minister for the Environment, Territorial Planning and Housing of the Basque Government Iñaki Arriola.

The event is one of the most significant of the year on the subject of climate change and top international experts have gathered for the conference in San Sebastian, which will end on 8 March.

One of Europe’s leading climate change events of the year kicked off today in San Sebastian with the title ‘Change the Change’. For three days, this Basque city will host the international conference, a complete sell-out, during which prestigious international experts will talk about climate change. The opening session was hosted by the minister of Environment, Territorial Planning and Housing of the Basque Government, Iñaki Arriola, the president of the Basque Government, Iñigo Urkullu, and the president of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez. Renowned British economist Nicholas Stern, Iberdrola chairman Ignacio Galán, and the minister for Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera, made up the first panel at the Conference.

The minister, Iñaki Arriola, welcomed everyone to the opening ceremony, highlighting that the Basque Country is committed to this global challenge, “since climate change is no longer a theory, and has become a reality”. The councillor remarked that it is a question of “changing the change, and its impact”.

Then came the president of the Basque government, Mr Urkullu, who remarked that the “changing the trend in climate change is a matter of urgency”. He cited the example that the Basque Country is setting with the 2050 KLIMA Strategy. The Basque Country will use this to “reduce carbon emissions to the point that they will be absorbed, as well as increasing the resilience of the territory”.

At the end of the institutional opening ceremony, president of the Spanish government Pedro Sánchez said that “not only do we need to change the change, but also our perception of the change. To call upon our consciences.  This is no ideological battle, but a battle based on science”. According to Sánchez, whose speech focused on our shared responsibility to combat climate change, this effort is also “a source of economic opportunities”.

“Climate change is therefore a global ecological commitment that includes everyone”, said the president. Sánchez concluded by saying that “achieving a zero-emissions economy by 2050 is at the core of our country’s agenda”.

Nicholas Stern, a leading expert on the impact of climate change on the global economy and author of the ‘Stern Report’ shared an international perspective of the economy and its influence on climate change. “What we do during the next 20 years in terms of climate change will be decisive”, he warned. “The story of growth in the 21st century must be strong, sustainable and inclusive”, he added.

The economist warned that “climate change is a risk for the existence of a large percentage of the population”. He quoted some figures, revealing that the number of people exposed to extreme heat will rise from 14% to 37% and that heat waves and droughts are set to increase twofold. “A two-degree increase is extremely dangerous. We can’t allow it to be three degrees”, he said. According to Stern, the solution lies in “reducing the demand for carbon-intensive products and services”. Later on, in a meeting with the media, Stern once again stressed the importance of creating sustainable systems that also provide employment, green investment and the transformation of countries toward the change. According to the economist, “denying that there is a problem may hinder progress”.

Iberdrola chairman and CEO Ignacio Galán invited everyone to “join forces” because of the “need to change the energy model”, stressing the company’s role in fostering this transformation: “We are going to drive new investment in Spain, allocating 8,000 million euros until 2022 to continue leading the energy transition, and with this create more than 20,000 jobs that will multiply those in traditional generation in Spain many times over.”

The minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, touched on a number of the subjects that are being debated around the world: “Europe, its market and industry do not want to promote an international market that does not fulfil the Paris agreements”. In this regard, the minister confirmed that “the next transition is ecological”.