In order to take the pulse of the citizen’s perception of the climate crisis in the Ribera del Duero, we carried out a survey prior to the start of the Forum. We got 10 responses from a variety of profiles, most of them individually but also representing engineering companies or associations in the region. In a visual and summarized way, these are the results, question by question:
1. How much do the following impacts of climate change affect the Ribera del Duero region?
Other impacts you consider relevant:
- Lower water level/flow in reservoirs, rivers and wetlands.
- Decrease in agricultural productivity, irregular harvests. Increase and appearance of phytosanitary problems. Lack of adaptation of crop genetic resources.
Undoubtedly, impacts such as increased temperatures or droughts, as well as the loss of biodiversity, are clearly affecting the Ribera and the population knows it. Other more indirect consequences such as effects on health or migration are not yet as well known.
2. What do you think are the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions (causing current anthropogenic climate change) in Ribera del Duero?
Other relevant emission sources:
- Waste should be used, with due control, to produce energy (I don’t care by combustion or fermentation).
- Forest fires.
- Intensive farming.
Regarding the sources of emissions of the regional economy, the main ones are not known with the same clarity as the impacts. Although transport and agriculture stand out in general, there is a high dispersion in the rest, especially around electricity generation, changes in land use, the residential sector or industry. There is a perceived lack of information and training in the matter.
3. How can you and/or your entity reduce your emissions and adapt to climate impacts? What needs do you have? What can you contribute to the solutions?
- Reduce mineral fertilizers, substitute green manures, reduce tillage and use localized irrigation systems, such as drip irrigation.
- We can help citizens, associations, companies and institutions in the region become more aware of the problem and commit to finding solutions. Also making known the European climate change policies and the opportunities for change they offer.
- I can contribute agronomic knowledge but more is needed. More genetic resources are also needed.
- Through the application of good practices, environmental education and participation in public information on projects.
- Well, I do not know.
- A personal attitude.
- In our organization we try to be as ecofriendly as possible through measures of rational use of physical documentation and energy saving planning systems.
- I don’t see how.
- Awareness starts individually.
- Reusing what is manufactured, recycling correctly, using less packaging.
At the level of solutions, there is a marked differentiation between people who are already working on the matter, in specific sectors and areas, and people who are probably aware but still do not know how to be part of the solution. This layout reflects a suitable target audience for the Forum.
Conclusions of Day 1 (Thursday June 30): Co-creation with key stakeholders from the Ribera del Duero region
The first day of the Forum materialized in a practical workshop focused on collaborative work between the social and economic agents of the Ribera del Duero, in order to determine the socio-environmental challenges derived from the climate crisis (impacts) in the region, the emission sources (causes) and climate action strategies (solutions) in the rural world. The methodology used is known as “Forests for the climate”, around three moments: 1. Climate impacts: tree trunks; 2. Sectoral and common causes: short and deep roots connected with other trees; and 3. Sectoral and systemic solutions: short and long branches connected with other trees. Two areas were always differentiated: my entity (in which I work or contribute, or in the family sphere in the case of participation in a private capacity) and Ribera del Duero as a whole (territory and population).
Here are the results collected from the facilitated co-creation:
1. Impacts: environmental impacts of the climate crisis, and derived social impacts
- High temperatures and heat waves.
- Droughts and lack of rain: less drinking water, more spending on water purification and therefore the price and accessibility of water rises.
- Health problems, especially in vulnerable people: the elderly, with respiratory, cardiovascular, chronic diseases, allergies and other types of vulnerabilities.
- Possible water restrictions in gardens and parks, etc.
- Greater pollution and worse air quality: more CO2 in the environment, noise pollution.
- Groundwater contamination and aquifer degradation (increased waste).
- Forest fires: loss of fauna and flora.
- Late frosts (end of May): agricultural and economic losses
- Rural abandonment and rural depopulation. Abandonment of homes and countries, with the consequent refuge and protection in others (climatic migrations).
- Impoverishment and energy poverty.
- Deterioration of environmental health: early flowering of trees, decline in flora, slower growth of trees, reduction in plant mass.
- Increase in invasive animal species and pests: birds, crabs, fish, mosquitoes…
- Loss of biodiversity and the ecological capital of the Ribera.
- Soil acidification and land degradation.
- Disruption of crops that endangers the current agricultural system and the domestic economies that depend on it: production decreases, jobs are lost, poverty and depopulation increase; and at the same time worsens the food quality.
As already glimpsed in the survey, climate impacts and their consequences are generally quite well known, an unequivocal sign that the climate crisis is already here and greatly affects the rural world, its economy and ways of life.
2. Sources of GHG emissions (“polluting sectors”). Root causes of emissions (economic, socio-cultural…)
- Transport: high number of polluting private vehicles, lack and low use of community public transport and companies, high emissions from companies in the automotive sector.
- Waste management and increase in uncontrolled dumping.
- Intensive agriculture and livestock: proliferation of farms, pesticides and chemicals, monocultures that increase the risk of fires, pests…
- Excessive consumption (consumerism): generation of “unnecessary” needs, temporary goods, planned obsolescence, non-indigenous products, telephones, plastics (especially in packaging), cardboard, chips, lithium batteries, etc.
- Capitalism, consumption and modern technology.
- Globalization: international interests, ways of life (we travel abroad and do not know the neighboring town).
- Economic model and industrial model: relocation of factories and markets, online market.
- System based and highly dependent on oil and fossil fuels.
- Enrichment of a few and impoverishment and depopulation of many.
- Absence of adequate climate policies: poor national and European planning.
- Lack of interest: the effects of climate change are seen in the long term and it is difficult to generate awareness, lack of a sense of individual influence causes disinterest.
- Overpopulation: excessive world population and poorly distributed.
The analysis of the causes of the climate crisis was very satisfactory, since in addition to identifying some of the main polluting sectors in the region (transport, agriculture and industrial livestock farming or deforestation), it immediately went to the deep level of common or systemic causes, highlighting the economic model of globalization and consumerism as the root of the problem, as well as the lack of adequate policies or social awareness. Only one person mentioned inequalities and two pointed to overpopulation, indicating that there is still a great lack of knowledge of the strong correlation between the climate crisis and the growing and great inequalities, both in causes and consequences, and not so much with the population level.
3.Sector-specific resilience solutions (mitigation and adaptation). Systemic resilience solutions (root causes)
- Emission control.
- They would need sewage treatment plants in all the towns.
- Recover the environment: conservation and recovery of native flora and native seeds.
- Reduce consumption, responsible and local consumption: try to apply minimalism, investigate where what I buy comes from, what I eat, what I consume
- Educate in ecology, sensitization and awareness to change the model of society: be more responsible and think more of others than of oneself, raise awareness of spending and try to make life in the hours of sunshine.
- Individual and collective actions. Stocks of large companies. Example: at Land Life we help companies offset their CO2 emissions: “money grows on trees”.
- Political decision at the regional level.
The methodology led us down the right path, taking up the previously detected common causes in order to think of systemic solutions that address them all together. Thus, there was talk of rethinking the socioeconomic model, abandoning consumerism, from education, with individual and collective actions, including those of large companies and political institutions at the local/regional level. The need to prioritize the regeneration or regeneration of the environment, already quite degraded, was also seen. In general, there was a lack of time to work in detail on the solutions part, as had already been anticipated, designing the Forum as the first moment of a broader conversation and of a lasting process that we hope will trigger a transformation at the height of the Ribereña society and economy. from mechanisms of direct and participatory democracy.
Conclusions of Day 2 (Friday July 1): Dialogue with institutions
After the welcome, the conclusions of Day 1 were briefly presented in terms of the socio-environmental challenges, causes and possible solutions to the climate crisis in the Ribera. Then, the focus was on science with a keynote speech:
“The climate crisis and the rural world” – Elena López Gunn, Director of ICATALIST & IPCC lead author
Elena made a plea in favor of science, a key tool to know reality and guide our steps, along with the compass of equity, the perspective of multilateralism and the bridge of international cooperation. He introduced us to the 6th and last IPCC report (United Nations Panel on Climate Change), where growing scientific knowledge gives us our best understanding yet of climate change, integrating natural, ecological, social and economic sciences like never before, and producing new findings and key messages such as:
- The accumulated scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change is unequivocal.
- Global warming of 1.5-2°C (“safe” limits of the Paris Agreement) will be exceeded during this century unless there are rapid and deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades. Such reductions would lessen growing risks, give us more time to adapt, and enable sustainable and climate-resilient development. However, any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief window of rapid closure to secure a livable and sustainable future for all. Basically, global action is more urgent than previously assessed. Today and every action, every decision matters.
- Further increases in extremely high temperatures, terrestrial and marine heat waves, heavy precipitation, droughts, intense tropical cyclones, as well as reductions in sea ice, snow cover and Arctic permafrost are expected. It is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet.
- The risks (derived from hazards, vulnerabilities and exposure levels) are increasing and are interacting, generating simultaneous extreme events, compound and cascading risks, such as: rising temperatures and droughts, which worsen crop yields, which in turn, they raise food prices and also lower incomes in households dedicated to agriculture, with the local and potentially global effects that all this entails, such as famines and conflicts. In addition, high temperatures particularly affect physical work outside such as agriculture, with the resulting health consequences. Among the most severe current and future global climate risks, the following stand out:
- Heat stress: Exposure to heat waves will continue to increase with additional warming.
- Water scarcity: With a 2°C rise, melt-dependent regions could experience a 20% decrease in water availability for agriculture after 2050.
- Food security increasingly in check due to droughts and water scarcity, erosion and loss of fertility, etc.
- Flooding: Close to a billion people in low-lying cities by the sea and on small islands at risk from rising sea levels by mid-century.
- Since the Fifth Assessment Report, knowledge about observed and projected impacts and risks has increased, and more impacts can be attributed to climate change. Climate change, including more frequent and intense weather hazards, has caused widespread impacts on ecosystems and people.
- Our Mediterranean region is a climatic “hotspot”, having suffered to date a warming of 20% above the global average. With its climate already quite dry and warm in the summer, any additional drought (or heat) significantly affects plants, animals and people and ultimately society and its economy. In addition, as the temperature increases, evapotranspiration increases and precipitation decreases. If we reach the 3°C scenario, the rain reduction will be around 12%, which is a lot. In general, we are in an area with high exposure and vulnerability to climate impacts.
- In the next two decades, climate impacts will be more severe in all regions of the world, therefore more ambitious and accelerated actions are needed to be able to adapt, in particular it is vital:
- In order to make our societies more resilient, vulnerable groups (most affected) must be at the center of decision-making on how to respond to climate change.
- According to projections, 68% of the world population will live in cities in 2050, constituting critical points of impacts and risks.
- Changes in the availability and supply of water, for people and ecosystems, will require effective water management.
- Nature harbors enormous potential for climate adaptation and mitigation: they are the so-called Nature-Based Solutions (NBS), defined according to IUCN Global Standard for NBS, which also generate a net gain in biodiversity.
- However adaptation has limits (soft and hard), as even effective adaptation cannot prevent all loss and damage. Loss and damage that are unevenly distributed across systems, regions, and sectors, heavily concentrating on the poorest and most vulnerable populations. Current financial, institutional and governance systems do not address them comprehensively, particularly in the most vulnerable countries. As examples of the limits of adaptation: above 1.5°C some SBNs may no longer function, or lack of fresh water may prevent adaptation by people living on small islands or dependent on glaciers and thawing. Similarly, 2°C will pose a major challenge to multiple staple crops in many of today’s growing areas.
- Biodiversity loss grows with increasing warming, jeopardizing the integrity of ecosystems, the services and the adaptive capacities they provide.
Elena also emphasized the essential dimension of equity, very present in her working group of the report (WG 2 – Impacts of climate change, adaptation and vulnerability):
- The vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate change differs substantially between and within regions, driven by inequity, marginalization, governance and socio-economic development patterns, and unsustainable uses of oceans and land.
- So far, progress on adaptation is uneven and there are widening gaps between what has been done and what is needed to deal with growing risks.
- The construction of climate justice and equity go through political commitment, inclusive governance and institutional frameworks, goals and clear priorities; greater knowledge about impacts, transitions and viable and effective solutions (including local and indigenous knowledge), access to financing, monitoring and evaluation.
Turning now to solutions, the concept of “climate-resilient sustainable development” is valued, combining adaptation and mitigation, and entailing additional benefits in terms of health, equity and biodiversity, in particular:
- Successful adaptation requires urgent, more ambitious and accelerated action and, at the same time, rapid, equitable and deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Incremental adaptation is no longer enough, only transformational change will ensure a livable future.
- This transformative approach will make it possible to limit global warming, deal with its impacts and dangers, stop the loss of biodiversity, reduce the total consumption of resources, guarantee sustainable production; and at the same time reduce poverty, hunger, malnutrition, improve health and livelihoods, and provide clean and affordable energy and water to more people.
- The process involves fundamental changes in the functioning of society: it requires inclusive debate and decision-making, collective action, accountability and trust in governments. Thus, an approach based on fairness, justice, adequate financing and cooperative work leads to better results.
- At the mitigation level: there are options that are feasible to implement at scale in the short term and that are capable of strengthening the action beyond the commitments already acquired (National Determined Contributions), reducing and/or avoiding viability challenges long-term of 1.5°C trajectories with limited or no overshoot.
- The last United Nations Climate Summit in Glasgow (COP26) established an important Global Adaptation Goal, paving the way for COP27 in Egypt (November 2022) to prioritize effective and transformative adaptation, and address the issue of Damage and Loss .
By sectors, starting with the agri-food sector, one of the most vulnerable and of special relevance for the rural world, there are different effective options to improve food security, such as improvements in crops, agroforestry, the diversification of farms and landscapes, the strengthening biodiversity and community-based adaptation. In the case of water, it is the sector that is already taking the most measures. Of the existing models, the most viable is the agroecological one. The benefits of transformation are wide-ranging, beyond climate resilience, in terms of food security and nutrition, health and well-being, and ensuring livelihoods. Additional conclusions are drawn from the regional reports, such as:
- In Europe, demand management measures are being taken, but as temperatures rise, intersectoral conflicts over scarce resources such as water increase.
- In the Mediterranean, 11 out of 15 rivers are in water stress due to agriculture, a sector that is expected to have a water deficit in the future.
Speaking of water, an essential element for all human activity and for life on Earth in general:
- There is growing evidence of observed changes in the hydrological cycle of people and ecosystems due to climate change. A significant portion of those impacts are negative and are disproportionately felt by already vulnerable communities. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would reduce water-related risks in all regions and sectors.
- Heavy precipitation events are becoming more intense and frequent in much of the world. Thus, more than 600 million people experience significantly stronger intense precipitation events as well as longer dry spells compared to the 1950s.
- Water is clearly central to adaptation: a large majority (~80%) of all current adaptation responses are also water-related and aim to reduce the impacts of variability in rainfall, drought, flooding, depletion groundwater, or soil moisture deficit. Therefore, water can both constrain and enable effective adaptation measures.
- Institutional limitations in relation to governance, policies, conflicts and low adaptation capacities are some of the important factors that hinder effective adaptation in the water sector. An explicit focus on issues of gender, equity and participation is required.
- The system must undertake a series of essential transformations to reduce emissions across the sector, including a substantial reduction in overall use of fossil fuels, deployment of low-emission energy sources, switching to alternative energy sources, and efficiency and energy conservation. The continued installation of fossil fuel infrastructure will “lock” emission levels.
- The current production of hydroelectric and thermoelectric energy is being negatively affected by climate change, in particular due to the reduced availability of water. With high confidence, in some world regions, such as Southern and Eastern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, Southern Africa, and Western Asia, both hydropower and thermoelectric power production will decline in the future; while freshwater withdrawals for energy production will increase significantly in all regions.
- The costs of non-adaptation in the energy sector are high. Thus, in order to overcome water scarcity in energy production, adaptation measures are paramount including: increased efficiency in water use, changes in dam operating protocols, sharing of revenue benefits of hydroelectric energy with local communities, changes in cooling technologies for thermoelectric plants, and institutional mechanisms for interregional energy trade. However, residual risks will remain, especially at higher levels of warming.
- As a conclusion, although various adaptation measures are being implemented with different levels of effectiveness, a just energy transition, with a greater mix of solar and wind energy, and a low water footprint will have the greatest adaptation and mitigation co-benefits.
Finalmente, Elena habló con grata satisfacción de la Asamblea Ciudadana para el Clima, de cuyo consejo asesor científico ha formado parte. 100 personas diversas, representativas de la sociedad española, durante 6 meses han formado parte de un proceso (online) formativo y deliberativo, alcanzando 172 medidas de acción y justicia climática que han recomendado a las instituciones políticas nacionales. A Elena se le iluminó el rostro de color esperanza al compartir sus positivas sensaciones respecto a este pionero proceso: “cuando la gente deja de lado las pequeñas diferencias, etiquetas y colores políticos, y se une para trabajar por el bien común, se llega a resultados muy sensatos y la democracia funciona de verdad.” Con eso nos quedamos.
Finally, Elena spoke with great satisfaction about the Citizen Climate Assembly, of whose scientific advisory council she has been a member. 100 diverse people, representative of Spanish society, for 6 months have been part of an (online) training and deliberative process, reaching 172 climate action & justice measures that have been recommended to national political institutions. Elena’s face lit up with hope as she shared her positive feelings regarding this pioneering process: “When people put aside their small differences, labels and political colors, and come together to work for the common good, they come to very sensible results and democracy really works.” We take this message going forward.
Panel “Climate and rural repopulation policies and strategies in Europe and Spain”
After the presentation of social perception and climate science, it is the turn of the institutions, in order to establish a dialogue with the citizens that paves the way for the transition. We start with the macro level, reviewing the policies and strategies in the face of the climate crisis and depopulation in Europe and Spain. To this end, we have Carmen Marqués, coordinator in Spain of the Network of Ambassadors of the European Climate Pact; Juan González, head of communication of the Representation of the European Commission in Spain; Ana Pintó, technical adviser of the Spanish Office for Climate Change; and Cesar García, professor at the Polytechnic University of Madrid and ambassador. Thanks to the facilitation of Isabel Silva, representative in Galicia of the Network, we discussed the following issues:
- Do we have strategic and/or regulatory frameworks at the national and/or European level that jointly address the challenge of depopulation and climate action in the rural world? If so, what are they and how are they working? If not, is the issue being raised?
- In view of the foreseeable climate impacts (IPCC 6th report) and the needs of the local population of the Ribera del Duero expressed above, what role can institutions play to help raise ambition in mitigation, adaptation and climate justice?
In a synthetic way and in the words of the participants themselves:
Carmen Marqués, Coordinator in Spain of the EU Climate Pact Ambassadors network:
“Both Spain and Europe are developing the necessary policies and strategies to face climate change and the challenge of depopulation in the rural world, but the task is not easy because the challenge is immense, there are often conflicting interests and the international context it is getting more and more complicated. The European Green Deal was the number one priority of the European Commission chaired by Ursula Von Der Leyen, until the pandemic and the war in Ukraine arrived. Even so, it continues to be the compass that marks the direction of the measures that must be taken to deal with these crises. The European Green Deal sets the goal of Europe being the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and offers a new environmentally friendly economic model. Two other objectives of the Green Deal are to promote economic growth decoupled from the use of resources and ensure that no one is left behind, preventing the most vulnerable from being marginalized in the necessary ecological transition. Both in Europe and in Spain we have a climate law and now a whole legislative package (Fit for 55) is being discussed in Brussels developing the European Green Deal that has been proposed by the European Commission and that must be approved by Parliament Council and the Council of Ministers this autumn.
In an increasingly difficult international economic and social context, the institutions must stay the course towards a fair ecological transition, defend the common interest, establish a system that facilitates compliance with the Paris Agreement, accompany citizens in the face of the climate challenge, support the private sector in the development of a green economy, etc. This requires that: 1) they participate responsibly in international negotiations on global goals; 2) that they adopt the necessary legislation to comply with the Paris Agreement; 3) monitor compliance through the courts; 4) offer subsidies to facilitate the ecological transition; 5) that they adopt a fiscal policy that offers incentives to non-polluting activities; 6) that they build the appropriate infrastructures (public transport, bike lanes, electric chargers…)
Luckily we are in Europe. Europe is more than just a market, as we have seen during the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. It is a political project and a solidarity space in which the just ecological transition is a fundamental pillar. Europe and Spain are assuming their climate commitments but it will not be easy at all.”
Juan González, Head of Communication of the Representation of the European Commission in Spain:
“The European Commission highlights that, in addition to the European Green Deal, the European strategic framework that jointly addresses the issues of depopulation and climate change is the “Long-term vision for rural areas in the EU 2040”, which gives its own entity to rural issues and recognizes in particular the problem of depopulation generated by the social and economic changes of recent decades, such as globalization and urbanization. The vision also points out that to meet the challenge of depopulation and reap the benefits of the green and digital transitions, locally tailored policies and measures are needed. In mid-2023, the Commission will take stock of the measures financed by the EU and the Member States that have been carried out and programmed for rural areas. A public report, to be published in early 2024, will identify areas where support and finance need to be improved. The discussions around the report will contribute to the reflection on the preparation of the proposals for the programming period 2028-2034.”
Ana Pintó, Technical Adviser of the Spanish Office for Climate Change (OECC) – Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge:
“On behalf of the OECC (Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, MITECO) examples were presented of how some concrete measures and actions included in the regulatory framework and climate action planning are being implemented at the national level (Climate Change Law and Energy Transition, Integrated National Plan for Energy and Climate and National Plan for Adaptation and Climate Change, fundamentally) and how, in turn, they address or contribute to the challenge of depopulation in the rural world. Thus, among other examples, the role of the future Common Agricultural Policy was mentioned through the Eco Regimes or rural development interventions, the deployment of renewables in the territory, the circular economy and the bioeconomy, digitization, teleworking or the rehabilitation of houses in the rural world.
On the other hand, it was highlighted that the National Adaptation Plan includes, for all sectoral work areas, a transversal line on the territorial component of vulnerability, recognizing that the features of each territory can translate into differences in the climatic risks that affect them. At the same time, it also highlights the importance of the rural environment to conserve the environmental services provided by ecosystems, something that is key for policies to adapt to the impacts of climate change in rural areas and for all sectors.
Additionally, it was explained that MITECO is carrying out various actions to advance in the demographic challenge, where the axis of the ecological transition is very present, and that the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan of Spain to channel the funds allocated by Europe to repair the damage caused by the COVID-19 crisis and reinforces and accelerates all these issues.
Lastly, the large number of studies and projects that have been developed in recent years from the wine sector were highlighted, both for the reduction of the carbon footprint and for adaptation to climate impacts and the relevance of this information for other regions.”
César García, professor at the Polytechnic University of Madrid and EU Climate Pact ambassador:
“First of all, I want to emphasize that the Rural Climate Forum has proven to be a fundamental space for dialogue, discussion and contrast of ideas and experiences. This is due to the fact that among the participants, personally or as representatives of different local or regional actors, the lack of spaces to discuss their problems, difficulties and real needs stood out.
A relevant conclusion has been the perception of climate change as a real threat, especially its consequences in the agricultural and livestock sector, however, a lack of specification of the risks focused on the region or municipality is still identified, which would be necessary for the design of a strategy for adaptation to climate change on a regional scale.
Another outstanding demand has been the lack of resources, either personnel or support structures, to compete in European projects and access programs and aid from local companies and entities. In the same way, it is identified that certain specific aids lack broader strategies that really integrate these improvements in the territory and at the same time allow them to continue, such as investment in renewable technologies in the rural context, the development of ecological productions, the maintenance of extensive livestock, etc.”
Conclusions of the panel by the facilitator: Isabel Silva, ambassador of the Network:
“The speakers spoke about the different plans and strategies where the challenges of depopulation and climate change in the rural world are being addressed. There is a lack of clarity and simple language, adapted to people not used to the terminology used, in order to better understand what it is and how climate change affects their environment, what tools are available and how they can benefit them, for example, promote youth employment and talent retention, the recovery of craft jobs that are being lost due to the aging of the population, the improvement of connections with large cities or local development. A relevant figure for this purpose would be that of the rural ambassador who makes visible the needs of the towns, as well as the innovative solutions and specific projects that attract investment and improve the economy of the Ribera del Duero.”
Panel “Local action for climate action & rural repopulation: towns and regions”
Immediately afterwards, we landed locally, sharing and highlighting what is being done and what remains to be done in terms of climate action at the level of municipalities and regions in Spain, and in particular in the Ribera as always. Thus, we have Victor Irigoyen, coordinator of the Nature-Based Solutions Observatory (SbN) at Fundación CONAMA; Luis Naveira, Director of the Green Office of the University of Burgos (who could not come due to last-minute personal reasons); Olga Maderuelo, Councilor for Promotion and Development of the City Council of Aranda de Duero, who was replaced by her colleague Carlos Fernández, Councilor for Sports and the Environment; and Mónica Ibáñez, co-founder of Ecos del Duero. Thanks to the facilitation of Antonio Aguilera, secretary of the Savia Foundation and ambassador of the Network, we discussed the following issues:
- Are the municipalities of rural Spain, and of the Ribera del Duero in particular, prepared for current and future climate impacts? How yes or how are they not prepared?
- What solutions already exist at the municipal or regional level that jointly address the climate challenge and that of depopulation? And how could they be improved and scaled?
In a synthetic way and in the words of the participants themselves:
Víctor Irigoyen, Coordinator of the NBS Observatory at CONAMA Foundation:
“The Conama Foundation exposed the difficulties expressed by local entities to act and adapt to climate change. Although there are more and more tools related to climate action – documents, financing lines, pilot projects, etc. – the professionals of local administrations have difficulties related to their limited human resources and their training, as they have equipment very small that have to deal with multiple environmental problems (climate change, mobility, waste, green spaces, etc.), which makes it difficult to access financing or participate in participatory processes. On many occasions, the pioneering tools or projects that exist are designed for large cities, which makes it difficult to replicate them in rural areas.
A context of depopulation further increases the vulnerability of rural regions: the very loss of personal resources and the aging of the population limits the resilience of their populations, limiting their entrepreneurial capacity and making it increasingly complex to maintain public services minimum (related to waste, roads, water management, access to health and education, etc.)
However, rural Spain constitutes a key territory for the sustainability of Spain as a whole. Large cities are dependent on a large import of resources that, in an ecological transition scenario, should be obtained from the closest sources, in the face of the impacts that occur in global markets. In addition, the green infrastructure, the natural and cultural heritage are a national value, so it is considered that their conservation should not fall on the local populations, but rather are a joint responsibility of the Spanish population.
Consequently, it is considered essential to move towards governance processes that favor the effective participation of local entities and give them support to undertake their climate action; The development of strategies at the regional level is considered key to ensure public services and their adaptation to climate change, so that these regions can offer possibilities for personal and economic development on equal terms with cities. Finally, financial mechanisms must be generated to support the costs derived from the conservation of services and infrastructures (forestry management, track maintenance, etc.) that are essential for the conservation of the common heritage.
Lastly, it points to the importance that forest and agricultural resources will have in a circular economy context, where new regulatory requirements are forcing companies to explore the use of new alternative materials to plastic, with numerous projects innovating in this field. sense.
From the Conama Foundation, the Nature-Based Solutions Observatory (sbn.conama.org) is made available to local entities, a platform with a multitude of resources on green infrastructure and NbS; In addition, it is recalled that local administrations can register with Conama for free with a representative, being able to register additional representatives at a reduced cost.”
Carlos Fernández, Delegate Councilor for Sports and the Environment – Aranda City Council:
Carlos commented on various initiatives promoted by the City Council of Aranda de Duero in terms of sustainability and innovation, some within the framework of the European City of Wine 2022, such as the use of LED lighting on the banks of urban rivers, or an automated LED system for the neighborhood of La Calabaza. The biomass heat network, in operation since September 2019, with 12 MW of power, could also serve 5,000 homes and public buildings when it reaches its maximum development. The network will generate 40 million kWh of thermal energy per year, consuming 12,000 t/year of local biomass, avoiding the emission of 11,000 tCO2/year into the atmosphere.
In the field of governance and co-management, the awarded urban gardens stand out, and above all the citizen participation forum for the design of the new 2030 Urban Agenda within the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan of the State Government.
Mónica Ibáñez, co-founder of Ecos del Duero:
“Given that this Forum seeks to jointly promote repopulation and climate action in the rural world, to achieve this, it is essential, in my opinion:
1. Boost the production, elaboration and commercialization of nutritious foods without toxins, via:
- Promotion of regenerative agriculture, which protects the soil and its entire ecosystem as the basis of life, works to prevent erosion, loss of water and fertility, capturing carbon and fixing it in a stable manner in the soil.
- The cattle is not the problem, the mode of production is.
- Regenerative farming is the only system that can incorporate carbon into the soil without spending energy, generating a local circular economy without suffering.
- Herbivores eat grass, green, not cereals or soybeans or feed. Many areas with fire danger and low biodiversity could be a source of food and employment.
2. Put an end to annoying, harmful, toxic and dangerous activities in rural areas, in order to achieve spaces of authentic well-being that regenerate people’s health. Silence as a unique and immeasurable value.
3. And of course stop modifying the climate with heavy metal fumigations and demand “Clean Skies” from the government. Carbon is not the problem, heavy metals and environmental toxins are.
4. On the other hand, sustainable and bioclimatic construction should be more supported and promoted, to stop wasting resources. Many very modern but not very functional and healthy designs are seen, also in rural areas, that do not take into account these key aspects of the home. Materials such as straw, mud and wood must recover their high value as local and low-impact resources.”
Conclusions of the panel by the facilitator, Antonio Aguilera, secretary of the Savia Foundation and EU Climate Pact ambassador:
“The growing interest of public administrations in the implementation of policies that stop rural depopulation has been revealed while public actions have less and less impact. However, it also highlights the incipient nature of the idea, the difficulty in aligning wills and obtaining resources, in view of the enormous conceptual distance that exists with people who are dedicated to sustainability projects.
The Ribera del Duero region is already being affected by the climate crisis caused by human beings. The productive sectors, especially the wine sector, have already perceived it and are reacting, proof of this is the purchase of land in the highlands; but a territorial strategy and a true alliance of the public administrations in their different strata are sorely lacking.
The EU Green Pact and its biodiversity and farm-to-table strategies are setting very clear objectives, but its vocation is not yet being reflected in the territory. In Spain it seems that once again we are left behind in these measures.
To tackle a problem decisively, the first step is to acknowledge it. The City Council of Aranda de Duero says that it is doing so, but, for example, has it declared a climate emergency in its plenary session? It would undoubtedly be an essential first step for this (The Network of ambassadors can help request it). For this reason, the people who are aware, and even alarmed, in practice are small local heroes who need the support of the majority that impassively witnesses a globalization that can take away the most valuable of the territory. Is it acceptable, for example, for an American fast-food restaurant to open up in the capital of suckling lamb? These are the kinds of questions that should make us reflect.
Strengthening citizen participation mechanisms to improve governance is a necessary action, essential I would say. Giving voice to the people of the territory, generating social alliances of the different agents (citizens, companies, associations, etc.), improving knowledge and awareness to share decisions and responsibilities would be, in my view, a clear line of action in the Ribera del Duero. We have to visualize the situation and try, from there, to make us part of the solution instead of being part of the problem or, worse still, rely on the uncertain future or external forces that come to fix a problem that is already too complex.”
Inspiring talk: “Agrivoltaics, part of the solution”, by Imanol Olaskoaga from Powerfultree:
Agrivoltaics consists of photovoltaic solar energy installations on cultivated land of various kinds, such as the vineyards in the Ribera, sharing space (instead of competing for the land), to make agricultural activity compatible with the production of electricity; generating mutual benefits such as the preservation of biodiversity, shading against rising temperatures due to climate change or protection against pests. With the advice of Powerfultree, Los Gabielistas are going to carry out a pilot installation in their vineyards in La Aguilera, in order to analyze its impact and viability in detail, and also provide energy to said nearby municipality, in order to contribute to the local economy.
Other Climate Resilience projects by San Gabriel:
In addition to the aforementioned agrivoltaic plant in La Aguilera, San Gabriel maintains a strong commitment to sustainability and climate resilience from its own example. Thus, it has recently launched a pioneering efficiency and renewable energy project, combining improvements in the heating system, with photovoltaic solar, aerothermal and geothermal energy, to eliminate its dependence on diesel and therefore its CO2 emissions in air conditioning and electricity consumption, also moving towards energy self-sufficiency.
In the future, it is developing an ambitious biodigester that generates renewable energy through waste from pig farms, basically obtaining hydrogen for fuel from slurry, a clear example of a circular economy. The project has the backing of private investors and would be associated with a strong R+D+i component in the Tomás Pascual Center, thus positioning the Ribera del Duero in this field.
Final conclusions by Jesús Iglesias, founder of SBNCLIMA and director of the Rural Climate Forum:
“The first thing that has been verified is that the impacts of the climate crisis are already here, in our closest area, people know about them and they generate concern because they affect the economy of the Ribera del Duero and the ways of life of its population. Among the most named impacts are drought, heat waves and high temperatures in general; as well as its influence on agriculture, viticulture and human health itself.
Therefore, the first objective of the Forum has been met with flying colours: moving from the individual to the collective sphere, sharing problems in order to act from there with a shared vision of the Ribera del Duero that we want. In this sense, the Forum was conceived as a first moment to begin this conversation and this process, involving more and more key actors. And so it has been a good start.
The next step was the deep analysis of the causes. At the sectoral level, the excessive use of individual private vehicles, or industrial agriculture and livestock were immediately identified as significant sources of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) at the local and regional level. Gaining in depth and interest, the debate focused on the deep and systemic causes, where the clear conclusion was reached that the root of the problem lies in economic globalization and the consumerism on which it is based. A globalization that especially affects the rural environment, agriculture, livestock and biodiversity: the large globalized agri-food industry, based on chemical inputs and fossil fuels, with vast energy consumption and little labor, depletes agricultural biodiversity (traditional varieties more adapted to the local climate) and natural, leaves small producers without margin and eliminates traditional trades such as grazing and extensive livestock, thus contributing to rural depopulation. Regarding the cultural dimension, extensive reference was made to changes in lifestyles towards individualism and consumerism, citing, for example, online purchases from large multinationals to the detriment of small local businesses and therefore employment. Again mission accomplished in relation to the objective of critical analysis of the current socio-economic paradigm: climate change as a symptom of something much deeper.
At this point, halfway between impacts, causes and solutions, the light of science provided by the latest report of the United Nations Climate Change Panel (IPCC) and in the mouth of Elena López Gunn, left us an unequivocal, hard and hopeful at the same time: the window of opportunity to deal with the climate and ecological crisis is closing, with a decade or so of effective action remaining; but it is still possible to raise the ambition to the challenge, the solutions exist and are available to us, such as solutions based on nature and economic location, and they will also have very positive additional benefits for the health, equity and well-being of all . We must listen to science, act urgently together and leave no one behind.
Going into the solutions now, and bearing in mind that, given the limited time available for this complex task, the Forum intended no more than to jump-start the process and outline some starting ideas, there was a strong commitment to action, with the move to individual level, reviling the medium-high level of awareness of the participants. However, the less emphasis on the collective and social justice dimension revealed the lack of knowledge about the concept of “shared but differentiated responsibility”, because although we are all part of the problem, the vast inequalities that exist, both at the of causes such as consequences of the climate crisis, imply that it is the people and entities that contribute the most to the problem (for example, only 100 large companies are responsible for 70% of historical emissions) and with more capacities that must contribute the most to the solution. It is the main pillar of a true just transition and requires an organized and mobilized civil society that demands change in addition to being it in person. We certainly need to work more in this direction.
In line with the above, the long-awaited fair transition that structures territories and empowers the rural world and its people can only result from a truly inclusive, participatory and binding governance process. This and no other was the ultimate objective of the Forum and its continuation: to glimpse the path of direct democracy, in the image of the Citizen Assembly for Climate extrapolated to the municipal level, as a horizontal mechanism for analysis (advised by experts), debate and makes decisions by consensus, and not only on climate action, but on the management in a broad sense of the bioterritory: the Ribera del Duero. Elena said it and we have observed it in the Forum, people, whatever our condition, are capable of putting aside polarizations and small differences, to focus on what unites us: the common good. So be it. Let’s start.”
- The green economy under debate in Aranda de Duero, La 8 Burgos – Castilla y León Television, 8 June 2022, link (full interview)
- The EU Climate Pact Ambassadors Network meets in Aranda de Duero (Burgos), La Vanguardia, 10 June 10 2022, link
- Aranda de Duero creates the 1st Rural Climate Forum, El Correo de Burgos – El Mundo, 10 June 2022, link
- The consequences of climate change under debate in the Ribera del Duero under debate, Cadena SER, 10 June 2022, link
- Aranda will host the Rural Climate Forum – Ribera del Duero 2022, Diario de la Ribera, 10 June 2022, link
- Rural Climate Forum, rural repopulation for climate action, Comunidad ISM, June 2022, link
- Rural repopulation for the Climate, ASEBIO, June 2022, link
- Aranda will host the 1st Rural Climate Forum – Ribera del Duero, Fundación Savia, June 2022, link
- Friday July 1st, news from the Representation of the European Commission in Spain, link
- The I Rural Climate – Ribera del Duero Forum proposes to create a local citizen assembly for climate action, Cadena SER, 1 July 2022, link