Instead of accelerating, go backwards. When “more ambitious goals, more action to cut emissions or abandon fossil fuels” are needed – as the recent UN review of the application of the Paris Agreement has shown – what happens are steps backwards. The regression of climate policies in the United Kingdom or the reduction in demands so that cars pollute less in the EU have emerged shortly after the latest message from the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, on the climate crisis: “We have opened the doors from hell”.
And the brakes have not been limited to the fight against global warming. The law to amnesty irrigation in Doñana, the weakening of several low-emission zones in Spain or the review of wolf protection in Europe have accumulated in recent months. In Extremadura, the PP-Vox coalition government has committed to “eliminate any bureaucratic or legislative climate obstacle that affects the prosperity of the countryside or the freedom of Extremadurans.”
“The climate and environmental fight has always been difficult. Things are being achieved, but they cost a lot,” says the head of the Climate Change program at Greenpeace, Pedro Zorrilla. “These are obvious steps backwards,” he continues when analyzing the latest decisions of the United Kingdom Government or the 27 in the European Union “and we are already going much slower than is necessary, but there are sectors, such as fossil fuels, that “They have many resources to press for their interests.”
When the evidence multiplies, we know what to do, we have technology and there is a lot of money, the PP speaks of an activist dictatorship
— Political scientist
In Spain, the steps backwards are seen “where the right is more similar to the extreme right, like Xavier García Albiol (PP) in Badalona, or where both govern together,” explains political scientist Cristina Monge. “When the evidence multiplies, we know what to do, we have technology and there is a lot of money, the PP talks about an activist dictatorship,” he says about the comment by Alberto Núñez Feijóo (PP) during his investiture attempt in the Congress.
“Missed opportunity” with cars
The 27 EU states agreed on September 25 to delay for two years the new Euro 7 regulations that imposed stricter pollution limits on cars. They were justified by the need to help the automobile industry.
“We have straightened a path that seemed to lead to an abyss for industry and workers,” Italian Industry Minister Adolfo Urso said later. And he asked “to overcome an ideological, almost religious vision of the electric battery. “That does not correspond to the nature, values, identity and nature of work in Europe,” added the member of Giorgia Meloni’s far-right government.
The climate and environmental fight has always been difficult. Things are being achieved, but they cost a lot
— Head of the climate change campaign at Greenpeace
Monge considers that this specific decision, in addition to the climate implications, “is a missed opportunity” since “in Asia they have seen what the change in mobility towards the electric car implied and Europe has been watching it come.”
Zorrilla agrees: “When more conventional and affordable electric cars become widespread, they will be a hit because it costs much less money to drive them.”
In Spain, for example, 48% of fossil fuel consumption (the combustion of which is responsible for global warming) is carried out for transportation, according to data from the Ministry of Ecological Transition.
The far-right and the UK’s climate ‘U-turn’
Very shortly before this decision by the EU states, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a 180-degree turn in the country’s environmental policy. He plans to delay the ban on the sale of gasoline and diesel cars and the abandonment of gas boilers, as well as stopping regulation of the energy efficiency of homes. He has also reiterated his plans to expand oil and gas projects in the North Sea. That is: drilling to extract fossil fuels.
The strong idea of the Sunak Government was expressed by its Minister of the Interior, Suella Braverman: “We are not going to save the planet by bankrupting the British.” This is “a very bad signal and reflects the social conflicts generated by the way in which European conservatives have approached climate policies, which is to let the market and technology act without accompanying the affected groups in a just transition.” , analyzes Cristina Monge.
Britain’s climate plans were rated better than those of the EU according to Climate Action Tracker analysis. Now, authorization to drill in the North Sea’s Rosebank field alone will provide oil and gas whose consumption would be equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of 90 countries and 400 million people, according to Carbon Brief’s calculation.
Last June, the International Energy Agency calculated that, in fact, things are going the other way than Sunak predicted since “the peak in oil demand is in sight before the end of this decade, as implement the electric vehicle and energy efficiency.”
“We cannot afford to slow down the transition and we must ensure that it is fair,” says WWF conservation coordinator Luis Suárez. “In the situation we are in, any delay is a danger.”
Many of these steps back “have to do with the emergence of the extreme right that manages to appropriate and capitalize on the protests of those who feel negatively affected by environmental policies,” adds Pedro Zorrilla. In this sense, political scientist Monge adds that this emergence has contributed to “making European conservative parties retreat.”
We cannot afford to slow down the transition and we must ensure that it is fair. In the situation we are in, any delay is a danger
— WWF Conservation Coordinator
Luis Suárez sees that there has been “an approach of political groups to sectors that feel harmed and to the rural world that is seen, not only in climate policies but also when the regulations on pesticides or the protection of the wolf, which is something symbolic, are discussed. “We give you this, which is your totem, as if the wolf were the problem of extensive livestock farming.”
More tourism at the cost of lives?
A few days ago, the mayor of Badalona, Xavier García Albiol (PP), stated that he would annul the traffic restrictions in the city’s low emissions zone (ZBE). The announcement made a lot of noise, but the truth is that, despite being mandatory from January 1, 2023, only 9% of ZBEs in cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants are in force. And some of those that are going to be activated have been greatly weakened after the changes in the city councils that emerged from 28M.
For example, the cities of Castellón and Elche (Valencian Community) have recently approved their ZBE projects in which traffic is not restricted. “The new project does not restrict access to vehicles, only at specific times,” said the new Castellón mayor Begoña Carrasco (PP). In Elche, the ZBE designed by PP-Vox “is limited and will focus on implementing the mechanisms in pedestrian areas of the center, without limiting circulation.” In Valladolid, a ZBE of 3 km2 has increased to 1.5 km2.
In contrast to this line of action, the UN report on the implementation of measures against climate change says that “much more ambition is needed when it comes to acting and supporting the implementation of mitigation measures.” [de emisiones] within the countries.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has been warning for a year growing up . He has gone from talking about “climate chaos” to saying that the planet is no longer experiencing “warming” but rather “global boiling.” At the last UN Assembly in New York he stated that “Humanity has opened the gates of hell.”
And, almost at the same time, the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, without denying the phenomenon, denied its negative consequences. He stated that “beyond the very hot months of August and July, we have been able to extend the tourist season. It can be difficult to come to Greece in those two months, but more people are interested in traveling here in March, April, October or November.”
Greece has suffered a series of forest fires this summer, including “the largest in the history of the EU”, at the end of August. The flames claimed more than 20 lives. The country then endured a historic flood that devastated several towns and killed more than 15 citizens.