Interview with Basque Country

nrg4SD had the opportunity to interview Basque Country’s Vice-Minister of Environment, Elena Moreno Zaldibar to get to know Basque Country’s actions as part of the Network and what their plans are for the future.

nrg4SD:  The Basque Country is a founding member of nrg4SD and a key actor for the consolidation of the Network on its first years. As we celebrate our 15-year anniversary, how does the Basque Country evaluate the work carried out so far by nrg4SD and what are the main challenges and objectives to be achieved in a midterm?

ES: As a founding member of nrg4SD, the Basque Country made a firm commitment to networking from the perspective of the importance of European regions in the development of environmental policy. Fifteen years on, that vision has been endorsed by the input regarding sustainable development from regions and cities that we are seeing around the world.

The different initiatives in which the Basque Country is involved in close cooperation with the Network of Regional Governments – NRG4SD clearly show that comprehensive approaches are necessary that cannot be carried out in isolation or by individual stakeholders. Furthermore, cooperation and collaboration between regions create synergies that help us all to improve and advance more quickly. It is time for action, for meeting the commitments that have so far been formulated in Environmental Strategies and Plans, and providing the tools to do so. That is the great challenge currently facing the Basque Country.

nrg4SD:  The Basque Country participated with a very representative delegation led by you, Vice-Minister, in the COP 23 in Bonn. What is your impression of the results of the Conference and how do you foresee the road to COP 24?

ES: I believe that the Bonn COP23 has highlighted 2 key aspects in the international fight against climate change. On the one hand, there is the great difficulty of the global agreements and their technical complexity, and, on the other hand, there is the huge and growing importance of the role of sub-national governments, regions and local communities. I believe that the negotiations conducted by the States to implement the Paris Agreement have achieved significant advances in technical aspects, such as the texts of the mechanism, agriculture, budgets and transparency, but also on other innovative points, such as the vulnerability agenda driven by Fiji with the indigenous platform, the facilitator or dialogue process, and the incorporation of the gender perspective and the role of women in the fight against climate change.

However, I would stress something that this COP23 has highlighted, which is the tremendous importance of the regional governments and the cities. It is clear that the fight against climate change could seek agreements without involving the regions, but they will not find solutions if they do not bring the regions and cities on board. Another point to be highlighted among the COP23 conclusions is the extreme situation that we are facing.  There is no time to lose, the Paris commitments are not being met and action is urgently needed, along with greater ambition and measures to be adopted by everyone. The Basque Country is embarking on the path to COP24 from the perspective of responsibility towards the fight against climate change.

nrg4SD: The RegionsAdapt initiative, from which the Basque Country is a founding member, concludes its first two-year cycle at the end of this year and its currently planning its second phase, in which they will review their adaptation plans, develop activities in at least three of the actions identified by the working groups and report their results annually to the CDP platform with a greater depth in the provided data. How is the Basque Country preparing to face these commitments and which are its contributions to this new phase of RegionsAdapt?

ES: The first two years of the Regions Adapt initiative have been very important both for the network itself and for the Basque Country, as the initial challenge was important: to have a strategic adaptation approach and embark on the first partnership project in an area such as adaptation that is, so far, proving difficult to turn into reality in this field, and ultimately of the projects. After that two year learning curve not only in the technical field, but also regarding the joint work methodologies, we believe we need to continue progressing in these lines of cooperation. We therefore deem the Regions Adapt proposal to be very valuable and appropriate for the present time and for the scope it contains.

The Basque Country is enthusiastically embracing this new phase and we want to share the result of the first demonstration projects regarding adaptation to change that we are implementing in some key areas for our countries. For example, adaptation to climate change in the territory planning instruments, the impacts on health associated to heat waves, or the analysis of the climate resilience of the energy sector and its transferability to other companies and key sectors. In this regard, our commitment is to continue participating in the sharing of methodologies and best practices in order to progress by working collaboratively with the other members of the network.

nrg4SD: In 2018 the HLPF will review a part of the SDGs in which they have included SDG 11 appointed to cities and human settlements. Which are the Basque Country’s main contributions to achieving the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda and which is your strategy for 2018?

ES: The Basque Country wants to be part of the international commitment of the SDGs to improve the quality of life of its citizens. Firm steps are therefore being taken regarding Agenda 2030, a process that is being led by the Premier’s Office of the Basque Government. On the one hand, efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals are being aligned and, on the other hand, emphasis is being put on preparing the Basque Country Agenda 2030. The four lines of action that will contribute to the Basque Country Agenda 2030 are: 1. Sensitizing, awareness raising and disseminating the Sustainable Development Goals; 2. Promoting the incorporating of cross-cutting stakeholders (company, education, health, etc.); 3. Strengthening alliances, collaborating with organisations, institutions, stakeholders, regions and networks working in the area; and, 4. And aligning public policies to the Agenda 2030.

At local level, our main instrument for action when implementing the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement is the “Basque Declaration: A new roadmap for European towns and cities to create productive, sustainable and resilient cities for a liveable and inclusive Europe”.  In order to face the main challenges worldwide, we need to develop socio-cultural, socio-economic and technological transformations of our societies in order to ensure quality of life while respecting the limits of our global and local ecosystems, and the available natural resources. It is fundamental that we all turn around the usual way that we have been approaching the actions that we implement. We need to open up the defining of our projects to the stakeholders involved, creating and executing them with innovative approaches, and using the resources offered by the new technologies. In short, we believe that the best way to be able to show the contribution of our municipalities to the Agenda 2030 is by identifying benchmark transformative actions and supporting and fostering their deployment in our municipalities.

nrg4SD: The Basque Country is a very active member of the Regions for Biodiversity Learning Platform. In the framework of this initiative, a representative of the Government was appointed by nrg4SD last month to participate in a technical workshop from the CBD about voluntary guidelines for the design and effective implementation of the ecosystem based approaches for adaptation to climate change and disaster risk reduction. We would like to know which are the Basque Country’s contributions to the conservation of biodiversity and which are its plans for the COP 14 to be held in November 2018.

ES: The main contribution of the nrg4SD representatives at the CBD technical workshop was to contribute the regional perspective to the debate, as from the management point of view, it is considered a more efficient and effective administrative level to apply some of the guidelines. In this regard, the Basque Government contributed that local and regional perspective and shared with the other participants the different methodologies that have been developed in this line from the local perspective. Furthermore, practical examples were given to illustrate the great potential that the ecosystemic approach has from the adaptation to climate change.

With respect to the ecosystem-based approach for the adaptation to climate change, the Basque Government’s commitment is set out both in the Climate Change Strategy- Klima 2050 and in the Biodiversity Strategy 2030.  It is aimed at developing the potential of nature in a climate change context. In the Basque Country, we have 55 protected spaces (Natura 2000 Network) which accounts for 23% of the territory. In this regard, seeing how our ecosystems adapt and how to harness that potential for our adaptation to climate change are two of the lines of work underway through specific projects that are analysing the “Vulnerability of the Natura 2000 Network to the effects of climate change” and the “Guide to identify the potential of nature-based solutions in the urban environment”.

The challenge we have in the run-up to the 2018 COP14 is to continue driving the cooperation between the regional authorities and to showcase the fundamental role that regions and local authorities play in the fields of biodiversity and climate change.






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