Climate change: The reign of Spain not so easy to sustain
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Climate change: The reign of Spain not so easy to sustain

In light of the report released this week claiming Australia must act on climate change, it’s interesting to look at a similar kind of report released by Spain back in 2007.

By my count there are something like 180 mentions of sustainability or sustainable development in this rather impressive 2007 document, Spanish Sustainable Development.

The plan begins this way:

The modernization of our country demands that we collectively assume the challenges and opportunities arising from a sustainable development model which combines the dynamics of economic prosperity together with the increase in social well-being and improvement of the environment…

and confidently asserts

In this background, one of the risk factors for the good perspective of Spanish growth in 2007 and 2008 is that turbulences in international financial markets continue as a result of the crisis of “subprime” bonds in the U.S.A., and world-wide growth suffering from it. Nevertheless, the economy is in good shape to face this eventuality given its strength, its low exposure to the “subprime” American market, the great efficiency and solvency of its financial system and the solidity of its public accounts.

This favourable situation allows us to draft the Spanish Strategy of Sustainable Development with a long-term perspective to aim towards a more coherent society in terms of the rational use of its resources, and more equitable and cohesive approach and more balanced in terms of land use.

Emboldened by the plan, the Spanish then went to work balancing their land use by installing wind turbines and solar panels in a big way.

Of course the recession is a major contributor to their problems, as it is to all the countries of Europe, but the latest government reports indicate that the move to renewable energy in Spain has also led to higher energy costs, and that these costs have badly affected Spain’s competitiveness.

So four years on, let’s check how Spain’s sustainable green agenda is working out.

Throngs of Spanish youth have gathered in more than 150 cities across Spain to protest skyrocketing unemployment, cutbacks to social welfare benefits, and rampant corruption among Spain’s political elite. The massive but mostly peaceful protests by disaffected youth represent the first significant manifestations of social unrest since a decades-long housing bubble burst in late 2007 and plunged the Spanish economy into a deep and prolonged recession.

The self-styled May 15th Movement took to the streets of Spanish cities on Sunday, May 15, to demand “real democracy now” and a new economic policy ahead of municipal and regional elections on May 22. United by anger over a youth jobless rate that is hovering at around 45 percent — and the inability of a largely inept political class to do anything about it — the May 15th Movement is a conglomeration of several smaller protest groups, including Democracia Real Ya! (Real Democracy Now!) and Toma La Plaza (Take the Square).

The Spanish protesters have been inspired by the pro-democracy movements in the Arab world, and are using social media networks to coordinate the demonstrations…

Up until now, anti-government protests in Spain have been relatively few and far between, partly because of the strong ties that labor unions have with the ruling Socialists. But Spain’s nascent youth democracy movement is a spontaneous grassroots groundswell that is not left versus right but rather young versus old.

Funny how a green revolution in Spain may yet lead to one of those old-fashioned kinds of revolutions…

(Thanks to JM Heinrichs for one of the links.)

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