Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sol y sombra

I've got so much work tomorrow, I better comply before I go to bed with my commitment to participate in Blog Action Day which has started tonight at midnight. 7508 bloggers from 139 different countries have apparently pledged to blog today about climate change. I'm curious to know what it's gonna look like. As I won't have any time to surf the blogosphere tomorrow, I hope the Blog Action Day folks or someone else will have the good idea of producing a Best of digest.

Sol y Sombra, the title of this piece is the name of a Spanish alcoholic drink I used to enjoy years ago when my stomach was more solid. It's a mixture of brandy with anis liquor and three or four ice cubes. [Before you start drinking, make sure no-one is taping what you might say (or sing); otherwise you might regret it when you wake up from your siesta]

Literally, Sol y sombra means Sun and shadow. I thought it would be a good title to illustrate this photo of me taken yesterday in Barcelona in front of the building where the final round of negotiations preceding the Copenhagen Climate Summit will take place next month.

On the photo I'm pointing my finger at the photovoltaic solar panels covering the roof of the conference centre. Very cool, that's the nice side of the coin of Spain and climate change (that's the sun in sol y sombra).

Renewable energy has boomed in Spain in the last decade, to such an extent that it covers on average already 25% of the country's electricity demand. What is more, thanks to the development of its wind farms, Spain (a few years ago a net importer of French nuclear electricity) has become a net exporter of clean energy.

I recommend a visit to the website of Red Electrica, the Spanish electricity grid, where you can see in real time electricity production by sources, the demand for electricity, and the MWh exported daily. For example 34,279 MWh were exported yesterday, 14 October.

A rarity a few years ago only (when, for example, I pioneered a decade ago selling my solar electricity production from the solar panels on the photo on top of the right-hand column of this blog), solar orchards (as the Spaniards now call solar installations feeding the grid) and wind farms have become a part of the Spanish landscape almost as common as the fields of olive trees and vineyards. The environmental movement needs success stories, so let's have a toast to the success of renewable energy in Spain.

A Sol y sombra for me, please, because there's always another side to any coin. The photo was taken in Catalonia, a part of Spain of course, the country that has (despite its leadership in renewable energy development) increased by 50% its CO2 emissions since Kyoto instead of reducing them. Spain is also the European country whose inhabitants are being hit the most by the economic crisis because the prevailing economic actors have relied for too many years on artificial wealth (money and real estate speculation) and largely ignored the value of natural wealth (environmental services provided by nature, ecosystems and biodiversity).

Sol y sombra, sun and shadow. I don't know if Spain's Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero is planning to come to the opening of the final negotiating session in Barcelona next month. If I was him I'd certainly make the trip.

Zapatero is said to be promoting a domestic law on sustainable economy which he wants Parliament to pass in order to change production and consumption patterns. Very cool. That's possibly the best thing Zapatero can do for his country and beyond. And for himself (after the good things he's done on gender equality and other societal issues).

If I was Zapatero, I would not come to the Barcelona Climate Talks only to preach. I´d come to dialogue, to listen and to learn. Regardless of the outcome in Copenhagen, the Spanish European Union presidency, in the first semestre of 2010, will have an important role to play in the further development of the international climate regime.

I think I can say that there has been speculations among Spanish climate policy stakeholders as to why and how Zapatero's social democrat party has wanted and managed to get their logo featured on the Blog Action Day website , alongside NGOs that are active on the issue of Climate Change independently from governments and political parties. Is this due to the distance of Blog Action Day organizers from Spanish domestic realities? Or does this reflect a major shift of the Spanish Socialist Party towards civil society and environmental issues?

While I'm waiting for the answers to these questions, I think I'll pour myself another glass of Sol y sombra. If you don't mind.

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