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As if it wanted to remind us where we are exactly, this 2021 is going to say goodbye with temperatures above normal for this time in the Iberian Peninsula. It is the culmination of a year of extreme and extraordinary meteorological events. It has also been the year in which science has made it clear that human beings have a problem – generated by themselves – and that it is called the climate crisis. And it has been the year in which governments clearly admitted that the plans they have on the table will not allow warming to stay within safe margins.
Extreme heat and science
From North America to China to Central Europe, the northern hemisphere summer was filled with extreme events in the form of heat waves, colossal fires and devastating floods. The extreme climate defied the world, and its effects were noticeable in the loss of permafrost in Siberia, in the tremendous fires of the west coast of the USA or in the increase of temperatures in Spain.
At the beginning of August, while these phenomena were taking place, the great scientific report on climate change produced by the IPCC, the panel of experts that has been laying the foundations for knowledge of global warming for more than three decades, was released. The main conclusion was that it is “unequivocal” that the human being “has warmed the atmosphere, the ocean and the land”. In addition, “human activity is making extreme weather events (heat waves, droughts, intense precipitation) more frequent and serious,” as one of its authors explained in this interview.
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Climate and Coal Summit
The Scottish city of Glasgow hosted in November the climate summit, the so-called COP26, which had to be delayed for a year due to the pandemic. The meeting closed with the recognition by the almost 200 countries present that the current emissions cut efforts are not enough and that they must be updated upwards starting next year. Furthermore, for the first time, there was an explicit call to disengage from coal and fossil fuels. Glasgow was also the scene of countless sectoral pacts (although not legally binding) and protests in the streets.
2021 was also the year of the return to the international fight against climate change in the United States. And the signing of a climate peace agreement between the United States and China, the two powers that now contribute the most to global warming. Both have committed to collaborating with, for example, measures to reduce methane emissions. This gas has been put in the spotlight of the climate fight also this year.
Gases on the rise
But, in the face of declarations, pacts and promises, reality was imposed again: carbon dioxide emissions in 2021 are expected to rebound by 5% after the fall caused in 2020 by the pandemic. Something similar is expected to happen with greenhouse gases in Spain.
In May, Congress approved Spain’s first climate change law, which sets goals to fight against warming and was called unambitious by some parties and NGOs. These are the most prominent measures of the standard and this information contains a follow-up of the degree of execution.
Waste and wolf law
The climate change law is not the only important environmental regulation that has been developed this year. Last week, Congress approved the waste bill, which should help Spain comply with European plastics directives and improve its extremely low recycling rates. 2021 was also the year in which the wolf was no longer considered a hunting species in Spain, which has generated a confrontation between the Government and some communities. Congress also approved the new law on the legal regime of animals that considers them “sentient beings” and the draft bill on animal welfare was presented. And the protests of schoolchildren and families against cars intensified.
The agony of the Mar Menor
This year will also be remembered as the great collapse of the Mar Menor, the largest salt lake in Europe, which experienced a tremendous episode of fish kills in August. The pollution of the Mar Menor has already left several high-ranking politicians and farmers on the verge of sitting on the dock. And a citizen campaign to promote a law in Congress to protect the Mar Menor and have its own legal personality has collected half a million signatures of support, which has managed to reach Parliament.
Apart from the environmental milestones, these are some of the reports from the Climate and Environment section that I think are the most recommended for 2021:
A hug, happy entry into the new year and we are waiting for you in 2022 with more environmental information.
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