“Coastal councils should be concerned about the disappearance of beaches” | Climate and Environment

The Professor of Ecology at the University of Seville Enrique Figueroa, in the Faculty of Biology.
The Professor of Ecology at the University of Seville Enrique Figueroa, in the Faculty of Biology.PACO PUENTES (THE COUNTRY)

Convince the mayors and the local economic power that the fight against climate change from the municipalities is unavoidable. It is the commitment of the Professor of Ecology at the University of Seville Enrique Figueroa (Huelva, 69 years old), who will soon complete the strategic plan for Huelva, a key weapon to reduce the carbon footprint of this Andalusian city. After 15 published books, the author of City and climate change and director of the Sustainability Office of the University of Seville insists on the task, urgent but postponed: that climate change is not seen only as a matter of State energy policy and that cities get involved because their municipal economies depend on it, especially on the coast, given the expected rise of the sea, between half a meter and one meter.

Ask. What is missing for a mayor to open his eyes and see that climate change concerns him?

Answer. Perhaps those responsible have not had the decision or the interest to create a strategic plan, but it is incredible that in Andalusia the first will be Huelva in 2022. And in Spain there is very little, now I am going to work with a couple of municipalities in Catalonia .

P. To what extent are the tourist cities on the coast going to be affected by the rising sea?

r If the sea level rises one meter, the beaches will lose an average of 50%. It may be that captive tourism, with a house on the beachfront, will continue to go, but it is possible that international tourism will migrate to other areas that have taken measures and have competitive prices in the Mediterranean.

P. What scenarios are expected in 50 years with two, three or four degrees of temperature rise?

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r In some cases of the Mediterranean, beaches can disappear 100% and others 50%. We may be able to mitigate the rise, but we have to study the possibility of not being able to reduce it and that is where beach bars and coastal, Andalusian, Valencian and Catalan town halls should be concerned. I know less about the Cantabrian coast, but in the Mediterranean I would worry about it, and in the Atlantic too.

P. To make a good municipal strategic plan against climate change, where should a mayor start?

r Well, there are several measures within a strategic plan: urban green to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, since shade is essential due to its ability to absorb particles and gases. Then we work on urban health, air cleaning, health comfort, a plan to increase sewage and reduce the footprint, if there is a lot of sustainable energy or what mobility plan each city has… There are usually about 15 strategic lines with 70 shares in each.

P. What budget does a municipal plan against global warming require?

r Between 10,000 and 30,000 euros.

P. With such a small sum, why aren’t these plans being made?

r There are two reasons: a lack of interest and another of time, since it is not a question of money, it can be done cheaply. I want to think that the pandemic has occupied politicians’ time and priorities have changed.

P. Which industry will be most damaged by global warming?

R. Anyone can be damaged by the price of energy. But the tourism industry will be more affected and there we would have to think 30 and 40 years from now. A strategic coastal plan is needed in the face of climate change to know if the rise is one meter or 50 centimeters, what will happen on each beach, and then anticipate whether or not it will affect the local economy of each municipality. It is an issue that coastal municipalities must take very seriously. And then there is the agricultural question: with the lack of water, where are we going with so much irrigation? In addition, livestock can also be affected.

P. What do you think of the European Commission’s proposal that defines gas and nuclear energy as green?

r Outrageous, absolute nonsense. It is not the solution to change, nor is gas, another thing is that we have no choice. The only thing that guarantees us our independence is our water, wind and sun. Nuclear energy gives us dependency on starting material, technology and waste. And the gas? The gas is dependent on Ukraine or Algeria. What is the solution of solar energy in Spain? Energy with distributed generation and local energy communities by neighborhoods, as is going to be done in Huelva. So he puts solar energy in that building and in that other, small wind or both.

Enrique Figueroa, in the gardens of the Faculty of Biology of the University of Seville.
Enrique Figueroa, in the gardens of the Faculty of Biology of the University of Seville.PACO PUENTES (THE COUNTRY)

P. Does the fight against climate change have an ideology?

r The question is what has no ideology. The environment should not be ideological. If we follow the scientific point of view, it should be neutral, to the facts. When I look at something from a scientific point of view, I try to be neutral. Yes, I am moved by a social and environmental ideology that means the common good. For me it is partly ideological. Why? Because I see that everyone does not think about the common good and that ideology exists.

P. And do you identify it with the leftist parties? Are they more sensitive to this issue than those on the right?

r Historically there is something of that, because defending the environment has always collided with capitalism. And it is logical that the parties that base their politics on economic liberalism look with some reluctance or put more problems.

P. How do you evaluate the fight of the institutions against climate change?

r I see several levels: the countries of the European Union are complying and doing their homework in general; then we have a national law that arrives very late, but it arrives. And finally, at the regional level there are very few strategic laws: only in Andalusia, Catalonia, the Basque Country, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands, 5 regions out of 17. At the municipal level there is very little proposed as a Strategic Municipal Plan for Climate Change, there are other actions that have to do. My research group from the University of Seville did the one in Adeje in the Canary Islands, which was the first in Spain in the way required by regional laws on climate change, and now we are doing the one in Huelva.

P. What is the key for the economic sector, also at the local level, to see that climate change harms it directly?

r In the business world there must be a greater pedagogy, which has to come from the academy, from science, from the university, get out more, talk about this. I don’t think it’s a lack of ethics, because there is everything. And then the political class has to somehow bridge to power, economic power, to act together. The political class must listen to scientists who have something to say.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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