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Spain is Europe’s ‘ground zero’ of climate change, says WWF CEO

Spain is Europe’s ground zero of climate change and the Do?ana nature reserve, at the centre of a political dispute, is an ‘innocent victim’ of the fight Secretary General of WWF-Spain Juan Carlos del Olmo told EURACTIV’s partner EuroEFE in an interview.

Del Olmo recalled that “Do?ana is a European issue, which affects everyone, not only because it is protected by European laws but also because European fauna and biodiversity, and above all the birds of many European countries, depend on Do?ana having water and being conserved so that birds can spend the winter on their way to Africa during migration”.

The issue has become highly politicised and has entered the debate ahead of the Spanish regional and municipal elections, due on 28 May and ahead of a general election in December.

On Monday the European Commission criticised the Do?ana draft irrigation law presented by the regional government of Andalusia, saying the text goes “in the opposite direction” to the obligation to protect the natural reserve, and “could degrade the wetland”.

“The Andalusian government has taken a totally unilateral decision, considering that this is a matter that only concerns the local level. But it is very seriously mistaken, which is why the European Commission has also had to intervene,” the Spanish scientist stresses.

The dispute began around 2010, when WWF-Spain complained to the European Commission about the disastrous situation in Do?ana: “that led, after a few years, to the Court of Justice of the EU (ECJ) condemning Spain for the situation of the wetland”, explains the expert.

“Brussels has had to intervene in the face of an ECJ ruling that is not being complied with, and with the decision of the PP, Vox, and the Junta, the critical situation in which Do?ana finds itself is getting worse,” he warns.

In Del Olmo’s view, “pure political electioneering is being done” with a very serious issue that affects not only Spain but the EU as a whole. “Spain is at ‘ground zero’ of climate change in Spain, and Do?ana is its innocent victim”, he states.

“What the Commission is doing now – for the third time since 2022, when the PP approved a similar measure that was later withdrawn – is warning very seriously that they consider the bill presented by the Junta de Andaluc?a to be a mockery. Because instead of taking concrete measures to save Do?ana, they aggravate its degradation and destruction,” the expert points out.

In Del Olmo’s opinion, the answer to the reason for the current situation is the proximity of the regional and general elections.

“Why is this (the draft law) being done now if the problem has been there for such a long time? It is being done because at stake are five town councils in the Do?ana area where the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) currently governs. It is a purely electioneering proposal to win the votes of the illegal (irrigators) in particular,” he stresses.

“Do?ana has become a hostage, a political tool. And, because of this electioneering strategy, Spain is facing enormous international discredit”, he adds.

“I think that in the end the Government will have to appeal the law before the courts, and we will spend several years in legal proceedings, wasting precious time to save Do?ana,” Del Olmo laments.

(Fernando Heller

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