Spanish Climate Migrants Strongly Correlated with Climate Justice

Spanish Climate Migrants Strongly Correlated with Climate Justice

Much of Spain is at risk for climate disasters and changing landscapes over the coming decades, yet most of their climate justice efforts still focus on emerging economies rather than their home country. This focus re-purposes leftover enthusiasm for the COP25, hosted in Madrid in December 2019, and also stems from the fact that Spain has already begun to add large numbers of migrants to their population, many of them escaping political crises and climate crises, no longer able to sustain themselves on their now dry lands. Spain is a major hub for migrants from Northern Africa, one of the regions that has suffered most from recent droughts and heatwaves. Because of this, most Spaniards are conscious of the cultural changes affecting their country, and many are acutely aware of the environmental reasons behind these increasing immigrant arrivals.

In late 2019, Spanish activists emerged on the world stage, often fighting for climate justice, among other climactic concerns. In Spain, much of this work stems from organizational activism, and organizations such as Greenpeace Spain and Amigos de la Tierra. The year of 2020, with its numerous problems and trying realizations, has now been garnered by Spain’s leading publication, El País, as the year of climate justice.

The Spaniards most at-risk for climate change impacts include, as in most other countries, the low-income and minority populations. It is notable that in Spain, while the average income is slightly lower than the OECD average, a considerable domestic income gap creates a situation where the top 20% of Spaniards earn almost seven times as much as the bottom 20%. Similar inequities occur all over the world. Environmental justice heavily correlates with inequality, and in countries where inequality rates soar, like in Spain, climate change makes life harder for those earning lower-tiered incomes.

To address climate justice issues in Spain, and to reduce vulnerable populations’ risk, Spain must continue participating in multilateral climate agreements. The greatest climate risks Spain faces today are natural disasters such as hurricanes and droughts, and these threats will not diminish without a more forceful push for change from people and organizations all over the world. However, as this outcome is improbable, at least for now, it is also imperative for Spain to do what it can to mitigate the impacts within its borders.

Mitigation efforts would involve sheltering populations from rising sea levels and hurricanes, as well as from the effects of long-lasting droughts. Unfortunately, both of these situations require population migration and will necessitate the involvement of housing authorities to support this movement of people from dangerous coastal and arid regions. Policy recommendations include comprehensive infrastructure and urban planning for future population increases in Northern Spain, and investment in agricultural training for new types of plants and foods to better match the changing climate.

Activity Rating:  ** Standing Still

Spain is doing an adequate job of addressing extreme weather events, but it has not yet made any plan for climate migrants, a key component of climate justice for Spain. While much of policy is reactive, this particular policy must be proactive, especially considering the infrastructure policies that will take many years to both plan and execute. While much of Spain’s environmental policy success is dependent on its environmentally-oriented political leaders, non-partisan and private entities should continue to show their support and action against climate change and for climate justice, not only to bolster the current political party but also to inhibit politicians from influencing future climate action in predatory ways.

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Dear Sr. Ábalos,

We write to you with appreciation for your hard work during this challenging time, both for Spain and for the entire world, as we cope with the immediate and long-lasting effects of the COVID–19 pandemic. We empathize with the situation and your position as Minister of Housing, imagining how difficult the job must be right now. While we very much agree that the housing market must recover sustainably, we would like to suggest the following recommendations for an additional crisis in the wings, and strongly urge you to consider them.

It is of extreme importance that Spain begins a contingency plan to address the needs of climate migrants. As climate change worsens, many regions will become uninhabitable for the average Spanish citizen. As a part of our climate justice efforts, we need all ministries to be involved, and we have chosen to reach out to the Housing Ministry at this time since your Ministry is the one best suited to help MITECO with this crisis. Mitigation efforts would involve sheltering populations from rising sea levels and hurricanes, as well as from the effects of long-lasting droughts. Both of these situations require population migration and will necessitate your support in relocating some of these populations from dangerous coastal and arid regions. It also includes a need for comprehensive infrastructure and urban planning for future population increases in Northern Spain, where we foresee vulnerable populations will move.


José Luis Ábalos

Ministerio de Transportes, Movilidad y Agenda Urbana

Paseo de la Castellana, 67. Nuevos Ministerios.

28071, Madrid.

+34 915 97 8783

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Spain Country Manager Samantha Pettigrew

Migrantes climáticos fuertemente correlacionados con la justicia climática en España

Una gran parte de España tiene un riesgo de desastres climáticos y paisajes cambiantes en las próximas décadas. Sin embargo, la mayoría de sus esfuerzos de justicia climática todavía se centran en países con economías emergentes, en lugar de su país de origen. Este enfoque reutiliza el entusiasmo sobrante por la COP25, organizada en Madrid en diciembre de 2019. También se debe a que en España ya han comenzado a llegar grandes números de migrantes. Muchos de ellos se escaparon de las crisis políticas y las crisis climáticas en sus países, porque ya no pueden quedarse ni sostenerse en sus tierras secas. España es un importante centro para los inmigrantes del norte de África, una de las regiones que más ha sufrido por las recientes sequías y olas de calor. Debido a esto, la mayoría de los españoles son conscientes de los cambios culturales que afectan a su país, y muchos son muy conscientes de las razones ambientales detrás de este aumento de inmigrantes.

A medida que los activistas por el clima ganaron impulso a fines de 2019, los activistas españoles también han surgido en el escenario mundial, luchando por la justicia climática, entre otras preocupaciones climáticas. En España, gran parte de este trabajo proviene del activismo de organizaciones como Greenpeace España y Amigos de la Tierra. El año 2020, con sus numerosos problemas y pruebas difíciles, ha sido cosechado por la publicación líder de España, El País, como el año de la justicia climática.

Los españoles más expuestos al impacto del cambio climático incluyen, como en la mayoría de los países en el mundo, las poblaciones minoritarias y de bajos ingresos. Es notable que, en España, si bien el ingreso promedio es ligeramente inferior al promedio de la OCDE, una brecha de ingresos considerable crea una situación en la que el 20 % de los españoles con más dinero del país, gana casi siete veces más que el 20 % más bajo. Desigualdades similares ocurren en todo el mundo. La justicia ambiental se correlaciona en gran medida con la desigualdad, y en los países donde las tasas de desigualdad se disparan, como en España, el cambio climático dificulta aún más las vidas de quienes ganan ingresos de niveles más bajos.

Para abordar los problemas de justicia climática en España y para reducir el riesgo de las poblaciones vulnerables, España tiene el deber de continuar participando en acuerdos climáticos multilaterales. Los mayores riesgos climáticos que enfrenta España hoy en día son los desastres naturales, como los huracanes y las sequías. Y las amenazas no disminuirán sin que haya un impulso más contundente por parte de las personas y organizaciones por todo el mundo. Sin embargo, como este resultado es improbable, al menos por ahora, también es imprescindible mitigar los impactos.

Los esfuerzos de mitigación implicarían proteger a las poblaciones que viven cerca de la costa donde se aumente el nivel del mar, y donde haya impactos por los huracanes, así como de las sequías. Desafortunadamente, ambas situaciones requieren la migración de poblaciones y requieren la participación del Ministerio de Vivienda (y en este caso, el Ministerio de Transportes, Movilidad y Agenda Urbana) para apoyar este movimiento de personas de regiones peligrosas. Las recomendaciones de política incluyen infraestructura integral y planificación urbana para futuros aumentos de población en el norte de España, y para aquellos que optan por quedarse, inversión en la capacitación agrícola para nuevos tipos de plantas y alimentos para adaptarse mejor al clima cambiante.


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