Celsa Monrós: “To make the future Valencian Regional climate law to work, it must be accepted by both citizens and the economic sector.”

Celsa Monrós is, since August 2019, the new Director General for Climate Change of the Valencian Regional Government, the Generalitat Valenciana. Before her appointment, she was the Education Lead of the Spanish branch of EIT Climate-KIC. Since then, Monrós has declared the climate emergency in the Valencian Region, and has presented a draft of a new legislative instrument on Climate Change and Ecological Transition, which will serve as a roadmap for achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and increasing the resilience of the Valencian territory to the impacts of climate change.

How did you feel when you were appointed Director General for Climate Change?

It was a very exciting moment. You always wonder what the administration and the government would have to do to change things, and suddenly they were giving me the opportunity to do it. I felt a huge responsibility in taking on such a challenge, because I know that the decisions we make now will have consequences in the decades to come.

What was the biggest challenge you had to tackle until now?

The Directorate General is completely new, so it lacked structure and personnel. It also inherited a budget designed from another department. When I arrived, I found great professionals and a Regional Ministry that believes in what we do, but there is a lack of means which can lead to a certain frustration, especially when we know that we have to go faster and further.

Last May the Valencian Regional Government released the draft of the Valencian Regional Law on Climate Change and Ecological Transition. How has the process of drawing up the future climate law been?

We presented a draft law to the different sectors to have their assessment. To this end, we created six sector-based roundtables that have been made virtual because of COVID-19. There was a table on mobility, another one on natural resources and biodiversity, one on housing and urban planning, a fourth on energy, another on productive processes and fiscality and a last one on environmental education. In the end, the law has more than 100 articles. In comparison, the national Spanish bill has 36. Ours is a very broad and transversal law which sets the general lines and establishes which instruments will be developed to achieve our objectives.

Who has participated in these sectoral tables?

An average of 50 people participated. There were trade unions, farmers, business organizations, environmental groups, universities and different sectors. Chairs from universities and experts have also participated.

And how have different sectors reacted to the new regulation?

Everyone agreed that this law was necessary. We are in a context of political, social and climate emergency in which it is necessary to establish a regulatory instrument that will mark out the roadmap. What can be different is the intensity of the measures, what kind of measures or how to apply them.

And finally, how did the law set out?

We knew where the emissions of the Valencian territory came from. From there we can see the capacity of mitigation and efficiency that each sector has and accompany them in the process of decreasing emissions. The law sets certain obligations on municipalities and on the productive sectors, in sectors such as energy, land planning, or in terms of permits for the establishment of photovoltaic plants for instance, where there is a part that depends on the Valencian Regional Government, and that is the part that we can legislate.

What are the objectives of the new Valencian Climate Change Law?

We have set ourselves the goal to become carbon-neutral by 2050 and we also set up an intermediate goal of reducing emissions by 40% from 1990’s level by 2030. Emissions increased by 45% since 1990. In other words, we are moving in the wrong direction.

We knew the presence of renewable energies in the Valencian territory was not very significant and we have identified the barriers that prevent them from being implemented. These barriers include slow procedures or a lack of clarification in the criteria by which licenses are granted in some places and not in others, which generates administrative insecurity that does not invite investment in our territory.

On the other hand, the installation of photovoltaic plants, for example on land that is already in use, such as the roofs of buildings or parking lots, has not been promoted in a significant and binding manner. We therefore want to legislate so that the land, which is already used, can be used to host photovoltaic installations, because we believe that energy must be produced close to where it is consumed and use as little new land as possible.

We always take into account the protection of the territory with high ecological value and the democratisation of energy. An important point for us was to support local energy communities, shared self-consumption and the participation of the local population in the installations that are carried out, especially in rural municipalities. People should have the possibility to invest up to 20 percent of the investments made in their territory and they should be able to decide on how this is done. And that is also in the law, the democratisation of energy both as a consumer and as a producer.

How do large energy companies see this democratisation?

Everyone is seeing the need and the opportunity, and I believe that even the large electricity companies, which until recently were involved in fossil fuels, are making a complete turnaround to renewable energies. It is a sector that is mature enough not to mind leaving fossil fuels behind. What can be suspected is the democratisation of this energy. They benefited from an oligopoly. But today, we are opening the market to society as a whole. And at prices that are bound to fall, because the price of photovoltaics, for example, has fallen by 95% in 10 years.

It is difficult to satisfy everyone. The business sector was more in favour of not having taxes and betting more on bonuses and exemptions. At the end, we proposed four taxes. The environmental groups proposed a battery of 20 new taxes. I believe that we have placed ourselves somewhere in the middle. For this law to work, it has to be accepted both by the citizens and by all sectors involved.

How will the new law contribute to the economic development of the territory?

The renewables sector has not felt the crisis of the COVID-19. With the approval of the law there will be a demand for professionals with very specific technical skills. For example, all municipalities will have to have their own sustainable urban mobility plan. We are also considering issues such as last mile distribution, the parcel service that should be provided with new types of vehicles, a new logistics of non-polluting light vehicles. All this can create a lot of job opportunities. All of this will lead to necessary changes in the way we move, consume, and power our activities.

What other legislation has served as a reference when drafting the law?

In preparing the law, we knew we wanted to follow the direction set by the European Union and the Green Deal. We have studied the draft state law. We have also compared it with other Spanish regional regulations and with regulations from other European regions.

What other regulations are planned for the medium term?

There is a national plan for a circular economy that is about to be approved and a future Valencian circular economy law. And we also have a comprehensive waste plan for the Valencian community that was approved two years ago. We are also working on a regulation for the management of waste from construction.

In addition, the entire regulatory framework of the law will have to be developed: the Valencian Integral Energy and Climate Plan, the Renewable Energy Master Plan or the Just Transition Strategy.

 
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