Twelve experts gathered on Wednesday, June 2, in the 9th Environmental Session organized by the University of Barcelona, the Torres Family and the meteorologist and lecturer of Physics of the UB Tomàs Molina. They urged to act now and abandon the passivity in order to fight the climate emergency. In what turned out to be the first event adhered to the Conference on the Future of Europe, the speakers noted the importance of roaming together and applying changes in life models. This was part of a session that analysed how European funds could unblock the governments’ and society’s lack of action regarding climate.
The session, titled "Money from Europe, will it help us to break with the current indifference regarding climate change? ", took place in the Paranimph of the Historical Building of the UB. It was followed by more than three-hundred people, among the attendees and the streaming audience. The event was opened by the president of the Torres Family, Miguel A. Torres, who stated that "the time to act is now". "The climate emergency is the most severe danger we are facing now. COVID-19 has been terrible. And it will continue to be so. But climate change is worse. The consequences on lives, economies, migrations, they will be worse. This is why now is the time for reactions and this is why we are talking about how to move people".
Ernest Abadal, the rector’s assistant vice-rector and for Teaching and Research Staff of the UB, highlighted the "tradition of these sessions, which began in 2012" and noted that they are a good example of the "commitment of the Torres Family and the UB to the environmental aspects: sustainability and climate change".
This commitment is expanded to the European Commission, where, according to Beatriz Yordi, director of the European Commission’s Directorate-General on European and International Carbon Markets, "the Green Deal has become the important news". Yordi noted that "the Green Deal is not only a climate, social and economic goal, but also a reconversion and growth strategy; we must built better and reach a fairer and greener economy". She finished her speech saying that "COVID-19 has presented a chance to reconvert" and that "Spain is doing its homework".
Hugo Morán, Secretary of State for the Environment at the Ministry of Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge in the Spanish Government, talked about opportunity and "climate ambition" when stating that "the 100% of the investments must respect the so-called green filter". In this sense, he ensured that the Government "has not shown passivity, quite the contrary".
Regarding the Catalan Government, Marta Curto, director-general of the Economic Analysis at the Department of Economy and Finance, highlighted "the effort by the EU and the presented recovery strategy". Curto added that the dateline to submit projects at an autonomic level is still open, and noted that small and medium businesses can participate as well.
In the municipal plan, Eloi Badia, councillor for Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition at the Barcelona City Council, was less optimistic and warned that "we are not doing enough" and that we should act faster, leaving no one behind. He talked about "great sacrifices", "unprecedented changes" and "overcoming this all together".
After the public administrations, citizenship came in. Josep Perelló, professor of the UB, leader of the OpenSystems group and founding member of the Barcelona Citizen Science Office, explained how citizen science can contribute to fight climate change, for instance, by providing data and knowledge. Perelló also noted we need to know the opinion of the citizens about the suitability of measures for the transition to sustainability.
The latter goal was chased by the participative process with the question "Which should be our priorities?", an online questionnaire answered by nearly 1,500 people. The results were presented by Tomàs Molina and Carlota Bruna, instagrammer and ambassador of the European Climate Pact.
Social networks and new technologies are a good way to know the public opinion, as shown by Javier Peña, influencer of the climate crisis. Peña is the founder of Hope!, a communication platform revolving around the climate and ecological emergency, which has reached 1.3 million followers in two and a half years. He stated that, contrary to popular belief, "there is an important demand for information; many people are worried bout this issue, and they want to understand what is going on and which is the best way to react".
Mobility in Catalonia promoted by European funds
After the speeches, there was a debate table with the experts, who tackled the mobility in Catalonia promoted by European funds. The table was chaired by Laura Rahola, head of Press of Representation of the European Commission in Barcelona.
According to José María Baldasano, emeritus professor of Environmental Engineering at UPC and doctor on Chemical Sciences at the UB, the public administrations should opt for promoting the public transport network and a transport free of pollutant emissions and greenhouse gases. "There is a significant room for improvement", he said. He also shared, as a solution, new growing popular models, such as car-sharing.
Also, Adrián Fernández, head of mobility at Greenpeace Spain, noted that "it is not enough to focus the efforts on a technological change; we also need a complete change in the model so that it becomes a fairer and more equitable model of transport for everyone". He added that "we need to provide the transport with more means and resources", which "is not happening", he said.
Javier Rivera, head of Corporate Strategy in Seat, urged the public sector to "invest money from European funds in sectors that can invest them efficiently and maximize the impact". He also asked for the creation of a "stable regulating framework so that the private sector invests with more guarantees". Rivera said that SEAT is willing to lead the transition to the electric vehicle, "but we cannot do it alone, there has to be an infrastructure, for instance".
According to Salvador Sedó, director of Sustainable Development at Work Development, "the commitment to sustainable development is unquestionable, unnegotiable and undeniable". The director of the patronal stated that "there has been a change in the mentality of the business sector; we are aware we must change the production model to work towards a sustainable developmental model". Regarding sustainable mobility, he mentioned the need to decarbonize the sector, "which is not the same as electrifying", he warned. "There is a series of transports (maritime, aerial and heavy wheeled transport) that cannot be electrified" and that require "alternative fuel, with low or null carbon footprint and produced with renewable energies (biofuel, synthetic carburant, e-fuel and hydrogen)".
During the closing part of the session, Miguel A. Torres interpellated the Catalan Government, so it does not stop the installation of renewable energies, "respecting the territory" and claimed to expand its use, since it is "the best option to stop the climate emergency". Also, the rector of the University, Joan Guàrdia, noted that "the science given to humanity is the best tool for a fair world for the future generations, where wellbeing goes before short-term benefits".
7th Torres & Earth Award to environmental innovation
As part of the Environmental Session, the 7th Torres & Earth Award to environmental innovation was awarded. The price was subject to open voting on Twitter. The award was given to the university student Irene Valle Castiñeiras, for her bachelor’s degree final project Theoretical development of a smart sustainable food packaging. This award aims to share and honour the projects, experiences and initiatives of the students and scientific groups that act in favour of the preservation of the environment. This edition received 13 submitted projects.