Critical Appraisal To Spanish SD Strategy


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The objective of this study is to provide the reader with a critical appraisal of the Spanish Sustainable Development Strategy (SSDS), for which the Renewed EU Sustainable Development Strategy (EUSDS) is also analysed in the fields where it is relevant to the former.
Following the background and the concept of sustainable development (SD) analysis in the SSDS, the fundamental assumption that economic growth is an imperative is extensively analysed, arguing that it is not feasible as a paradigm. Next, each of the seven priority areas and the Spanish performance in them are briefly referred
and appraised, with a higher emphasis in the “climate change (CC) and clean energies”, due to the strong specific weight in the SSDS that the previous section gives to it. A comment about the indicators used to monitor the evolution of the SSDS is given before the final conclusions.

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Critical Appraisal To Spanish SD Strategy

  1. 1. December 2008 Alejo Etchart A CRITICAL APPRAISAL TO THE SPANISH SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY A. Introduction The objective of this study is to provide the reader with a critical appraisal of the Spanish Sustainable Development Strategy (SSDS), for which the Renewed EU Sustainable Development Strategy (EUSDS) is also analysed in the fields where it is relevant to the former. Following the background and the concept of sustainable development (SD) analysis in the SSDS, the fundamental assumption that economic growth is an imperative is extensively analysed, arguing that it is not feasible as a paradigm. Next, each of the seven priority areas and the Spanish performance in them are briefly referred and appraised, with a higher emphasis in the “climate change (CC) and clean energies”, due to the strong specific weight in the SSDS that the previous section gives to it. A comment about the indicators used to monitor the evolution of the SSDS is given before the final conclusions. All the references given in this study reflect the opinions of authors that have proved to be relevant by the number of studies published and the references to their works made by others. B. Background The SSDS (Spanish Ministry Council (MC), 2007) was released in November 2007 within the frame of the European Council (EC)’s EUSDS (EC, 2006), which pursues a continuous improvement in the quality of life for present and future generations. Both strategies focus mainly on the environmental and social pillars of sustainability, leaving the economical pillar for further development by the national reforms program PNR (MC, 2005), which is a national development of the EU’s Lisbon Strategy (LS), revised by the European Commission (ECm) (2005) and recognised by the EUSDS as its own economic complement (EC, 2006,p.7-8). Despite the recommendations of the Brundtland Commission, environment and development are still treated separately; and economic growth is still pursued as the sole aim of many development policies (Stakeholder Forum (SHF), 2007,p.6). C. SD concept The concept of SD is not given in the SSDS, unless the following quotation from chapter 2.1 means it: “to achieve sustainable growth, we must be able to meet our
  2. 2. economic, social and environmental needs without jeopardizing the capacity of future generations in meeting theirs”. The three pillars on which BR’s concept of sustainable development is based are used here to label the needs to be met. If that quotation is interpreted as the concept of SD, there is confusion between growth and development in the SSDS; as Daly (1993) enunciates, grow means increase naturally in size, while develop means to bring to a fuller, greater or better state. D. Fundamental appraisal: economic growth as an imperative “Policymakers must concede that economic growth has met its nemesis in climate change, and they should not be seduced by the market’s quick fixes” (Chandran Fair, 2008) The EUSDS refers the Brundtland Report (BR)’s definition of SD (WCED, 1987) in its first point, without naming the BR. The second chapter of the BR does not only state the definition sentence, but has more than twenty pages dedicated to clarifying and reinforcing the full concept of SD. In its point six, the BR says: “Meeting essential needs depends in part on achieving full growth potential, and sustainable development clearly requires economic growth in places where such needs are not being met. Elsewhere, it can be consistent with economic growth, provided the content of growth reflects the broad principles of sustainability and non-exploitation of others. But growth by itself is not enough. High levels of productive activity and widespread poverty can coexist, and can endanger the environment.” The EUSDS assumes the "economic growth" as a goal not by straight quotation among the key objectives ("economic prosperity" is quoted as an objective instead), but by integrating it six times in the text. The essential needs are generally met in EU, and therefore the economic growth cannot be understood as a requirement derived from BR. The objection that economic growth is currently being thought as an “inviolable principle” rather than as a way to alleviate poverty or environmental degradation (Bass, 2007) is appropriate for this case. On the other side, the BR says in point 32 that a minimum of economic growth, as required by financial institutions, can be environmentally sustainable if industrialized nations shift their growth towards less material and energy intensive activities. Such a condition cannot be found in the EUSDS. Calls for decoupling the economy from resource use have been continuously made by, among others: - EU [(ECm, 2001,p.12), (EC, 2001,p.4, point21), (EC, 2006,p.3)] - UN [(UN, 1992, point 9.8(a)), (UN, 2002,p.1, point2)] Nevertheless, the SHF (2007), reflects that resources are being taken from the future at a high speed, and claims the need for a strengthened worldwide institution with power to enforce resource exploitation limits. A subordination of the short term
  3. 3. economic growth to the environmental capacity of the earth is, in the end, the object of this claim. The SSDS quotes “economic growth” seventeen times, assuming it from the LS in the introduction chapter. This chapter also settles the principle that all the actions and measures developed in the SSDS to meet the objectives of environmental, social and global sustainability must be compatible with the objective of budgetary stability defined by the government. This way, the environmental and social pillars of SD become dependent on the economic one. This subordination is discordant with - Brundtland’s worldwide accepted definition of sustainability - The opinion of other authors that place the environmental pillar as the basic one; like Bass (2007), when he says that the world’s priority for the next 20 years is to tackle the structural problems that distort developmental and environmental scenes, “focusing on key injustices and environmental tipping points, notably climate change” - The SHF (2007, pp.9,15), when it states that the environment protection is vital not only for economic development but “for any continued existence on this planet”. The SHF’s Donostia Declaration (Dodds,2008) reflects the world’s total failure to integrate environmental, social and development priorities into global economic policy, claiming for a new summit in 2012 to urgently reverse the current unsustainable path. - Stern (2008a) calls for an urgent foundation of a new way of growth to transform the world. The just-published World Energy Outlook could hardly be clearer: “strong, co-ordinated action is needed urgently to curb the growth in GHG emissions and the resulting rise in global temperatures” (IEA, 2008,p.46). The World Business Council for SD (WBCSD, 2008a) reports that the 5% decrease in industrialised countries' CO2 emissions between 1990 and 2006 was due to economic decline in Eastern and Central Europe in the 1990s, but the overall trend has been upward since 2000. Al Gore (2008) reflects the sharp contrast between the speed at which the world is approaching a point of no return towards collapse and the lack of emergency in reducing the emissions that lead to it. The convenience -or even the feasibility- of economic growth has been argued by many authors: - Meadows et al. (1972) were among the pioneers to predict a likely environmental collapse by the mid-21st century from exhaustion of resources, pollution, or use in the standards of the period. “Overshoot cannot be sustained without collapse”. - Rees and Wackernagel (1996) created the term “ecological footprint” to estimate the biologically productive areas needed to provide the resources consumed by the population and to absorb their wastes, and estimated that the limit is being surpassed since late 1970’s.
  4. 4. Source: Rees and Wackernagel (1996) WWF (2008) says that ecological footprint in Spain has grown 160% 1971-2003 while population increased 20%, which does not leave room for growth in the current state of affairs. Source: WWF (2007) - Hartwick (1977) created a milestone rule saying that “constant consumption is possible if, among other things, natural resource rents from an economically efficient depletion programme are saved and invested in man-made capital, and if
  5. 5. the economy’s production function has the necessary substitution possibilities between natural and man-made capital”. Sollow (1986) reinterpreted Hartwick incorporating the human and social capitals as incomes for the system and object of investments from rents’ savings. Therefore, in a world with decreasing natural resources, the reinvestment of the system rents should be made on man-made, human and social capitals, provided that Hartwick’s mentioned substitution possibilities exist. The Spanish doctor in Economics Carpintero (2003,p.1) thinks that in reality the wish for the developed economies to dematerialize is a myth, and demonstrates how the called “services economies” or “information economies” still involve a growing rate of consumption of natural resources from the earth’s crust, and so follow the path to its own destruction. The SSDS does not condition the economic growth to its environmental feasibility, but just says (p.32) that the main objective of “production and consumption” chapter is “the decoupling of economic growth and pollution through the prevention of unnecessary consumption, and the efficiency in resource consumption”. - Ecologistas en Acción (2007,p.32) argues a big shortcoming in the SSDS in not mentioning the necessary consumption reduction. - Carpintero (2003,p.19) explains that while the worldwide energy efficiency 1973-1990 improved a 2%, the energy consumption kept growing 0.7% annually, through the increase of demand due to the price cuts that the energy costs saving involved. He thinks (p.27) that many small examples show that it is possible to reach a sustainable consumption following the responsible behaviour of some individuals or small groups, and criticizes the institutional framework for favouring the anti-ecological practices that could currently be substituted thanks to technological progress. Finally, the SSDS failed saying that the Spanish economy had low exposure to the global crisis following the USA’s subprime burst (p.5). The prediction made in the SSDS’s introduction of a favourable economical situation to allow Spain to draft the SDS in a long-term perspective (p.5) is a new subordination of SD to economic growth. Further, it has proved to be wrong: in July 2008, the Spanish chancellor of economy cut the growth perspectives for the second time in 2008, recognizing that the Spanish economy could fall into recession in 2009 (, 2008). E. Critical refer to the seven priority areas 1- Climate change and clean energies The Spanish Climate Change and Clean Energy Strategy 2007-2012-2020 (CCCES) (MMA, 2007) gathers 198 measures to fix the importance that the SSDS says to attribute to environmental sustainability, complemented by the renewable energies plan 2005-2010 (IDAE, 2005). Nevertheless:
  6. 6. - Jiménez (2008,p.6) thinks that the SSDS lacks ambitious and binding fiscal proposals in fuels and electricity traditional sources in order to re-orientate the demand. - Ecologistas en Acción (2007,p.32) also criticizes the absence of clear and well defined objectives. CEOs from world's best-known electricity companies reported in Poznan (WBCSD,2008b) that enough low-carbon technologies exist to help the world avert damaging climate change, but that strong policy is needed to support their rapid deployment. The SSDS recognizes the poor results achieved in GHG emissions. The Kyoto Protocol (KP) allowed Spain to increase average annual emissions in the period 2008-2012 by 15% over 1990. In 2005 the increase was a 52.15%. The SSDS argues that the 15% was very demanding because Spanish per capita emissions are an 8% below European average, but the unexpectedly strong population increase has caused the total emissions to shoot up. Worldwatch’s Spanish version director Santamarta (2008,p.16) says that even though the difference has increased to 10% in 2007, Spanish per capita emissions remain 36% higher than the world average, so Spain should not claim for more pollution. The SSDS celebrates the change in the long term trend that occurred in 2006, with a 4.2% decrease in GHG emissions despite the economic growth (3.9%). Nevertheless, Santamarta (2008,p.2) reflects that in 2007 there were new increases in GHG emissions, taking the excess over the base year back to a 52.3%, and therefore devaluating the previous optimism. Source: Santamarta (2008)
  7. 7. The national allocations plan PNA (MC, 2006), forecasted the total emissions in the period 2008-2012 not to exceed 37%, and allocated the emission rights for free between companies on this basis, covering the excess over KP’s 15% with carbon sinks (2%) and Flexibility Mechanisms (20%). - The last calculations made place the excess at 45%, so a readjustment is urgently needed (Santamarta, 2008,p.2). - Santamarta (ibid,p.19) thinks that the use of market mechanisms through auctions to distribute the emission rights would have been a more efficient. - Stern (2008b) also promoted the auctioning system, the incomes from auctioning being a good way to create a fund to contribute to clean energy development in poor countries. This approach has effectively been agreed by the EU meeting in December 2008 (El Pais,2008) The Fourth Synthesis Report (IPCC, 2007,p.50), put forward that the most important direct impacts of the CC in Southern Europe will probably involve a raise of temperatures and sea level, lower water availability and hydropower potential, frequent droughts, summer tourism drop and crop productivity decrease. Although the consequences of the CC have a certain grade of uncertainty, the whole chapter 1 of the referred report demonstrates that the CC itself is a reality. The evidence of the climate change and its attribution to human factors was settled by the IPCC (2001) six years before the SSDS was published. The phrase “the assimilation of a possible climate change” in the SSDS (p.56) is therefore clearly inappropriate. 2- Energy production and consumption The SSDS announced that final energy consumption increased by 72% 1990- 2005, all sectors being responsible of this increase; particularly, the transport (analysed in part 3), energy and construction sectors. The SSDS celebrates the path that renewable energy sources are following in Spain, producing 21% of electricity generation by end of 2007. The Spanish favourable geographical conditions and favourable policy (ICEX, 2007) are effectively moving Spain energy generating towards world leading positions in renewable energies generation. Source: REN21 (2008)
  8. 8. Opposite, in terms of energy efficiency Spain has followed a very poor performance (SSDS,p.11). The SSDS aims the private sector to take part in the investment for energy efficiency, notably the losses in distribution network. Source: Fedea (2008) The CCCES (MMA, 2007) describes the actions that have been undertaken to reach a higher energy efficiency, as in the table below. Source: Lázaro (2008) Energy for construction and residential uses Facts prove that the SSDS made an error when it forecast that the decrease in price-rise rates and in new buildings starts of the construction sector observed in previous months would result in a process of slow deceleration. Instead of this, the
  9. 9. reality has consisted of decreases of 1.3% in the prices and 15.1% in new construction starts in the second trimester of 2008, regarding the first trimester (MViv, 2008 b). Initiatives on demand control, like effective electricity tariffs and domestic control equipments, are proposed in the CCCES together with a higher education in order to reduce residential emissions, which have grown 53% in the period 1990-2005 (MMA, 2008). The new technical building code CTE (MViv,2007) is key to achieve this reduction. 3- Sustainable transport Road transport is one of the highest energy consumption sectors (23% of total energy is consumed by road merchandise transportation and 15% by private cars). Bearing in mind environmental criteria in infrastructures planning, and promoting private market sensible measurements are proposed as the main ways to shift the use of road transport. Nevertheless, Santamarta (2008,p.19) shows the notable contrast of this intention with the reality when he reflects that road remains the priority for both people and for merchandise transport, with several regional administrations still approving new roads construction. Emissions derived from transport continued growing in the last few years. The SSDS argues that vehicle users have not internalized the costs derived from road transportation. The WBCSD (2002) thinks that consumers are sensible to value of the goods they buy against a price, rather than to social issues. This means that a change in people’s patterns of consumption should not be expected but through a change in pricing policy. - Many institutions claim for fuels prices to reflect the destruction that their production and use causes in the environment [(Santamarta, 2008,p.24), (Ecologistas en Acción, 2007,p.33), Jiménez (2008,p.6)]. - Ecologistas en Acción (ibid.) complains that the SSDS promotes the application of the “polluter pays principle” to water prices but not to transport fuels. 4- Sustainable production and consumption The objective of the SSDS in this field is to rationalize the resources demand by preventing wastes and increasing efficiency. For energetic resources, this must be compatible with the Climate Change objectives. Last July, the ECm (2008) presented a series of proposals on sustainable consumption and production in order to improve the environmental performance of products and increase the demand for more sustainable goods and production technologies, as well as to encourage EU industry to innovate. Jiménez (2008,p.7) thinks that the new sustainable production and consumption measures are for key to success, and again proposes taxes to re-orientate the demand towards the desired production and consumption patterns. 5- Natural Resources Management
  10. 10. Jiménez (2008,p.8), thinks that the SSDS is weak in this field. The absence of proper regulation of the massive construction for tourism has already resulted in an unsustainable situation for water matters, biodiversity and natural patrimony in the areas affected. The water use rationalization also lacks effective measures. There is still no adequate frame to give value to the biodiversity, and therefore no guarantee exists to preserve it. Forests management is key to achieve KP objectives. Not only ecological and social factors are to be considered, but also economic ones, since reaching a suitable profitability constitutes a guarantee for forests conservation. WWF celebrated the Spanish law of forests (BOE, 2003) for the improvements to guarantee forest protection, particularly, in arson attack prevention (Portal Forestal, 2006a). The national council for climate (CNC) adopted in February 2006 plans to increase the forest mass in the appropriate quantity to reduce GHG emissions 2008-2012 by 2%. (ibid, 2006b) 6- Social Sustainability The Spanish unemployment rate followed a very favourable evolution before the SSDS was published, from the 19.2% in 1996 to 8.5% at the end of 2006, but the prediction by the SSDS about the employment rate evolution maintenance during the next years has failed: after reaching its minimum (8%), it started growing in July 2007, reaching 11.3% in August 2008 (Banco de España, 2008b). 7- Worldwide poverty The SSDS reflects the objective of increasing the Official Development Assistance up to 0.7% of the GNP, increasing the effectiveness, coherence and quality of Spanish cooperation policy and incorporating the bilateral development cooperation into the Spanish environmental sustainability policy through “Flexibility Mechanisms” to reach KP. The ‘Back to Our Common Future’ report (SHF, 2007,p.6) argues that there have been many broken promises by developed countries in making available the resources to enable developing countries to avoid taking the development model that industrialised countries embraced, reporting a shift in incomes distribution rate from pre-Industrial Revolution’s 3-4:1 to current 500-600:1, and remains increasing. F. Indicators The Spanish sustainability watcher office (OSE) elaborates a series of indicators that serve to monitor the performance in sustainability, and reports it in a yearly basis since 2005. The total number of indicators used for 2007 report (OSE, 2008) was 155. Fuhem (2008,p.2) criticizes the indicators used because they are strongly linked to the current socio-economic model and therefore evaluate the growth rather than the development, and recommends a new re-structured set of them in concordance with the complex dimension of sustainability.
  11. 11. G. Conclusion This appraisal document gathers critics to the SSDS for lack of specific targets and binding proposals, for its optimism in forecasting the Spanish economic and GHG emissions evolution, for lack of fiscal policies to re-orientate the demand and for the claim for higher emission rights. Arguments are given to show the confusion in the concept of SD, the inappropriate conception of the CC reality, and, mainly, the assumption of economic growth as an underlying principle to development. The economic growth assumed by the SSDS and the EUSDS may drive our society to collapse if it is not met with a high grade of decoupling from natural resources exploitation, which is not currently being met. The economic growth cannot be assumed as a paradigm or fundamental principle. A new agreement on the development strategy is needed. Such an agreement would condition the actions that can and cannot be promoted by any subsequent national or trans-national strategies for SD. REFERENCES - Al Gore (2008), [Accessed13/12/08] - Banco de España (2008b), [Accessed06/11/2008] - Bass, S. (2007), “A New Era in Sustainable Develpoment- An IIED Briefing”, [Accessed07/11/08] - BOE (2006), “Ley de montes”, [Accessed 16/11/08] - (Brundtland Report) World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) (1987): “Our Common Future”, 400 p, Oxford - Carpintero, O. (2003), “Pautas de consumo, desmaterialización y nueva economía”, [Accessed11/11/08] - Chandran Fair (2008), [Accessed10/12/08] - Daly, H.E and Townsend, K.N. (1993), “Sustainable Growth: An Impossibility Theorem”, in “Valuing the Earth: Economics, Ecology, Ethics”, ed. MIT Press, 387p - Dodds, F. (2008), nostia_Declaration__2_.pdf [Accessed0112/08] - EC- European Council (2001) “Presidency conclusions Göterborg European Council 15-16june2001” r1.en1.pdf [Accessed10/11/08] - EC- European Council (2006), “EU SD Strategy- Renewed Strategy”, [Accessed02/11/08] - ECm- European Commission, (2001), “A European Union Strategy for Sustainable Development”, [Accessed7/11/08]
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