Spanish Right-Wing Challenge Environmental Commitments


Spanish cities at a crossroads: Right-wing opposition tests the future of low emission zones and environmental policies. Image: Shutterstock/ Claudio Divizia

AS cities around the world grapple with the impacts of climate change and air pollution, low-emission zones (ZBEs) have emerged as a critical tool to curb vehicular emissions and improve air quality. However, in Spain, the implementation of ZBEs has become a contentious issue as some regions governed by right-wing parties, including the Popular Party (PP) and far-right Vox, seek to delay or reduce these zones, despite the European obligation. This article examines the challenges posed by the right wing’s opposition to low-emission zones in Spanish cities and its potential implications for environmental commitments.

A Backward Trend: Opposition to Low Emission Zones

As reported by El País several municipalities governed by right-wing parties, such as Gijón, Valladolid, Castellón, Lorca, Majadahonda, and Elche, efforts are being made to either delay or significantly reduce the scope of low-emission zones. For instance, Gijón has allowed vehicles without a DGT sticker, the oldest and most polluting ones, to park again in the city centre’s regulated parking zone. Furthermore, the city council plans to limit the future ZBE to a small area, Cimadevilla, which already experiences minimal traffic.

In Valladolid, the new mayor announced the intention to ‘reduce to a minimum’ the future low-emission zone of the city, while Castellón and Lorca requested a moratorium to delay the installation of ZBEs. Majadahonda, despite the legal obligation to establish a ZBE, voted not to implement it, echoing similar sentiments expressed by Elche in their government agreement.

Environmental and Legal Implications

The opposition by right-wing municipalities to low-emission zones raises concerns about the commitment to environmental protection and the fight against climate change. The Climate Change Act mandates 149 municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants to establish EPZs, yet, so far, only 14 are in operation. The delays and reductions in ZBE implementation jeopardise Spain’s ability to meet its climate targets and fulfil European obligations.

The Ministry for Ecological Transition warns that failure to establish low-emission zones is a breach of the rules, potentially leading to the loss of European funds allocated for sustainable mobility projects. The government distributed €1.5 billion of European Next Generation funds to adapt cities to sustainable mobility, including the establishment of low-emission zones. Failure to comply with or modify these projects could result in the need to return the funds, hindering progress in sustainable urban planning.

Challenges to the Fight Against Climate Emergency

The opposition to low-emission zones by right-wing municipalities is seen as a challenge to the fight against the climate emergency. The government emphasises the need to improve air quality and mitigate climate change through the promotion of active mobility and the recovery of public space. By ignoring pollution and hindering policies aimed at curbing emissions, the right-wing parties risk undermining efforts to address the global climate crisis.

As Spain faces mounting pressure to address environmental challenges, low-emission zones have emerged as a crucial measure to combat air pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the opposition from right-wing municipalities threatens to slow down progress in meeting climate goals and fulfilling European obligations. To effectively tackle the climate emergency, it is crucial for all stakeholders to work together and implement comprehensive strategies that prioritise sustainability and environmental protection in cities. Only through collective action can Spain make significant strides toward a cleaner and more sustainable future.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Written by

Catherine McGeer

I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!