Spain pledges to help Greta Thunberg get to GOP25 in Madrid

Spain's environment minister has promised that the government will help Greta Thunberg cross the Atlantic in time to attend the upcoming UN climate talks after a last minute change in venue left the 16-year-old stranded on the wrong side of the world.

Spain pledges to help Greta Thunberg get to GOP25 in Madrid
Teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg addresses the crowd while attending a climate action rally in Los Angeles on November 1st. Photo: AFP

“Dear Greta, it would be great to have you here in Madrid,” the minister, Teresa Ribera, said on Twitter. “You've made a long journey and help all of us to raise concern, open minds and enhance action. We would love to help you to cross the Atlantic back.”

The 16-year-old, who refuses to fly because of the carbon emissions involved and had already made it halfway from Sweden to Chile for the summit by boat, train and electric car when the new venue was announced, turned to social media to
ask for a lift to Madrid.   


“It turns out I've travelled half around the world, the wrong way:)…If anyone could help me find transport I would be so grateful,” she tweeted from Los Angeles.

Spain has stepped in to host the COP25 climate summit in December, after Chile abandoned plans to hold it due to
deadly anti-government protests.

Some 25,000 delegates had been expected in Chile for COP 25, including teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

“We are pleased to announce the COP Bureau has agreed that COP25 will take place from 2-13 December in Madrid,” United Nations climate chief Patricia Espinosa said on Twitter on Friday.

Following more than 10 days of street protests, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said Thursday his country was not in a position to host either the December 2-13 climate convention or the November 16-17 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.   

“This has been a very difficult decision, a decision that has been deeply painful because we know exactly how important APEC and COP are for Chile and the world,” said Pinera.

He added that Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez had offered to host the COP 25 climate summit in Madrid on the original scheduled dates.    

In a tweet Sanchez, who is gearing up for a repeat general election on November 10th, called Espinosa's announcement that Madrid would host the event “excellent news”, adding Spain was already working to prepare the gathering.

Harjeet Singh of environmental group ActionAid International said moving the summit from Chile to Spain “with only four weeks' notice presents real barriers to participation” for delegates from the southern hemisphere.

“Hotels in Madrid are already full. Last minute flights are expensive. Visas can be difficult to obtain at short notice. This sudden decision is likely to shift the balance of power towards the wealthier countries of the global North,” he added in a statement.   

READ MORE: Ten catastrophes threatening Spain unless world tackles climate change 



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Police operation targets illegal water tapping in Spain

More than 130 people were arrested or placed under investigation for illegal water tapping last year, Spain’s Guardia Civil police said on Wednesday following a huge operation.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park”
Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in Andalusia. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

During the year-long operation, “133 people were arrested or investigated for extracting water through more than 1,533 illegal infrastructure devices”, the police’s environmental unit said in a statement.

A similar operation in 2019 had targeted 107 people.

Spain is one of the European countries most at risk from the impact of drought caused by global warming, scientists say.

Water usage issues are often at the heart of heated political debates in Spain where intensive agriculture plays an important role in the economy.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in the southern Andalusia region, one of Europe’s largest wetlands and a Unesco World Heritage bird sanctuary.

They were also operating in “in the basins of Spain’s main rivers”.

In Doñana, police targeted 14 people and 12 companies for the illegal tapping of water for irrigation, a police spokesman said.

Ecologists regularly raise the alarm about the drying up of marshes and lagoons in the area, pointing the finger at nearby plantations, notably growing strawberries, which are irrigated by illegally-dug wells.

“The overexploitation of certain aquifers for many reasons, mainly economic, constitutes a serious threat to our environment,” the Guardia Civil said.

The European Court of Justice rapped Spain over the knuckles in June for its inaction in the face of illegal water extraction in Donana which covers more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) and is home to more than 4,000 species, including the critically endangered Iberian lynx.

According to the government’s last official estimate, which dates back to 2006, there were more than half a million illegal wells in use.

But in a 2018 study, Greenpeace estimated there were twice as many, calculating that the quantity of stolen water was equivalent to that used by 118 million people — two-and-a-half times the population of Spain.

Spanish NGO SEO/Birdlife also on Wednesday raised the alarm about the “worrying” state of Spain’s wetlands.