Spain gets new environment minister

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spanish prime minister Jose Lues Rodriguez Zapatero has sacked Spanish environment minister Cristina Narbona as part of a reshuffle following confirmation of his own re-election as Spanish prime minister last Friday.

Mrs Narbona has been replaced by agriculture minister Elena Espinosa, who heads a new ministry combining environment and rural and marine resources. The development has been condemned as a "grave mistake" by environmentalists.

Greenpeace said the move amounted to a "break-up" of the environment ministry, which had "played a fundamental role especially in the protection of biodiversity and in determining climate change policy".

Ecologistas en Accion lamented as "a step backwards" the fusion of the environment ministry, which it called "the best-functioning ministry in the previous government", with the agriculture department, which is "known historically for its production-oriented and unsustainable policies".

Over the last four years Narbona and Espinosa have clashed repeatedly over whether farmers, which consume up to four-fifths of Spain's water, should be required to pay higher water prices to reflect infrastructure costs.

Narbona's public commitment to a "new water culture" favouring demand management and desalination over traditional supply-side solutions attracted criticism from farmers and some regional governments. National irrigators' federation Fenacore welcomed the new ministry, saying that it "recognises the contribution of irrigation to the environment".

Meanwhile Mr Zapatero gave assurances last week that Spain would continue its tough action on climate change. In a speech to the parliament he promised incentives for emissions reduction in the private sector, increased investment in carbon capture technology and new legislation to promote energy efficiency and renewables. He also appeared to open the door to a possible reversal of previous commitments not to extend the life of Spain's nuclear power plants.

See Spanish prime minister's office, Zapatero statement on environment policy, Greenpeace Spain and Ecologistas en Accion.

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