We speak with Carlos Bravo, technical coordinator of the Alianza Mar Blava, about his work, the Alliance and more.
First of all congratulations for the achieved, the Government of our island has expressed its denial for the project of Med Salt-2.
Thank you very much. This is, without any doubt, great news. On top we are very happy because last Friday 29th of June 2018 the royal decree of protection for the passage of migration of whales in the Levantino-Balear zone has been approved as protected marine in the cabinet, just as we requested since mid 2015. This as well establishes the adoption of a form of preventive protection in this zone and its inclusion in the list of protected areas of special importance for the Mediterranean (the ZEPIM list) in the framework of the convention of Barcelona.
What is your work in the Alianza Mar Blava?
I am the coordinator of the technical office of the Alliance. My functions consist in the internal and external coordination, the representation of the Alliance in different fora, consulting and tracking of administrative records of the projects of exploration in the different departments, the dispatch of expertises and alegations, elaboration and coordination of flyers, posters and other promotional and diffusive material, actualization of the homepage, realization of technical works, conferences and debates, the participation in events to sensibilize organized by third parties and finally the communication with media.
Is it correct that you, alongside other 120 members, do your work for the Alliance in your free time? And what is your regular job?
The Alianza Mar Blava is an intersectoral platform with the mission to reinforce the protection of the Mediterranean Sea, to end the threat to our economy and environment that are the projects of oil prospections that are currently in execution to reach a better sustainability of our energetic system. Born in Ibiza and Formentera in May 2013, it actually consits of more than 120 members from public administrations (Balearic Government, regional parliaments of Ibiza and Formentera, Ibiza, Menorca and Mallorca, different Town Halls of the islands and Barcelona) as well as private ones (entities from the economic sectors of tourism, fishery and navigation) and the civil society (social and ecologic organizations, sindicates and other public and private institutions). To enable its operation in a constant and stable way and to ensure that the activities forming part of the plan of action approved every year in the general assembly are effectively executed, the Alliance decided from the very beginning to introduce a technical secretary, actually consisting of two persons that work partially for remuneration. I am a specialized consultor in environmental issues and the great mayority of my time is dedicated to the professional work i do for the Alianza Mar Blava.
What is MedSalt-2 exactly, or better said what benefits will they have from their research? We heard they tried to execute a similar project in Italy and it got rejected as well, in fact this type of prospections is prohibited in Italy.
The official denomination is “Uncovering the Mediterranean Salt Giant (MEDSALT-2)” being a project of acoustic surveys with the dangerous technique of using airguns with high pressured air, to be used in the marine section between Ibiza and Mallorca and at the southeast of Ibiza and Formentera, both being of huge environmental importance. The environmental impact of these acoustic surveys with airguns is critical and unacceptable. This technique is very banging for living beings for the enormous level of acoustic submarine contamination it generates, and, as scientifcally proven, provokes very negative effects on the marine fauna, especially for whales (including the deep diving ones such as pot whales, goose beaked whales and pilot whales), but as well for turtles, birds, invertebrates, lots of them being protected by the present legislation. The correct and preventive measures made to avoid or reduce affections are not efficient nor, in most cases, realistic. The environmental impact of this project would be critical and inevitable.
In fact, the ministry of Agriculture, alimentation and Environment did emit a resolution refusing the solicited simplified declaration by the promoter of this project (the OGS, Instituto Nazionale di Oceanografía e di Geofisica Sperimentale de Trieste, Italia). This ministerial resolution reasoned the refuse in stating that the project Medsalt-2 could produce significant adversive impacts on the environment. Nonetheless and surprisingly on April 21st the ministry of exterior affairs and cooperation, on petition of the Italian embassy, did reactivate the adaption of the Medsalt-2 project, this time as for a proceeding to be evaluated an ordinary environmental valuation. The supposed reason for this project is to acquire geophysical data about the section on the south of the Baelaric Islands with the objective, so they say, to understand the formation, cause, cronology, mechanisms of process and consequences of the youngest giant salt deposit on earth: the salt layer of the superior Miocene in the Mediterranean Basin.
picture courtesy of ResearchGate:
Despite its scientific appearance, the Alliance is aware and holds effective proof of the enmeshment of the project Medsalt-2 with the interest of the petrol industry, for the possibility to open ways at short term for the exploration of fossil fuels in the area. It is a popular interest of the petrol and gas industry in our geological formations to get to find great deposits of fossil fuels. This connection is abundantely evidenced in the document “Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of the COST Action – Uncovering the Mediterranean salt giant” (MEDSALT) CA15103”, which is the base of the Medsalt/Cost project (COST Action CA15103).
In the point 2.2.1 one can find very revealing phrases:
2.2.1 plan to include the most relevant partners:
“(…) included in the final users of the project (COST/MEDSALT) is the gas / petrol industry”.
“(…) seven companies of the petrol and gas sector and companies of active petrol services in the Mediterranean did express their interest in the project in written form. (…)”
As clear as water, but there are many more citations. In its introduction it is said about the objective of the project (investigating the deposits of deep salt in the Mediterranean): “It’s an opportunity for the scientific community to share objectives, data, experience and tools with the industry as there exists a considerable interest in the exploitation of petrol and gas (…), pointing at the deep salt deposits of the Mediterranean”. There are many more references for it in the document. Another revealing one in the point 2.1.1, where one can read: “At short term the action (COST/Medsalt) will push the industrial exploitation of fossil fuel reserves in the sensible ambient that is the Mediterranean Sea”. From our point of view this project, if effected, will not achieve any benefit, only grave mediambiental damage to the marine fauna and fishery, and would open doors to the threat of projects dedicated to the exploitation of fossil fuels and other mineral resources, being disastrous for the environment and economy of the whole area.
I’ve never heard of companies that study the salt layer on the ground of the sea to get results about the formation and history of it… Is this a common technique or just a camouflage?
As we said before, it seems undeniable that this project is some kind of Trojan horse of the petrol industry, a camouflage with a scientific aspect to be able to hypocritically effect the geophysical surveys that for the moment could not be executed in a direct way due to the social and institutional opposition against their projects in the Balearic Islands and other autonomous communities of the Mediterranean basin. Even if they would achieve to retrieve geological data of the salt crisis of the Messinian that occurred 5 million years ago, which is without any doubt of no significant scietific value on an international level and even of less realistic interest of our society.
It might not be a casualty that the surface of the marine underground to be prospected with this project MedSalt-2 overlays significantly with the zone south of the area of prospections odf fossil fuels that the Spectrum Geo Limited company had planned in its campaign of seismic acquisition in the Baearic Sea, a project that we already managed to archive. It is known that the petrol and gas industry is trying for years to obtain authorisation to effect prospections of fossil fuels in the waters that surround the Balearic islands. But, since approximately five years, they find themselves conjoined with an enormous social, institutional and political opposition to their propositions. As in 2013 the Alianza Mar Blava was founded we managed to archive projects from Cairn Energy in the golf of Valencia (in 2015), another one from Services Petroliers Schlumberger in the golf of León (in 2016) and the already mentioned from Spectrum Geo Limited in the Balearic sea (in 2017).
With the political change that is happening in Spain do you think that there are better times to come to protect our resources and our biggest treasure that is nature?
The new government of Pedro Sanchez has created the ministry for ecological transition that groups the competences of energy and environment and its public officer, Teresa Ribera, a great connaisseur and expert in the climate change topic, has pledged to dedicately fight the climate challenge and to open ways towards a denuclearization and decarbonization of our economy, basing our energetic system in the reduction and energetic efficiency towards renewable energies. That implies to take important decisions, including the one that we demand: a law to prohibit activities for exploration and exploitation of fossil fuels and other mineral resources in the waters that are under Spanish jurisdiction.
To accomplish this law in Spain is totally feasible. It has been done in other parts. In December last year France became the first country in the world to prohibit by law the production of hidrocarburates in their entire territory. The french law prohibits the consent of any new license to explore fossil fuels in whatever way. The exploitations that are actually in being will be eliminated so that when its concessional period is terminated that, by the year 2040, the extraction of fossil fuels will be totally terminated in all French territory, be it in the sea or on firm ground.
Since then other countries have advanced significantly in the same direction. As since the last month of February the Irish Parliament approved a law proposition for “urgent climate measures” including the Government to not be able to concede new authorizations for exploration of petrol and gas in the sea. Already in 2017 Ireland decreed a law to prohibit hydraulic fractioning (fracking) on their ground. Last 12th of April the prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, announced that her country has prohibited the realization of nex explorations of petrol and gas in the waters on the high sea under her jurisdiction (the exclusive economic zone of New Zealand is the fourth biggest on the planet). This is one of the measures included in the plan of the Government of New Zealand to transit towards a model of sustainable energies, with its primal objective to achieve that the generation of electricity will be 100% renewable in 2035 and to create a totally decarbonized economy in the year 2050.
So there is a way to prohibit once and for all any project that uses harmful techniques to our nature?
On January 13th of 2017 an act of direct democracy took place in the Parliament Balear, charged with great symbolism, where a transmission for a proposition of law was concreted to protect the Mediterranean Sea under Spanish jurisdiction against the threat of fossil fuel prospections and other mineral resources, from the Balearic society. Represented in this case by the Alianza Mar Blava in the parliament which is, as the proper statute of the autonomy of the islands specifies, the representation of the Balearic village. The proposition of law that the Alliance, together with the Council of environment, agriculture and fishery of the Balearic Government, has presented and submitted to all political parties in the Balearic Parliament, is structured in one single article, an additional disposition as well as transitory one. Cited article establishes that exploration, investigation and exploitation of fossil fuels and other mineral substances in the marine sector of the Mediterranean sea is excluded wherever Spain holds jurisdiction. Likewise the exploration via seismic adquisitions with whatever purpose will be excluded, except the case where it is scientifically proven that the techniques used are totally inoffensive for the marine sector. The additional disposition specifies that the exploitation of fossil fuels which concession is anterior to its entry in vigor included in this law will maintain in effect until its extinction without any possibility of prolongation in any way. In the meantime, the transitory disposition underlines that this law is applicable to all the solicitations of exploration, investigation and exploitation of fossil fuels or seismic adquisitions in transmission that have not been resolved at the entry in vigor of this law.
This proposition of law managed to get a conjoint support of all political forces represented in the Balearic Parliament. After its aprobation in April of 2017, the proposition of law was sent to the Congress of Deputies due to the fact that the topic that matters is of State competence but, unfortunately, in June 2017 the Government voted its implementation, administering a study of the Ministry of energy (MINETAD) caressing of any fundament and, on top, anonimous. This study of veto did not demonstrate, because it would have been impossible to do so, that the cited proposition of law would affect the general budget in vigor the same year (that is the only and real motive where the Government could have vetoed in a justified way). Nonetheless, the veto was supported by the representatives of the parliamental groups of Popular and Ciudadanos in the Congress, in a way that the initiative could not be executed. In present, after the consentaneous decree of the Constitutional court of last 12th of April, the Congress has to resolve the annihilation of the veto to this proposition of law, in the same way as for many other initiatives that the Government approved without any “real and according justification”. On top, the Balearic Parliament returned to approve in June 27th 2018, once more in unanimity, the very same proposition of law elaborated by the Alianza Mar Blava, which will be once more emitted to the Congress for its handling. In this case it will not be subject to veto by the Government of Perdo Sanchez so it has a chance to be discussed and we believe it could be approved with a great majority in the chamber, even if we will do everything possible that it will be consentaneous.
To do the job you do you have to be very strong, are you an optimist?
Yes, i am an optimist person, even more being totally conscious about the severe environmental and social-economic problems that we are facing. The climate change is, without any doubt, the most frightening of all, knowing that it has the potential to provoke catastrophic changes that can put in danger the survival of numerous species, including our very own. Well, sometimes i doubt that we finally won’t be so stupid as to not react in time regarding this problem. The technical solutions to achieve it are existant, the question is to achieve to finally end the political irresponsability of rulers that only opt to satisfy the interests of the lobbyists of dirty energies, like the last ministers of energy we had to tolerate in Spain or, on an international level, the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump. Society is in a process of awakening even faster every time and i believe that the necessary reaction will be applied. What is actually true is the fact that the later we react and the more we resist in starting to apply the ecological transition of our economy, the more painful (and more expensive in economic terms) it will be to overcome this global crisis. I consdider that the Alianza Mar Blava is a good and practical example of how to advance in the solution of these problems. The Alliance shows, since its creation in 2013, that the unity of all sectors of society (public administration, private sector and civil society), working together based on consent, is able to achieve huge success and can transform our reality for the better. Two years ago a study was elaborated that the benefits resulting from the exploitation of fossil fuels that can be stored under our seas will only cover a tiny part of the harm this exact exploitation would produce.
How can anybody still try to extract the last drops knowing that it destroys our future?
The approximation towards fossil fuels that has dominated the 20st century has been overcome by the insight and the responsibility that comes from the society towards the laws in a slow but adamant way. In this sense it is not coherent to explore or investigate new resources of fossil fuels when the scientific community, reunited in the Intergovernmental panel for Climatic Change of the United Nations as well as the International Agency of Energy and many other institutions, have manifested that if we want to avoid the effects of a climate change on a big scale we have to stop burning big parts of the spendable reserves of fossil fuels to not increase in an irreversible manner the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), being the main gas responsible for the global warming of our planet.
Science has proven that, if we want to avoid a climate change at global scale we have to stop burning a big part of the reserves of our available fossil fuels. Facing this evidence, what sense has it to keep looking for new resources of fossil fuels? None. We have to leave behind as soon as possible the era of fossil fuels and move towards the urgent transition to a new model of energy being more efficient, more intelligent and 100% renewable.
To people that tell me that we are hipocrites because we still use engines that burn fuel while we fight to stop the prospections in our seas i always answer the same, each one has to do what one can do, following the slogan ‘think global, act local’. Do you agree?
Absolutely. People that express these acusations without any reason don’t know what they talk about or hide disgraceful interests. The energetic transition is not done from one day to the other, it definitely takes time and we intent it to be as short as possible, but it has to come from within, changing the absurd actual energetic system totally dependend on dirty energies, towards an intelligent one, efficient and 100% renewable. And this is done through changing the laws, apart from the attitudes.
What can each citizen do to improve the life of all living beings?
We have to be informed, commited and active citizens. The ignorance of problems, pandered by the ones who want to maintain the unacceptable actual status quo, avoids that the citizen can be informed adecuately about them, and can therefore react actively and efficiently. Neither can one unite with others to fight for the same cause. The union makes the force. That is fundamental. Once the objective that needs to be achieved is decided the appropriate actions have to be taken that will take us to accomplish its compliance.
Will it be possible to declare by law the Mediterranean sea under Spanish jurisdiction an area free of fossil fuel prospections? And furthermore the whole Mediterranean up to the moment when all seas are free of it?
Definitely yes, as we said before, this is our objective. And i believe we can achieve it in quite a short time. France and New Zealand already have laws in place in that sense, Ireland will do so soon. And all other countries will follow. We will be testimony of this flaw to disappear progressively from our seas.
Do you believe that Ibiza will be one day a ‘green’ island, means free of emissions and 100% sustainable? And if so when do you think this will be possible?
Without any doubt we will achieve it, i mean we don’t have another choice anyway if we want to ensure our wellbeing. The amount of time to get there will depend in big parts of the mobilisation of the society, understood in its most ample sense, to demand the aplication and execution of legal, economical, financial, technical and more measures from our rulers. So that they allow to establish, in the least time possible, a new and efficient energetic model that is intelligent and 100% renewable. In that sense it needs to be said that the Advisor of territory, energy and mobilisation of the Balearic Government elaborated a pre-project to a law for the climate change and energetic transition. It’s a law with very ambitious objectives regarding the reduction of CO2 emissions and the decarbonization of the Balearic energetic system which is actually very dependend on fossil fuels. All the intended measures in the cited law will permit, as the Balearic Government announced, a reduction of 40% of the CO2 emissions by 2030 and of 90% by 2050. But to get there and even further, we from the Alianza Mar Blava understand that is is necessary to get the normative actions on their way with an ample social, corporate and political consense in a way that they can be applied in an efficient way at short, mid and long term. That would be the case with this law for climate change and energetic transition that, if achieved in this very legislation, needs to be developed and applied without incidents nor fright, not only in the next legislation but in a timespan of minimum two decades. That means that this law, if to be beneficial, needs to achieve to be bailed by an immense majority of the civil society, the private sector and the public administrations of the Balearic islands and that therefore could be considered a Balearic law and not a law of a certain Government. We are at a crucial moment that we should not let pass by if we take the problematic climate change seriously.
Thank you so much for this Carlos, and even more for the work you do, we will keep fighting wherever we can to preserve this planet for our children and all living beings.