The Spanish region of Galicia, home to over 2.7 million inhabitants, has joined the BreatheLife campaign, making a voluntary commitment to achieve World Health Organization air quality guidelines as soon as possible, but certainly by 2030.
Galicia, which already meets European Union legal limits for air quality across all pollutants, conducts continuous air quality monitoring and regularly produces and disseminates air quality assessments.
With WHO guideline values in its sights, Galicia’s government is currently developing guidelines for the improvement of air quality in the region, as well as plans to tackle air pollution in its main emitting sectors.
“The first step of this work is a diagnosis of the areas in which the concentration of air pollutants exceeds – or is at risk of exceeding – the WHO guidelines values. Once identification and diagnosis are done, the causes that are hindering improvement are researched,” said Director-General of Environmental Quality and Climate Change at the Regional Ministry of Environment, Territory and Housing, Xunta de Galicia, Maria Cruz Ferreira Costa.
“From there, the next step is to decide what efforts are needed in each area to improve air quality,” she said.
“The Galician Strategy for Climate Change and Energy 2050 includes many measures that will result in an improvement in air quality, so these will also be included in the guidelines for improving air quality that are currently in elaboration,” said Director-General Ferreira Costa.
All of Galicia’s efforts contribute to the region’s climate change and sustainability ambitions, including achieving net zero emissions as soon as possible, though by 2050 at the latest.
Galicia recognizes that sustainable urban and rural development, mitigation of climate change, air quality and health are interrelated, so there are initiatives included in Galician plans that reflect this reality, contributing to air quality improvement.
For instance, through the 2030 Galician Digital Agenda, functions and operations will be established online with the intention of reducing the need to travel to carry out procedures, thus reducing emissions from road traffic.
Besides this, Galicia commits itself to action geared towards reducing emissions from key sectors, and to pursuing transformations that support sustainable development and the fight against climate change while gaining cleaner air as a co-benefit.
Galicia is also shoring up participation from the citizens in order to achieve its envisioned sustainable future, by actively raising awareness of Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals. Indeed, indicators relating to air quality are including in Galicia’s plan for implementing Agenda 2030 in the region.
Finally, measures that can be taken by the public on a daily basis to contribute to better air quality are promoted, and Galicia is continuously launching awareness campaigns and developing manuals on good environmental practices aimed at improving air quality all sectors.
In the area of energy, Galicia has the second-highest installed power and electricity production through renewable energy in Spain. This leadership contributes to the country’s ranking of fifth in the world for installed wind energy capacity (according to IRENA). There are plans for expansion, such as the installation of an additional 1200MW of renewable energy in Galicia during the 2018-2020 period.
The control of industrial emissions in accordance with current regulations is recorded for review and examination through the Galician Emissions Registry (REGADE).
The Galician industry sector represents 43 per cent of the region’s final energy consumption and 56 per cent of electricity consumption, making industry a key factor in saving energy and increasing energy efficiency. That’s why the Xunta of Galicia is encouraging, through aid programs, the performance of energy audits, implementation of energy management systems and energy saving and efficiency projects in companies.
Galicia’s waste management system is governed by two plans, the Urban waste management plan of Galicia (PXRUG) 2010-2022 and the Industrial Waste Management Plan of Galicia (PRIGA) 2016-2022. Waste management is moving towards encouraging changes in current consumption models by adopting and implementing the Galician Strategy for Circular Economy with a target towards preventing the depletion of resources, closing energy and materials cycles and reducing overall emissions from waste management, while meeting the needs of society.
Xunta de Galicia also participates in the KET4F-Gas project, a European project co-funded by the Interreg Sudoe Program whose main objective is to reduce the environmental impact of fluorinated gases through the development and implementation of Essential Facilitating Technologies (TFE), using systems of treatment designed according to the principles of green chemistry, providing a more benign and efficient way to recover the fluorinated gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment and reducing their emissions.
Agricultural development in Galicia is guided by the Rural Development Plan of Galicia (PDR 2014-2020), among whose objectives are to promote sustainable forestry and improve the competitiveness of the agricultural industry, to restore, conserve and improve ecosystems related to agriculture and forestry. This plan also promotes resource efficiency and supports the transition to low-carbon, climate change-resilient agricultural, food and forestry sectors.
Galicia is also carrying out campaigns to reduce food waste and promote organic farming and local, seasonal food consumption.
The region also plans to increase the viability of alternative forms of transportation, encouraging and promoting public transport, creating pedestrian and cycling paths, and improving intermodal connectivity.
In order to reduce emissions associated with the domestic sector, Galicia has defined a series of measures that include the stimulation of investments to improve energy efficiency, such as better-insulated windows, roofs and facades to reduce the need for heating or cooling, and the installation of efficient boilers.
This approach is closely linked with reducing emissions from climatization facilities, which includes the installation of equipment that allows the generation and use of renewable energy such as photovoltaic solar energy, biomass or geothermal that reduce the consumption of conventional thermal or electrical energy of dwellings, and of heating, cooling and domestic hot water production and ventilation systems.
Galicia is the third region of Spain to join the BreatheLife campaign, along with Catalonia and Basque. Xunta de Galicia also intends to promote the BreatheLife network to all the municipalities of the Galicia region, encouraging their participation through the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.
BreatheLife welcomes Galicia, already an exemplar of early and fast action on clean energy, on its way towards WHO guidelines for healthy air.
Follow Galicia’s clean air journey here
Photos courtesy of Xunta de Galicia.