At the beginning of this week we learned of an agreement between the Government of Spain and that of the Generalitat for the expansion of the El Prat de Llobregat airport. An agreement closed in secret, in the middle of August and with its back to the citizens, to approve an extension that has raised a fully justified social alarm. I do not know exactly who is interested in this extension, but it is clear to me that the majority of the citizens of Catalonia are not.
Isabel Rodríguez, Minister of Territorial Policy, last Monday during the press conference explaining the agreement to invest 1.7 billion euros in the expansion of Barcelona’s El Prat airport
There is a new environmental consensus in Catalan society that has begun to take shape: expressed at the institutional level with the Generalitat’s Climate Emergency Declaration in 2019 or that of the Barcelona City Council itself in 2020, which brought together more than 200 entities and all Consistory groups with a clear commitment: to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030.
This new common sense is not exclusive to the citizens of Barcelona or Catalonia, it is global, and it tells us that we must act now. Because climate change is not something that will happen, it is already here, we are suffering it now, year after year in an increasingly serious way: in the floods this summer in Germany, in the heat wave in Canada or in the fires of forests in Mediterranean countries. Or if you prefer an even closer example, the Barcelona Public Health Agency estimates 1,000 deaths per year from pollution.
Given this, what is Aena’s proposal? Climate denialism. To get an idea, going from 50 to 70 million passengers would be equivalent to the entire city of Barcelona increasing its emissions between 60% and 80%. Because there is a lie that, no matter how much the Lord repeats it [Maurici] Lucena [presidente de Aena], the Generalitat and the Government, will not stop being a lie: they say that the expansion will reduce emissions, make the airport “greener in Europe” (sic). Magic! An airport of unicorns!
Gentlemen advocates of enlargement, I only ask you not to treat us as fools. The only certainties that accompany this proposal are that it implies destroying the protected area of La Ricarda (increasing emissions), increasing flights (increasing emissions) and increasing 20 million passengers, basically tourists (increasing emissions).
But there are still more unicorns. Those who defend the extension say that it will be very good for the economy. My question is: whose economy? Perhaps from the companies and funds that make up the private half of the public-private partnership that Aena is, and that seek the maximum short-term benefit. Because with the little data available to date, the only certainty is that tourism would increase, and therefore temporary and precarious work, and our vulnerability to depend even more on wealth coming from outside.
In short, Aena’s initial approach represents the economy of the past, a predatory, unsustainable model that generates inequality. Instead, what we really do need is an expansion of sustainable mobility, starting with investing in Rodalies, in the Mediterranean rail corridor and replacing all short-distance flights with high-speed trains.
In the XXI century we cannot continue with old approaches that oppose economics and ecology. The only economy that has a future is one that prioritizes protecting life and reducing emissions now, not tomorrow. The alternative is a green reindustrialization based on renewable energies and investment in R & D & i. Barcelona has already started. With our commitment to innovation, we have not only consolidated congresses such as the MWC or the ISE, but we have also managed to be the second city in attracting technological capital, host the biennial Manifesta 2024 or be the world capital of architecture by 2026.
We are strengthening our scientific capital with projects such as the Ciutadella del Coneixement, in addition to being the capital of all Spain that makes more social investment per inhabitant and that more social housing is promoting (we are the Administration that bids the most public works in Catalonia, ahead of the Generalitat, creating thousands of jobs).
In short, we have the responsibility and the opportunity to lead an economic project for the future that avoids the climate disaster and generates quality jobs. Barcelona has the talent, strength and self-esteem to achieve this, we will not sell our soul to the first bidder who comes up with a poisoned checkbook.
Ada Colau she is mayor of Barcelona.