CREAF’s ideas about Catalonia’s adaptation to climate change have reached ESCACC30, the territory’s Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change 2021-2030, which the Catalan Office for Climate Change has been developing for some months now. As is reflected here, CREAF has been highly active in the corresponding participatory process.
The Catalan Office for Climate Change (OCCC) is currently developing ESCACC30, Catalonia’s Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change 2021-2030. With its updated scientific knowledge and information, plus new climate projections from the Meteorological Service of Catalonia, the new strategy will replace its predecessor, ESCACC 2012-2020. It will thus become the strategic reference framework for adaptation to climate change in Catalonia, as envisaged in the territory’s Climate Change Act.
Conceiving and proposing actions to enable Catalonia to deal with the effects of climate change is no easy task. Reducing our social, territorial, economic and environmental vulnerability frequently entails changing the way we currently grow crops, consume water, promote new infrastructures or manage natural areas, to give but a few examples. With that in mind, the OCCC and Catalonia’s Directorate-General for Citizen Participation have been running a participatory process intended to shape the new ESCACC. CREAF has actually been involved from the outset, contributing scientific knowledge in the documentation stage, providing experts in the training stage (in which Mireia Banqué took part as an expert on forests and climate change) and, most recently, offering a scientific perspective in the deliberative process.
At the current point in the participatory process, ideas for actions to be included in the strategy, in different areas, have been submitted, hopefully to become measures that will be implemented in the different sectors or promoted by the OCCC itself. On behalf of CREAF, water management expert Annelies Broekman, forest management experts Diana Pascual and Eduard Pla, soil biodiversity expert Enrique Doblas, mountain area expert Bernat Claramunt, and rural environment and regenerative farming expert Maria Josep Broncano have contributed their ideas and knowledge to the new strategy.
“All these people have contributed to an exercise in collective intelligence for making ESCACC30 more proactive and efficient, so as to reduce Catalonia’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change,” says Gabriel Borràs from the OCCC.
In the participatory sessions, to provide context, everybody is given access to all the documentation available. In the first sessions held, experts explain the considerations on the basis of which each part of the strategy has been developed. In subsequent sessions, people express their opinions regarding the strategy’s objectives, propose new ones, offer input based on their knowledge, suggest actions, etc. During ESCACC30’s deliberative sessions, 138 people have, between them, made a total of 724 contributions.
A few months later, the authorities check to see if everything is in line with their ideas and society is given feedback to explain how people’s contributions have been taken into account, what has and has not been incorporated into the strategy, and on what grounds. ESCACC30’s feedback stage is expected to take place as of September.
“Participating in ESCACC30 is a hugely humbling experience, where the perspective of research combines with all the other points of view to pave the way for something strategic”
A wide range of people from different sectors have taken part in the deliberations and made proposals. Some of them are scientists, including the aforementioned experts from CREAF. Read on to find out why those experts participated, what they hoped to contribute, and what they took away from the experience.
Why did you decide to participate in the process?
Maria Josep Broncano – I work closely with farmers (an example being the Planeses Farm in Garrotxa) and I think it is vital that we find new measures and actions to counteract climate change, which is already affecting them. I believe a regenerative agricultural production system could be part of the solution to the environmental crisis, because the crisis is partly related to our current agricultural production system. We very urgently need to turn things round, and doing so means changing the way we produce and consume food. My participation in ESCACC30 has been very much linked to my experience in the Polyfarming project, where we are working to create a more sustainable food production model. Adopting that new approach could prove difficult because the conventional intensive production system has its roots in governmental agricultural policies and large food-industry corporations. As a result, it is sometimes the case that moving away from the current system does not only depend on the will of those who want to change it; the producers have to make the change in the first place, but society as a whole must push for it if models such as the regenerative system are to succeed.
Bernat Claramunt – I think that if the opportunity to be involved in developing land management policies arises, participation is almost a moral duty for those of us who are, in principle, experts in some of the areas being dealt with. Besides, as coordinator of NEMOR, the Network for European Mountain Research, I felt that I could offer a mountain-related viewpoint that might have been overlooked.
I was motivated by a combination of professional commitment, as adaptation is part of my work, and personal commitment, because I have many good friends at the OCCC. Another factor was the chance to include all the knowledge and experience we can offer the strategy, to include the objectives and the measures we are testing and finding helpful in terms of adaptation. I was also curious about how the participatory process would be carried out, and interested to see who else and which other organizations were getting involved and what they had to contribute. The need to keep on learning and training was a consideration too. Diana Pascual
Enrique Doblas – In principle, I participated because it was important for CREAF and its impact-based approach to be present. I also happen to love knowledge transfer and had already participated in similar activities, such as the one related to the climate emergency in Barcelona. The organizers are always grateful for your participation, but it should really be our duty as researchers. A great deal of effort is put into research only for its results to stay in the academic arena, so it is worth pushing just a little bit more and trying to transfer knowledge to wherever it is most necessary.
I believe it is essential to actively participate wherever we are can. Personally, I think it is important to get involved and take an interest in our own environment. Professionally speaking, this kind of activity is fundamental if the results of our research are to reach society. Annelies Broekman
Annelies Broekman -In addition to ESCACC30, I have actively participated in the Catalan Water Agency’s hydrological planning review, where I proposed adaptation measures codesigned with local inhabitants and organized self-managed sessions with the governance forums I support professionally (the forums for the Tordera and Llobregat rivers).
What were the main messages or proposals you wanted to get across?
Maria Josep Broncano – We proposed that the rest of Catalonia follow the Polyfarming project’s regenerative agri-food model. Local producers could take the Planeses Farm as a real, demonstrative reference point with a view to emulating an economically viable, environmentally durable and socially committed model. It has been shown that the regenerative model can result in the storage of large quantities of atmospheric carbon and help to mitigate climate change. Soil is the basis of the food system and the regenerative model is conducive to its health, making it possible to produce healthy plants and animals that provide optimal food for human health. Furthermore, regenerative production reduces the use of hydrocarbons and does not contribute to the greenhouse effect. It also reduces the use of plant protection products, with the major pollution problems they cause.
The Polyfarming system helps to reverse the trend of rural exodus, as it advocates making abandoned or unprofitable arable and livestock farms productive and promotes the creation of jobs, especially for young people. Maria Josep Broncano
Diana Pascual – I contributed in two main ways: through all the experience gained in the LIFE MEDACC project in relation to adaptive forest management and the importance of managing forests as a means of making them less vulnerable to climate change; and through the LIFE MIDMACC project’s fundamental knowledge concerning the importance of re-establishing mountain areas’ forestry and farming activities, so as to making such areas profitable, repopulate them, and reduce their vulnerability to climate change.
I suggested and gave arguments for making the approach proposed initially more cross-sectoral, rather than sticking to the typical sectors of “water”, “forests”, etc. I think new land management policies ought to steer clear of such a sectoral outlook. The actions arising from policies are bound to require a sectoral approach, chiefly because of the way the authorities are organized, but I do not believe that has to be the case where decisions taken at a higher level are concerned. Bernat Claramunt
Annelies Broekman – I had very specific objectives in each session. In the session on water, food and forests, for example, I proposed linking land and water management; pointed out that unmanaged private forests that receive subsidies should benefit society (something known as community management); and emphasized the importance of forest health, given that we need forests if we are to have water, and if we are to have forests, we need them to be healthy. In relation to more agricultural issues, I strongly agreed with Maria Josep Broncano’s proposals. We need to promote regenerative farming and support smallholders, and review our agricultural model with the aim of achieving food sovereignty and serving the general interest. In the infrastructure session, I focused on concepts such as maladaptation, on the need to evaluate the impact of new infrastructures in terms of the vulnerability they generate, and on the impact of renewable energy sources.
Enrique Doblas – Specifically, I tried to highlight the importance of protecting soil as the basis and source of many ecosystem services. More generally, I was able to propose some lines of work more geared to integrated landscape management. Lastly, in relation to CREAF’s strategy, and as ESCACC30 already envisaged the creation of hubs of information on climate change, I suggested that such hubs include research centres or professional and accredited actors of some kind.
What did you take away from the experience of participating in ESCACC30?
Maria Josep Broncano – Mainly the satisfaction of having made a small contribution and faith that it will be taken into account in the new strategy. I think there are people in the public authorities who believe in what they are doing and are willing to listen to the ideas of others. I got the impression that there is a common desire to build a better future for us and our planet, and that we still have time to do so if we all pull together.
Bernat Claramunt – My impression was that a lot of the decisions, if not all of them, had already been made, and that the participatory process would perhaps lead to subtle changes in certain parts of the strategy but nothing more. That is not a complaint or a criticism; a lot of work had already been done, and done very well. But I doubt that all the ideas raised in the participatory process can be incorporated into ESCACC30.
Annelies Broekman – I was pleased to see that there are more and more people who think that our model of production and consumption needs to be scaled down and adapted to ecofeminism, that the model of society we require should be unshackled from economic systems that fail to take our habitat’s limits into consideration. I can see that people are keen to participate, but it is vital to invest in sharing knowledge before proposals are made if we are to avoid biased or highly unrealistic discourses. We have to learn to manage uncertainty and complexity. The informative seminars involving experts are of great value in my opinion, but there is a need for more dialogue with local people; their situation and the principles and concepts we researchers work with are often overly disconnected, and bringing them together is very enriching.
Diana Pascual – Knowledge, in the first place. I learned a lot from the two initial seminars I saw, especially in relation to rural settings, which I am not very well up on yet. It was also good to hear other points of view and opinions, although there was little opportunity to discuss new ideas; the way the sessions were organized meant that there was no scope for reflecting on the contributions of others. Nonetheless, I got the feeling that we are not alone in this, that lots of other people share our thoughts and priorities.
What I like most about this kind of experience is the awareness of the cross-disciplinary nature of the challenges facing us. Being surrounded by other people with their own objectives and agendas that have nothing to do with research helps you understand your small role and your usefulness within they system, at the same time as you are helping to create a common objective for everyone. It is a hugely humbling experience, where the academic perspective paves the way for something strategic. Enrique Doblas