21st July 2024
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Activists demand EU stops ‘green’ funds used to link ski resorts in Aragón Pyrenees

Environmental groups in Spain have called on the European Union to open an inquiry into the approval of €26.4 million of ‘green’ economic recovery funds to link two ski resorts in the rapidly warming Pyrenees mountain range.

Five separate groups have sent a delegation to Brussels for meetings with MEPs and officials on Monday, to demand greater scrutiny of a project they claim will cause irreversible damage to the glacial valley of Canal Roya in the province of Huesca (Aragón).

The EU’s €724 billion Covid-19 recovery programme is meant to support member states to ‘build a greener, more digital and more resilient future’, with stringent rules on impacting biodiversity, water use and carbon emissions.

The activists argue that combining the resorts of Astún-Candanchú and Formigal with an 8-km-long cable car link will violate these conditions. The plan was approved by Spain’s Tourism Ministry in December.

‘A representation of Friends of the Earth, Ecologists in Action, Greenpeace, SEO/BirdLife and WWF will convey to dozens of MPs of the European Parliament their rejection of the destruction of the glacial valley of Canal Roya (border with the Pyrenees National Park of France) to expand the ski resorts of Astún and Formigal,’ Ecologists in Action said in a statement.

They said that the meetings will take place from 20-23 March and ‘the environmental organisations hope to get the European Commission to open an investigation into this irregular allocation of European funds for a meaningless project with an irreversible impact’.

They have also criticised the ‘opacity’ of the Aragon regional government in its management of the pandemic recovery funds, and alleged hypocrisy on the part of Spain’s central government for approving the project, given its recent trumpeting of its green credentials.

A petition to stop the cable car project from going ahead has so far garnered almost 50,000 signatures, making it one of the most popular on the Change.org website.

Critics argue that skiing is neither financially nor environmentally sustainable in the rapidly warming mountain range. Many resorts draw water from nearby streams or reservoirs and typically use compressed air and electricity to blow snow into piles on the slopes when it’s cold.

Spanish scientists said in 2021 that the Pyrenees’ glaciers will likely be reduced to ice patches in the next two decades due to climate change. The mountains have suffered a higher-than-average 1.5 C overall temperature increase since the 19th century. ALSO READ: Confirmed: 2022 was Spain’s hottest year on record.

Spain was one of the first EU countries to apply for and receive funds from the EU pandemic recovery fund, and stands to be among its main beneficiaries. It is set to receive a total of €140 billion, half in direct transfers, half in loans. ALSO READ: EU endorses Spain’s recovery plans, with details of €69.5 billion package.

The European Court of Auditors warned this month of insufficient checks and safeguards on how EU member countries spend the €724 billion of pandemic recovery funds. A visiting EU Parliament delegation urged the Madrid government in February to be more transparent and flexible in its use of the funds and in providing public information about them.



Image from a protest on 15 February from the ‘Plataforma en Defensa de las Montañas de Aragón’ Facebook page.

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