Pilar Unzalu: EcoEuskadi marks the path that will position the Basque Country in the vanguard of sustainability in southern Europe
In Brussels, the minister also presented the 2010-2014 Eco-efficiency Program for Basque Companies and the Water Policy of the Basque Country
Today, in Brussels, the Minister for the Environment, Territorial Planning, Agriculture and Fishing, Pilar Unzalu, affirmed that the EcoEuskadi 2020 sustainable development strategy "marks the path that will position the Basque Country in the vanguard of sustainability in southern Europe". Before the European Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potocnik, and the regional ministers, Pilar Unzalu presented EcoEuskadi 2020, the 2010-2014 Eco-efficiency Program for Basque Companies and the Water Policy of the Basque Country, implemented via the Basque Water Agency URA.
Furthermore, she stressed that the Basque Country boasts "a society, youth and a business and economic fabric wherein the need to be more sustainable has been internalised," reminding her audience that "proof of this collective commitment is, amongst other indications, demonstrated by Victoria-Gazteiz's assignment as the 2012 European Green Capital".
The minister emphasised that one of the greatest virtues of EcoEuskadi 2020 is the process of social, company and institutional participation that has served to develop the strategy (more than 4000 participants in 50 physical and virtual forums) and stressed the special implication of young people via educational and professional training centres and the university.
Amongst the specific objectives of EcoEuskadi we find the following: increasing employment amongst the population aged between 20 and 64 years of age by 75% (it currently stands at 68%); reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in terms of the figures for 2005; increasing the percentage of renewable energy sources by up to 17% and energy efficiency by 20%; reducing school dropouts to less than 10% (it currently stands at 12.6%): maintaining the percentage of the population aged between 30 and 34 years of age who complete higher education at more than 40%; and reducing the number of individuals living below the poverty threshold to below 15% (it currently stands at 19%).
2010-2014 Eco-efficiency Program for Basque Companies
Before the Commissioner and the regional ministers, the Minister for the Environment, Territorial Planning, Agriculture and Fishing, Pilar Unzalu, set out the 2010-2014 Eco-efficiency Program for Basque Companies, which now boasts the participation of more than 210 companies and 16 public and business organisations that take in more than 2000 small companies and micro-enterprises that view the environmental variable as a factor for competitiveness.
Unzalu, who stressed the "Basque companies' great capacity to adapt to new market demands", explained that it is a program "designed under a scheme of joint responsibility between the public and private spheres, wherein the objective consists in ensuring that companies make a commitment to the incorporation of environmental improvements into their production and organisational processes, with promotion of eco-design and the offer of green products and services".
The program also provides an incentive to incorporate cleaner technologies in order to reduce resource consumption and restrict greenhouse gas emissions.
Water Policy in the Basque Country
In addition, Pilar Unzalu provided information on the Water Policy and hydrological planning within the Basque Country up to 2050.
Having outlined the efforts made to draw up the Hydrological Plan for Inland Catchment Areas in the Basque Country and having identified the 100 areas within the region at risk of flooding, the minister focused on presenting the Flood Early Warning System, as flooding represents "the greatest natural risk to the Basque Country".
She explained that, in collaboration with the Basque Ministry for the Interior, efforts are being made to "implement a system that crosschecks rainfall forecasts in specific areas, orographic data and computer-based models that predict river behaviour in order to anticipate flooding in a very precise manner". "This allows us to warn the population beforehand and prevent material damage and, above all, personal injury in the event of the rising of river levels", she affirmed.
Furthermore, the minister provided information of cooperation projects in which the URA participates, providing technical assistance in water management in various countries in the southern hemisphere.