Cablegate: New Spanish Environment Official On Biotech And

Published: Fri 14 May 2004 01:31 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. We met May 12 with the new Environment Ministry Secretary
General for Pollution Prevention and Climate Change, Arturo
Gonzalo Aizpiri. Our discussions focused on two of Gonzalo's
key responsibilities: biotech and climate change.
2. We emphasized to Gonzalo the USG's interest in the
agricultural biotech issue - one we had discussed frequently
with his predecessors. Gonzalo listened, but admitted that
he is not yet read in on the issue. We mentioned Spain's
recent change of vote in the Agriculture Council on GM sweet
corn (BT-11) approval, (Spain went from "yes" to abstention,
despite technical level recommendation for a positive vote)
and told him we were unsure if the change represented a
change in policy or merely reflected an initially cautious
position from a new Administration. Gonzalo characterized
the vote as "provisional" and confirmed that there is a need
for further interministerial discussion on biotech policy.
Climate Change
3. Gonzalo was clearly much more up to speed on the climate
change issue (see bio note para 7). We asked him about two
pending plans: the National Emissions Allocation Plan, which
was due to the European Commission by March 31, and the
long-delayed Spanish National Climate Change Plan.
4. Regarding the National Emissions Allocation Plan, Gonzalo
said that while the previous Administration had gathered
copious information from affected industries, it had taken a
"political decision" not to finalize the plan before the
March 31 deadline. The new government will build on the
existing draft to finalize the product. Gonzalo explained
that under the new Administration, Second Vice President and
Minister of Economy Solbes is in charge of implementing the
Allocation Plan, but the Environment Ministry is responsible
for transmitting the plan to the Commission and managing the
process of transposing the EU emissions trading directive
into national law. For that reason, Gonzalo and the
Secretary General for Energy are co-Secretaries of an
interministerial climate change working group led by the
State Secretary for Economy. When asked about the timeline
for completing the plan, Gonzalo referred to the October 1
date by which the Commission needs to have approved the plan
and the specific allocations to each company must be
determined. Since the Commission needs three months to
review the plan, the GOS should ideally have it ready by July
1. That will be difficult, Gonzalo said, and he speculated
that the GOS will be doing well if it finishes the plan
sometime in July. The GOS also intends to complete in July
the transfer of the EU emissions trading rules into national
5. On the National Climate Change Plan, Gonzalo clarified
that while the National Climate Council, whose members
represent NGOs, national, regional and local governments,
industry associations, unions and scientists, had approved
the previous Administration's draft plan in February 2004,
the Plan was never formally adopted by the Spanish
Ministerial Council. The current Administration will use the
existing draft and add elements the Socialist Party, while in
opposition, thought were glaringly absent - specifically
concrete actions, timetables, sources of financing and clear
designation of responsibilities.
6. While the previous Administration was clearly concerned
that its obligation under the Kyoto Protocol to limit
emissions increases to 15% over 1990 levels would be
extraordinarily expensive (Price Waterhouse Coopers estimated
19 billion Euros - $22.6 billion - between 2008-2012) and
threaten Spanish competitiveness, the Socialist government
has stated repeatedly its commitment to Kyoto.
Interestingly, when asked if he thought there was a chance
Spain could meet its emissions reduction commitment, Gonzalo
limited himself to saying that Spain will do all that is
"reasonably possible" to meet its goal. This tracks with the
GOS decision to put Solbes at the head of the National
Emissions Allocation Plan discussions, indicating that the
Socialist government will be attuned to implications for the
Spanish economy. Gonzalo was critical of the previous
Administration's "lackluster" efforts to reduce energy
consumption, saying that the 5% annual increase in energy
demand to support a GDP growth rate of just under 3% was
unsustainable. The Zapatero government will act to improve
energy efficiency, he said.
Bio Note
7. Gonzalo came across as professional and very willing to
engage with us. His proficiency in climate change and energy
issues stems from his former position as Subdirector for
Climate Change and Environmental Planning for Spanish oil
company Repsol YPF. In that position, he interacted with
ARPEL, a Latin American energy industry association, and with
some American industry groups dealing with the climate change
issue. He also previously served as director of the Madrid
regional government's environmental agency and as Director
General for Environmental Policy in the former Socialist
government from 1993-96.
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