Juan López de Uralde left his post as director of Greenpeace Spain to found the country’s first Green Party in 2011 – but without success. Today, the Greens are divided among various coalitions.
European Focus: Let’s start with the problem. Will Spain be the first country in Europe to be affected by the worst aspects of climate change?
Juan López de Uralde: We’re probably the EU’s first, and most vulnerable victim of climate change. According to the Spanish Meteorology Agency, the temperature increase has already reached 1.2º C. This has implications for the spread of wildfires, the reduced availability of water, the widening of arid zones and much more. The problem is that passivity is taking its toll – as we have long warned.
European Focus: As a woman from Córdoba, I remember the 47ºC summers and some years of water rationing. The awareness of climate disaster is there in Spain. Yet there is no Green Party and no strong environmental activism, why?
de Uralde: We have tried without success. There are three main problems: Firstly, the lack of resources. Secondly, the Spanish electoral system, which punishes small parties. And thirdly, there is no strong social support for the Green cause as compared to other European countries. Awareness has grown, but the climate issue is not yet a decisive factor in voting decisions. That’s the main difference with Europe. Economic or employment problems count more.
European Focus: You were in jail after gatecrashing a Climate Change Conference (COP) in 2009 with a banner. Now we see young activists throwing soup at Van Goghs. Do Spanish activists have to be even more radical to be heard?
de Uralde: We went directly to those who were causing the problem. But I respect what these activists are doing: it’s a cry for help from the younger generation. In Spain there was also a factor that we have not mentioned so far: The biggest climate mobilizations were around COP25 (in Madrid), just before the Covid 19 pandemic. Some major parties are also beginning to take up the climate agenda, but it remains to be seen whether this is really the case. If not, activism will increase.