You are in:

Agriculture and the Environment


Sunday 31 December 2017


The environment represents a complex system of great significance for human well-being and our future. Its balance and conservation face a whole host of challenges, to which the policies implemented by the Government of Spain within the framework of the country's membership of the European Union are aimed. The following are the main aspects:

Environmental quality and its assessment

Environmental assessment is the set of studies which, designed within an administrative procedure, seeks to identify, forecast and assess the environmental impact that a plan, programme or project would have in the event of its implementation, such that, through the opportune preventive and corrective measures, the environment and natural resources are suitably protected and are not significantly and adversely affected. The basic legislation on the matter of the environmental assessment of plans, programmes and projects is contained in the Environmental Assessment Act 21/2013, of 9 December, which enshrined a far-reaching procedural reform of this preliminary control legal instrument, all with the dual aim of simplifying and speeding up procedures whilst strengthening environmental protection.

Climate change

Within the scope of the European Union, the European Council adopted the 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework in 2014 with three binding objectives for Spain:

  1. a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions at a national level.
  2. to reach 27% of renewable energies in energy consumption.
  3. to achieve a 27% improvement in energy efficiency.

Moreover, Spain has adopted the following initiatives: "Clima" Projects, Environmental Promotion Plans (Spanish acronym: PIMAs), Roadmaps for the Diffuse Sectors until 2020, Carbon Footprint, Offsetting and CO2 Absorption Project Register.


The primary goal of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environmental Affairs is to guarantee a sufficient quantity and quality of water supply throughout the country for all uses. The main tool for achieving this goal is water planning, particularly the River Basin Management Plans, implemented by the river basin authorities.

With the aim of preventing and ensuring greater preparation for phenomena such as flooding, the flood risk management plans were approved that affect 17 river basin districts.

Waste management

The Waste and Contaminated Soils Act 22/2011, of 28 July, enshrines the waste hierarchy principle, prioritising waste management options in the following order: prevention, preparation for reuse, recycling, other forms of repurposing (including for energy), and, lastly, elimination (via landfill, for example). The law also incorporates a prevention target, and recycling and repurposing targets, to be reached by 2020 for municipal waste and construction and demolition waste.

The State Waste Prevention Programme 2014-2020 is based around four strategic lines of action aimed at promoting key aspects of waste prevention: to reduce the amount of waste produced, to reuse and extend the useful life of products, to reduce the content of harmful substances in materials and products, and to reduce adverse impacts on human health and the environment caused by the waste generated.

In November 2015, the government approved the 2016-2022 State Framework Plan on Waste Management (Spanish acronym: PEMAR), establishing the strategic lines of action and measures necessary to advance towards a so-called circular economy and meet the European targets on waste.

Food waste

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environmental Affairs has been implementing the 'More food, less waste' Strategy since 2013, which addresses the problem from a multi-sector, multi-disciplinary and multi-factor approach within the framework of Directive 2008/98/EC on waste, establishing the following order of priorities in the actions it carries out: prevention, reuse and recycling.

Protected areas

Within the framework of the Natural Heritage and Bio-diversity Act 42/2007, of 13 December, protection of the natural environment is carried out through various instruments, such as the different figures of Protected Natural Areas and, at a European level, the Natura 2000 European Ecological Network, in turn consisting of Sites of Community Importance (SCI), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Bird Protection Areas (SBPA), and lastly, the protected areas declared as such by international instruments. The latter include the Biosphere Reserves forming part of the UNESCO MaB Programme: 48 of these exist in Spain, thereby ranking the country first in the world in number of declared reserves, ahead of the United States, which has 47. Biosphere Reserves in Spain account for 10.9% of the national territory.

Coasts and marine environment

The management of the State Maritime and Terrestrial Public Domain (Spanish acronym: DPMT) is aimed at defending the integrity of the coastal environment and its balance and physical development by protecting and preserving its values; guaranteeing its public use and enjoyment by all, and making rational use of its resources compatible with its conservation through economic activities, tourism, etc. Spanish legislation aims to protect the coastline, an inexcusable duty for public authorities.

In order to protect and improve the coastline, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Affairs has been working on preventive measures to control coastline erosion and degradation processes, to protect and restore coastal ecosystems, to regenerate and restore damaged coastal spaces, to rectify any actions standing in the way of or restricting the rational public use of the coastline, to take steps to improve the environmental quality and public use of the coastline, and to better manage the maritime-terrestrial public domain and protection of the sea, to create infrastructure linked to the environment, such as coastal paths, environmental education infrastructure and nature appreciation centres.

Furthermore, a Strategy for Adapting the Coast to the Effects of Climate Change has been drafted to tackle the effects of climate change, particularly rises in the sea level and increased erosion. This indicates the various degrees of coastal vulnerability and risk and proposes measures for tackling the effects of climate change.

Law 41/2010, of 29 December, on the protection of the marine environment, aims to achieve and maintain the marine environment in a good environmental state by the year 2020, to which end, marine strategies have been created as a planning tool for the marine environment. Measures have also been established specially designed to protect marine bio-diversity.

Furthermore, in order to protect marine areas, the management of the marine Natura 2000 Network has been extended and improved to include the declaration of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Bird Protection Areas (SBPA) for marine birds.

Bio-diversity and protected species

Spain is one of the 25 biodiversity "hotspots" in the world and is one of the places with the greatest bio-diversity in the European Union, thanks to the special features of our terrain, geographic extension and situation.

The conservation of the native wild species is framed under the Natural Heritage and Bio-diversity Act 42/2007, of 13 December, which includes these species in the Special Catalogue of Endangered Species under the heading of List of Wildlife Species under Special Protection Regime.

The growing demand for species and their globalised trade is causing an increasing number of invasive alien species that represent a grave threat for native species, their habitats and eco-systems, agriculture and economic resources associated with the use of natural heritage, and even public health. In this regard, Spain has been one of the first States in the European Union to develop a comprehensive policy to control invasive alien species.


The National Adverse Weather Phenomena Forecast and Monitoring Plan, known as Meteoalerta, has been fully consolidated in Spain as a key element in safeguarding lives and assets against extreme weather.

The Spanish forecast system - accessible to all citizens - operates for all 8,122 municipal districts in Spain. Forecasts are generated four times a day, both for seven-day forecasts and 48-hour forecasts. These forecasts provide a range of meteorological variables (temperature, wind chill, chance of rain, wind, humidity and UV radiation), which give a complete overview of both current and future weather.

The State Civil Protection Plan for Forest Fire Emergencies regulates the activity undertaken by the various agencies and entities of the Central Government committed to offering an effective response, both nationally and in support of those regional governments that so require. On a daily basis and for the entire country, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environmental Affairs provides weather information containing estimates on fire risk.

The Izaña Atmospheric Research Centre (Spanish acronym: CIAI) is located in Tenerife, Spain, and is one of the 29 stations comprising the Global Atmospheric Watch Programme (GAW) of the World Meteorological Organisation.

In November 2016, the Spanish Meteorological Agency (Spanish acronym: AEMET) started up the "AEMET OpenData" public system, that allows the dissemination and reuse of the agency's weather and climate information.

Environmental Assessment Act

The Environmental Assessment Act guarantees maximum environmental protection and provides a new boost to sustainable development, by simplifying and speeding up the environmental assessment of plans, programmes and projects. The new framework ensures that environmental assessment legislation is homogenous around the whole country and guarantees citizen participation in these procedures, designed to analyse the environmental impact of said plans, programmes and projects.

For the first time, 'fracking' projects are required by law to be subject to an environmental impact assessment, climate change is taken into account in environmental assessments, and the Natural Heritage and Bio-diversity Act has been amended to penalise 'bunkering' - the permanent mooring of tanker ships and unauthorised refuelling.

Environmental Liability

Legislation of environmental liability establishes a regime to redress environmental damage. Operators that harm natural resources or threaten to do so, are obliged to adopt the necessary measures to avoid such harm. Should harm be occasioned, as well as limiting or preventing further environmental harm, the natural resources must be restored to the state in which they were found prior to such harm being caused.

Natural resources protected by this law are included within the concept of environmental damage, and include the following: harm to water, soil, the shoreline and riverbanks, harm to the habitats of all native wild species, and harm to wild species of flora and fauna temporarily or permanently present in Spain.