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Environment in Andorra: 10 sustainability initiatives

The Principality located in the Pyrenees just between France and Spain takes initiative regarding the environment through projects of various kinds. It is not surprising either, given its small size and its dependence on the landscape and nature. Not only for the country itself, but also for foreigners, the tourism on which its economy depends, the environment is a very important asset to fight for in Andorra.

From educational, sustainable energy and recycling plans to international agreements, and proposals for civil society, with its small but scalable gestures, to contribute and act with conscience, Andorra has opened a multiple front from which to address this highly relevant issue. In this article we summarize all its intentions in these ten impulses taken by this small Pyrenean country to have a healthy and sustainable environment.

1. Environment in education, the Green School

The Green School is a project managed by the Andorra Sustainable Center, a facility of the Department of the Environment of the Government of Andorra designed as point of information, training and documentation on environmental aspects for citizens, companies and schools. It began in 2010 and its goal is to reach all students (all schools) in the country. We already knew that the education in Andorra it is quite peculiar and interesting, now even more so.

Sustainable Andorra, Andorran project for the environment and sustainability.
Sustainable Andorra

The operation is simple. First, the centers choose if they want to enter this environmental program and request it. Next, Sustainable Andorra carries out an analysis of the environmental practices of the school, to find out the points where it is weak and determine the issues to be addressed. From here, run a action plan that the educational center must follow until it is completed, at which time the long-awaited title is granted of Green School.

This action plan has two slopes: The first concerns the school itself and usually includes things such as organic matter to fertilize the school garden, recycling or reuse of resources by selectively triaging food to convert it into compost. The second is teach the previously established topics to the students. Topics such as landscape, water, nature and ecosystem, energy, waste, air and noise are examples of subjects that students deal with, also encouraging them to change bad habits and habits, from not using aluminum foil to wrap sandwiches to turning off the tap while brushing your teeth to turning off the lights in the house when not needed.

Currently this initiative is applied on the 53% of schoolchildren, with more than 200 students, and it grows at a good speed. The success of the program has made it transcend the school environment and has also been implemented in the vocational training center and in the Spanish and Andorran School institutes.

2. Classification and collection of waste

This we can say is one of the best weapons of the Andorran government to fight for the environment. Although the levels of selective collection in the country are already above the average for the European Union and top several rankings, the public sector has been devising in recent years a definitive plan to increase the selective collection of waste.

To give us an idea, the National Waste Plan prepared by 2020 he intended to get a 50% from rerecycling from selective collection, but that goal was already exceeded in 2018 with 50.4%. Also in absolute values it was a record.

Municipal landfill in Andorra for recycling and sustainability
Municipal landfill in Andorra for recycling and sustainability

The actions undertaken for such objectives were three: the creation of an environmental label for commerce, the declaration of department stores and supermarkets as unique producers of waste, and the award of collection and management of organic matter near the large producers.

In addition to this, the National Waste Plan also seeks once again abide by small gestures and habits, proposing measures that affect everyone. Encouraging reusable bags with a new regulation that bans disposable bags is a good example. We can also highlight the placement of innovative mobile collection points to allow citizens to save time and distance and facilitate recycling.

The export of organic matter is carried out in a composting plant in the Waste Treatment Center located in Benavarre, and a return of the generated compost that can be used in gardening is expected and intended. The ultimate goal is to decouple the consumption of natural resources and economic growth so that development is sustainable, one of the keys to this being increased circularity of materials throughout the product cycle.

3. The Andorra co generation plant

After the success of the Engolasters lake hydroelectric plant, the FEDA (Electric Forces of Andorra), which is the company in charge of electricity in the country of the Pyrenees, put into operation in the parish of Canillo in December 2016 a cogeneration plant. With an investment of 13 million euros, this power plant produces electricity through liquefied gas, and serves as a supply for the first urban heating network in the Principality.

As the president of the Board of Directors of the FEDA declared, the goal is obtain energies with less environmental impact and avoid the energy dependency that Andorra has with its neighboring countries. The plant in question generates 6GWh of electrical energy and 11GWh of thermal energy, covering 4% of the country's current demand.

Andorra cogeneration energy, environment
Andorra energy co generation, 2018

Such has been the success of the plant that the Andorran Energy Infrastructure Sector Plan provides for a reserve for two new cogeneration facilities associated with urban heat distribution networks. In addition, the Government approved in May 2018 the Energy Infrastructure Sector Plan that provides for the reserve of land that is needed to build the main energy facilities and thus take advantage of hydraulic and solar energy and the energy potential of exploitable forest biomass with sustainability criteria.

4. International agreements

In the struggle of the Principality for the environment, international agreements could not be absent. The incorporation of Andorra, in 2010, to the United Nations Framework Convention on climate change, to commit to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a good reference, and also the signing of the Paris Agreement against climate change, reaffirmed in 2016. 

These international pacts have had their consequences at the national level, such as with the Engega Plan, to promote electric mobility, and the Renova Program, whose objective is the reform of buildings to reduce their energy requirements, as well as the promotion of renewable energies to reduce dependence on hydrocarbons, and the reduction and recycling of waste.

5. Environment indicators

To assess the situation at any time and analyze the progress and evolution of the measures taken, the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment of Andorra prepares statistics that are then summarized in the so-called Environmental Indicators, some Reports on the most essential environmental indexes in the country, ranging from data on recycling and separate collection to air and surface water quality, noise, weather and climate change.

According to the same data for the year 2018 (the last ones), Sustainable Andorra served 8,801 people, including 66% of school students, 20.2 million m3 of waste water were treated and in the measuring stations it has been proven that 84% of surface water is of excellent or good quality.

On the other hand, energy intensity (electricity consumption over GDP) remains stable at around 110, the origin of the energy is that shown in the photograph of the cogeneration plant section, and Andorra's energy demand is totally conditioned by imports of fossil fuels (75.5%). The air quality and acoustics were excellent or good in the 91% and a 84% of the time, respectively, almost 14,000 tons were selectively collected and the 50.4% was recycled, and an estimated 397 Gg of CO2 equivalent emissions.

6. The so-called green ways

Being Andorra a Pyrenean mountainous country, which lives from services and being sport, nature and leisure one of its main activities increasing and improving the system of paths, trails and green routes is a fundamental task. One of the latest advances in this regard is the Camí Real de Ordino, located between La Massana and Sornàs, part of the project to join Andorra la Vella and Escaldes-Engordany with a path, passing through La Massana to the Sorteny Natural Park.

Green ways Andorra environment
Andorra road map

The hiking trails in Andorra continue to expand. The aim is to advertise hiking and mountain tourism and connect spaces of natural interest. The Green Infrastructure Sector Plan proposes another way of exploring and discovering Andorra, claiming the historical, cultural and natural characteristics.

As if that were not enough, the concession of a shared electric bicycle service (Cicland) so that a single ticket will be used to use the bus and the electric bike. Sustainable mobility and reducing the impact of internal vehicle transport on energy consumption, atmospheric quality and road safety is paramount in this.

7. The National Landscape Strategy

Parallel to the previous point, it is vital to:

  • Maintain and preserve the natural, revalued rural or urban landscapes of quality
  • Delimit these spaces, make them cozy for tourism and at the same time pleasant to live
  • Integrate the road network into the landscape, respecting the morphology
  • Propose quality tourist and leisure facilities with respect to landscapes
  • Attract a diversified tourism that knows the landscapes and their values and respects them

And for this it has been created the National Landscape Strategy, an agreement made by various professional groups, among them the colleges of engineers and architects, the different ski resorts in the country and the energy sector.

8. Wildlife restoration and maintenance

With the incorporation of Andorra through the Department of Environment and Sustainability to the Interreg Sudoe Iberiver project, preserve native species and their natural habitats it gets easier. This is a transnational cooperation project that brings together different Spanish and Portuguese institutions to improve the quality of river habitats.

For example, the otter population has recovered in the last seventeen years after being practically extinct from the fluvial courses of Andorra thanks to having been able to gather a dozen specimens of the species. This also contributed to improving environmental conditions, according to the head of the Fauna Unit of the Department of the Environment.

The bearded vulture, a vulture-eagle bird that lives in the Andorran Pyrenees, has been another of the species recovered after the renewal of the development agreement of the Action Plan for the Conservation of Bearded Vultures in Andorra (PACT). The task of the Fauna Recovery Center, which cares for some 200 animals throughout the year, is also essential.

9. Advances in photo voltaic energy

The Andorran Sustainability Observatory (OBSA), within the framework of the project Potential use of solar resources on roofs of buildings in the Pyrenees, developed an app that allows users to know the potential for harnessing solar energy on building roofs.

This mobile application generates a series of indicators in relation to the benefits and the energy, economic and environmental interest of this use. According to calculations, taking advantage of the radiation received by the roofs of buildings would allow the generation of about 255GWh of electricity per year, which would be added to the 100GWh per year produced in Andorra with other technologies, such as the hydroelectric power plant and energy recovery. of waste. 

When opting for the installation of solar panels individuals benefit from subsidies from the Renova program and from the program to promote photovoltaic electrical energy, offered by the Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Sustainability, which is a good option to consider.

10. Disclosure in the cultural awards of Andorra

Finally, since the dissemination of environmental values is one of Andorra's priorities, the defense of the environment also extends when assessing awards in cultural fields that the country offers. For this reason, the prizes were awarded for the Picurt International Mountain Film Festival of the Pyrenees, which films part of its program in Andorra, at the Ordino Congress Centre.

His continuous sessions of environmental-themed films and documentaries earned him the award. The Gall Fer Andorra award is also given to works that promote and they spread respect for the environment and its associated values.

In conclusion

One of Andorra's most important assets is the environment. In a country of services, mountainous and in the middle of the Pyrenees, tourist, sports and leisure, with three natural parks, one of which is a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, maintaining the environment is vitally important. That is why it is not surprising that the Principality puts a lot of effort into taking care of it and being sustainableWell, it largely depends on him. These ten initiatives are nothing more than the manifesto that this small country is willing to look to the future without leaving the past behind.

If you want to establish yourself in this wonderful Pyrenean oasis, either to reside in Andorra or open a company in Andorra, do not hesitate to contact us here. You also should read all the summarized advantages that the country has here.

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Environment in Andorra: 10 sustainability initiatives

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Andorra Insiders is an information platform about Andorra managed by Abast Global, an Andorran professional consultancy firm for legal, tax and accounting services specializing in the establishment of people and businesses in the Principality of Andorra. More information here.

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