The Principality located in the Pyrenees, right between France and Spain, takes initiative with respect to the environment through projects of various kinds. It is also not surprising, given its small size and its dependence on landscape and nature. Not only for the country itself but also for foreigners, the tourism of which its economy hangs, the environment is a very important asset to fight for in Andorra.
From educational, sustainable energy and recycling plans to international agreements and proposals to make civil society help with its small but salable gestures, to contribute and act with conscience, Andorra has opened a multiple front from which to address this very relevant issue. In this article we summarize all the intentions in these ten impulses taken by this small Pyrenees 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, equipment of the Department of Environment of the Government of Andorra designed as a point of information, training and documentation on environmental aspects by citizens, businesses and schools. It started in 2010 and aims to reach all schoolchildren (all schools) in the country.
The operation is simple. First the centers choose if they want to enter this environmental program and request it. Then Andorra Sustainable makes an analysis of the environmental practices of the school, to know the points at which it lapses and determine the issues to be addressed. From here, an action plan is executed that the educational center must follow until it is completed, at which point receives the desired title of Green School.
This action plan has two aspects: the first concerns the school itself and usually includes things such as organic matter to pay for the school garden, recycling or reuse of resources by making a selective triad of food to convert it into composting. The second is to impart the themes previously established 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 practices, from not using aluminum foil to pack snacks to turn off the tap while brushing their teeth and turning off the house light when it is not needed.
Currently this initiative is applied to 53% of schoolchildren, with more than 200 students, and is growing at a good speed. The success of the program has transcended the school environment and has also been implemented in the vocational training center and in the Ethanol and Estela Andorran institutes.
2. Classification and collection of waste
We can affirm that it is one of the best weapons of the Andorra government to fight for the environment. Although the levels of selective collection of the country are already above the average of the European Union and lead several rankings, the public sector has been devising during the last years a definitive plan to increase the selective collection of waste.
To get an idea, the National Waste Plan prepared for this year 2020 was intended to achieve 50% recycling from selective collection, but that goal was already exceeded in 2018 with 50.4%. Also in absolute values it was a record.
The actions undertaken for these objectives were three: the creation of an environmental badge for trade, the declaration of department stores and supermarkets as unique waste producers, and the allocation of collection and management of organic matter near large producers.
In addition to this, the National Waste Plan also seeks to comply again with small gestures and habits, proposing measures that affect everyone. Promoting reusable bags with a new regulation that prohibits 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 Navarre, and a return of the compost generated that can be used in gardening is planned and intended.
The final objective is to decouple the consumption of natural resources and economic growth so that development is sustainable, being one of the keys to this is the increase in the circularity of materials throughout the entire product cycle.
3. The Andorra co generation plant
After the success of the Engolasters Lake hydroelectric power station, the FEDA (Forces electrifies Andorra), which is the company in charge of electricity in the Pyrenees country, launched a plant in Canillo parish in December 2016 co generation. With an investment of 13 million euros, this power plant produces electricity through liquefied gas, and serves as a supply for the Principality first urban heating network.
As the president of the Board of Directors of the FEDA declared, the goal is to achieve energy with less environmental impact and avoid the energy dependence that Andorra has with its neighboring countries. The plant in question generates 6GWh of electricity and 11GWh of thermal energy, covering 4% of the countries current demand.
Such has been the success of the plant that the Andorra Energy Infrastructure Sector Plan foresees the reserve for two new co generation facilities associated with urban heat distribution networks.
In addition, the Government approved in May 2018 the Pectoral Plan for energy infrastructure that foresees the land reserve that is required to build the main energy facilities and thus take advantage of the hydraulic and solar energy and the energy potential of exploitable forest biomass with criteria of sustainability
4. International agreements
In the struggle of the Principality for the environment, international agreements could not be lacking. The incorporation of Andorra, in 2010, into 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 Play Engage, for the promotion of electric mobility, and the Re nova 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 waste reduction and recycling.
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 selective collection to air quality and surface water, 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 the energy intensity (electricity consumption over GDP) remains stable around 110, the origin of the energy is shown in the photograph of the section of the co generation plant, and Andorra energy demand is totally conditioned by imports of fossil fuels (75.5%).
Air and acoustic quality was excellent or good at 91% and 84% of the time, respectively, almost 14,000 tons were collected selectively and 50.4% recycled, and 397 Goes of equivalent CO2 emissions are estimated.
6. The so-called green ways
Being Andorra a Pyrenees mountainous country, which lives on services and being sport, nature and leisure one of its main activities, increasing and improving the system of roads, paths and green routes is a fundamental task. One of the latest advances in this regard is the Came Real de Ordino, located between La Massana and Songs, part of the Andorra la Villa and Escaldes-Engordany union project with a path, passing through La Massana to the Sorted Natural Park.
Hiking trails in Andorra continue to expand. It seeks to advertise hiking and mountain tourism and connect spaces of natural interest. The Green Infrastructure Sector Plan proposes another way to explore and discover Andorra, claiming historical, cultural and natural characteristics.
Moreover, the concession of a shared electric bicycle service (Island) has also been tendered so that a single ticket will be used to use the bus and 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, the National Landscape Strategy has been created, an agreement made by several professional groups, including 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 Interred Side Iberiver project, preserving native species and their natural habitats becomes 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 river courses of Andorra thanks to having been able to gather a dozen copies of the species. This also contributed to improving environmental conditions, according to the head of the Wildlife Unit of the Department of 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 agreement for the development of the Action Plan for the Conservation of the Bonebreaker in Andorra (PACT).
The task of the Wildlife Recovery Center, which cares for about 200 animals throughout the year, is also paramount.
9. Advances in photo voltaic energy
The Andorra Sustainability Observatory (OBSA) within the framework of the project Potential for the Use of the Solar Resource on Roofs of Buildings in the Pyrenees developed an app that allows users to know the potential for using solar energy on the roofs of the buildings.
This mobile application generates a series of indicators in relation to the benefits and energy, economic and environmental interest of this use. According to the calculations, the use of the radiation received by the roofs of the buildings would allow generating about 255G We of electricity per year, which would add up to 100 KWh per year produced in Andorra with other technologies, such as the hydroelectric power plant and energy recovery of waste
By opting for the installation of solar panels, individuals benefit from grants from the Re nova program and the program for the promotion of photo voltaic 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 priorities, the defense of the environment also extends when assessing the awards in cultural fields offered by the country. For this reason, the prizes for the International Pyrenees Mountain Film Show, Picture, which films a part of its program in Andorra, were held at the Ordino Congress Center. His continuous sessions of films and documentaries on environmental issues earned him the prize. The Gall Fer Andorra award is also awarded to works that promote and spread respect for the environment and its associated values.
One of Andorra 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 of which a UNESCO World Heritage Site, maintaining the environment is of vital importance. That is why it is not surprising that the Principality puts a lot of effort into taking care of it and being sustainable, since it depends largely on it. 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.
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