Interview with José Antonio Serrano Martínez, Mayor of Murcia, Spain, winner of the 2021 Covenant of Mayors “City in the Spotlight” awards.
This interview is available in all official EU languages: български (bg) // čeština (cs) // dansk (da) // Deutsch (de) // Ελληνικά (el) // español (es) // eesti (et) // suomi (fi) // français (fr) // gaeilge (ga) // hrvatski (hr) // magyar (hu) // italiano (it) // lietuvių (lt) // latviešu (lv) // malti (mt) // dutch (nl) // polski (pl) // português (pt) // română (ro) // slovenčina (sk) // slovenščina (sl) // svenska (sv)
[Covenant of Mayors – Europe Office:] Murcia was the first Spanish municipality to commit to the Covenant of Mayors, all the way back in 2008! Reflecting on those 13 years as part of the movement, what do you think are the city’s greatest achievements in terms of climate and energy?
[Mayor Serrano Martínez:] "Murcia has achieved multiple goals in that time, one of which was fulfilling the objectives of its SEAP 2020 (Sustainable Energy Action Plan) which was approved in November 2010 with the aim of cutting CO2 emissions by 20%. The result was a reduction of at least 428,334 tons of CO2 in 2020, as compared to 2007 emission levels. We now intend to take that objective to the next level, cutting emissions by 40% in the municipality's SECAP 2030 (Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan), which is a natural extension of the SEAP 2020. I am also proud that, in my time as mayor of Murcia, the city has endorsed the vision of the Covenant of Mayors to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
Murcia's participation in the Covenant of Mayors is a motivating force and gives us support in mitigating and adapting to climate change. This European support comes in the form of recognition and allows us to utilise the resources and networking opportunities required for fulfilling energy and climate commitments. That recognition is both encouraging and a driving force."
The city recently endorsed the 2050 vision of the Covenant of Mayors of a fairer, climate-neutral Europe . Part of this new commitment involves cooperating with local players and citizens. What is Murcia doing in this respect?
"If we want Murcian society, companies, institutions and administrations to change their habits and focus on a common project that involves the environment being treated with greater respect, it is essential that all the agents and latent social entities in the municipality are aboard. Only then can we create an exciting and successful common project in which we all play a role and reap the rewards. That is why the municipality's 2030 Climate Change Mitigation Strategy and Climate Change Adaptation Strategy will both culminate with a participatory process that involves social agents, organizations, professional associations, experts, knowledge centres and many other groups.
One of the current priorities is the creation of what are known as local energy communities that are run by the citizens, SMEs and the local authorities. This makes it vital to guide all these players throughout the process and facilitate a true energy transition. Locals will be able to produce energy, consume it, store it, share it or even sell it, making this a crucial factor in cutting costs and contributing to genuine energy transition.
Moreover, we aim to launch publicity campaigns that provide knowledge and training with respect to climate change, encourage citizen participation in the municipality's adaptation and promote open dialogue. If the climate is changing, why don't we also change?"
Have you encountered any major obstacle to achieving your local climate and energy plans? How have you overcome them?
"The biggest obstacle is obtaining funding to perform mitigation and adaptation actions for tackling climate change. Because municipal resources are limited, we must find alternative sources, in addition to committing to allocating the necessary resources in the annual budgets and making a firm financial commitment for the years to come. Different funding mechanisms are usually used, such as revolving funds, financing schemes by third parties, leasing, energy service companies (ESCOs) or public-private partnerships. We are also looking to partner with other private and public organisations and seeking alternative sources of funding through the various national and European grant and subsidy schemes. We must examine every existing and viable option.
Another barrier to overcome is raising awareness among citizens to change their habits, and so we are focusing efforts on increasing awareness of sustainability issues. We have observed a gulf between science and public consciousness, as it were, and we have to foster greater citizen, business, social and political involvement to combat and confront this problem."
Why did you decide to enter the Covenant of Mayors’ City in the Spotlight awards?
"We are proud to be part of the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy community and I believe these Covenant of Mayors' awards are a great opportunity to showcase our commitment, while we also aspire to serve as an example for the entire Covenant community and beyond. That attitude gives us the momentum and motivation required to continue on this path. We believe in Europe and we believe in the Covenant of Mayors and all the opportunities it offers. Extreme weather is a challenge to the world, and as mayor of Murcia I believe that a united European response will be a stronger one."
Murcia in 2050
[note from the Covenant of Mayors - Europe Office] Winners of the Covenant of Mayors' City in the Spotlight Awards are offered an illustration of their city's 2050 vision. Here is Murcia's! - artwork by Słucham i rysuję. Click to see it full size!
"In Murcia we firmly believe in a city project in which sustainability and respect for the natural environment are the fundamental pillars of growth and future opportunities. My government team aims to make Murcia a more structured, more connected, fairer, more sustainable and more open municipality, and a range of projects will be performed in the near future that are all aimed at improving the quality of life in Murcia.
One of the principal projects is the urbanisation work for what is called Zone 0, which involves covering old train tracks to turn this scar that divides the community into an urban transformation initiative with bike lanes, green areas and recreational areas. Further to this, burying the tracks will turn the current railway corridor into a major pathway with pedestrians prioritised and two corridors to connect the new walkway to the Segura river.
Pedestrianised spaces will be one of the hallmarks of the municipality in the coming months, as will the expansion of low emission zones (LEZs) and various actions to improve air quality. Pilot pedestrianisation projects will be launched involving regional roads for the purpose of verifying viability and introducing permanent pedestrianisation.
Mobility in the municipality will be improved through numerous projects aimed at developing public transport, creating more bike lanes, integrating different modes of transport, segregating exclusive platforms for urban transport and constructing parking spaces that are integrated with public transport. The objective is to build a dynamic municipality that favours the physical relationship between the city and the districts.
Different actions will be developed that will notably increase green spaces in the municipality, with yet another objective being that the green areas become spaces for intergenerational interaction. To that end, a number of projects will focus on calisthenics, skating or physiotherapy facilities.
Creating the right green infrastructure is key to improving biodiversity in the urban area, as a measure of adaptation to the climate.
We are also moving steadily towards energy self-consumption – the main axis of the energy transition – starting with our municipal buildings and closely in line with promoting local energy communities. The introduction of electric vehicles is another important challenge that we are facing, as well as achieving more balanced modal distribution or more sustainable last-mile distribution.
Investing in sustainability is an opportunity to improve and an opportunity for growth that we have to make happen in Murcia.
To see our presentation from last summer that highlights the largest projects to be launched in the next few months, please visit this webpage."