Climate change, Next Generation funds and autonomous communities: the challenges and opportunities of management

On October 21st, El Día Después (The Day After) collaborated with Red2red in the organization of an open conversation about the unique opportunity and, at the same time, the great challenge that it represents for the autonomous communities to include climate change as a fundamental aspect in the management of Next Generation funds.

Taking into account that the autonomies and local entities will be beneficiaries of approximately half of the 70 000 million euros that Spain will receive to launch the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism, a conversation of this type was also motivated by the historical responsibility of the local managers in the current situation.

The event, presented by Gema Carmona and moderated by José Moisés Martín Carretero, economist and CEO of Red2red, was opened by Leire Pajín, promoter of El Día Después, president of REDS-SDSN and director of Global Development at ISGlobal.

Leire defended that the Next Generation funds are a unique opportunity to emerge from the crisis in a sustainable way and make transformative systemic changes: “The funds offer us the necessary resources to establish and achieve common missions, working in the same direction. They are going to offer us possibilities to revolutionize economic and social sectors, and to accompany all transformation processes socially”.

However, Leire Pajín pointed out, «to achieve this we need to work in a different way. It is very difficult to find instruments capable of absorbing multi-actor and systemic projects, that count on citizenship, innovation, articulation capacity and management». In that sense, she pointed to El Día Después as an example of a collaborative space and an incubator for multi-stakeholder alliances to face complex challenges, and that it is yielding results.

“We want to continue being an alliance and incubate other alliances because this opportunity that Europe is offering us is not going to be repeated”, she concluded.

We want to continue being an alliance and incubate other alliances because this opportunity that Europe is offering us is not going to be repeated.

Leire Pajín, promoter of El Día Después

Planning for climate challenges within the framework of recovery plans

Marta Martínez Guerra, director of the Cabinet of the Undersecretariat for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITECO), stated in her presentation that the ministry has been closely involved in the Recovery and Resilience Plan in its different phases, and that it has been wanted for it to be a green and digital plan since the start.

The principle of not causing significant damage to the environment and the obligation for all investments to have a climate label are two of the main characteristics of the plan, as he explained: “In the approved plan, nothing that uses fossil fuels can be financed”.

Taking into account the importance of the autonomous communities to generate the systemic transformation in their territories, Marta pointed out, transfers have been prioritized so that they can launch their financing lines. “We have already transferred 60% of the funds to autonomous communities and local entities”, she pointed out.

How are the autonomous communities doing it? Exchange of experiences between local managers

In the discussion panel that followed, the conversation turned to key issues and real challenges of management and planning in an emergency context.

Juan Ángel Poyatos, Next Generation coordinator in the Generalitat Valenciana, highlighted the difficulty of operating in a dynamic and uncertain context in this regard: «The main difficulty is to move forward without clear norms, we have even worked in parallel to the government, because we there was no time», he said.

Faced with the question of whether there is a risk that the funds distort what was being done in the autonomous communities and their existing planning on climate change, instead of promoting the work already advanced, the Minister of Sustainability and Ecological Transition and Spokesperson for the Government of La Rioja, Alejandro Dorado Nájera, had it clear: “The autonomous communities not only execute, but also participate in the design of the plan through sectoral conferences, we note that our opinion is taken into account.”

From her side, Arantza Leturiondo, former Deputy Minister of Territorial Planning and Urban Agenda of the Basque Country, highlighted the importance, in the case of Euskadi, of having anticipated Europe: “When the Next Generation call arrives it gets us with our homework quite completed. We already had the climate aspect as the inspiration for our own strategy for the reorganization of the territory”, and pointed out that they have already presented to the Next Generation funds a comprehensive project of urban regeneration actions in vulnerable neighbourhoods.

What challenges does the execution of the huge amount of funds entail in such a short time?

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Resultados de traducción

According to Juan Ángel Poyatos, a great challenge (and at the same time a very positive aspect) in the management of funds lies in the management of expectations by the social agents: “I have never seen so many companies, municipalities and people in general speak of European funds. A great expectation has been generated and it is important to clarify that it is not a question of ‘watering money’, but rather that solid projects are needed to access the funds ”.

To this, Arantza Leturiondo added the problem of having “very bureaucratic administrations and very rigid legislation” when such a large amount has to be invested. “I am convinced that the important thing is not to spend everything but to do it well,” she pointed out. And she concluded: “My fear is that executing these funds will have so many bureaucratic complications that we go easy and that the opportunity to maintain a holistic vision and carry out truly transformative projects will be lost.” In the case of an urban regeneration project, which involves several lines of intervention in parallel (energy rehabilitation of houses, but also renaturation of public space, mobility, generation of new green jobs related to the interventions, etc.), the level of complexity of bureaucratic management can be so high that the project ends up remaining in the simple rehabilitation of housing.

Alejandro Dorado pointed out the importance – and the difficulty at the same time – of transmitting information in an accessible and adapted way to all interested agents: companies, citizens, town councils -especially the smallest ones-, etc. In this sense, in their autonomous community, in addition to a web page to publicize all the calls that are published, they are creating a network of local agents based in the territory and in charge of publicizing wineries, town halls, companies, etc. . the opportunities of Next Generation funds.

My fear is that executing these funds will have so many bureaucratic complications that we go easy and miss the opportunity to maintain a holistic vision and carry out truly transformative projects.

Arantza Leturiondo, Basque Country

It is not about ‘watering money’, but to access the funds you need solid projects.

Juan Ángel Poyatos, Valencian Community

How to integrate other actors into the climate objectives that each autonomous community is considering in relation to Next Generation funds?

According to Arantza Leturiondo, the public administration must lead, but not execute alone: multi-stakeholder management and public-private collaboration are key. Taking the case of urban regeneration interventions as an example, this management style allows, for example, that people who cannot access financing at market prices for this type of intervention are not left behind.

The Valencian Community has already designed the governance of the fund itself, foreseeing third-sector participation bodies, the CEOE, etc. In addition, they have created spaces to put universities in contact with companies from key sectors in the next calls so that they work together with time and can really transform key industries.

In this sense, from La Rioja they reinforced the message, pointing out that the window of opportunity is small – a few months – and it is a matter of being able to have a project prepared with enough time to be able to present it when a suitable call arises.

Given the evidence that collaborative work will be one of the keys to success in obtaining funds, it seems appropriate to proactively begin to operate in this way.

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Full video of the conversation
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