Spain’s anti-pollution laws are ‘inconceivable’

Spain’s controversial anti-protest laws that could see police arresting tens of thousands of demonstrators on the streets have been deemed “inconvenient and unrealistic” by the country’s top environmental protection official.

Marina Gomes said it was “impossible” that Spain’s new laws could be enforced in the face of the Paris climate accord, which she said would help combat climate change.

The new laws, which were announced on Tuesday, were designed to “protect the public interest”, she told AFP news agency.

But they could also have a “disastrous effect” on the environment, she said.

Gomes, Spain’s environment minister, said the new laws were “in the spirit of the new climate agreement” but were “not in line with the spirit” of the law, which was introduced by Spain’s centre-right government last year.

The climate accord was signed by 196 nations last December, in Paris, with nearly 200 countries pledging to phase out fossil fuel use.

Critics of the climate accord say the laws will lead to a crackdown on dissent, and are opposed by civil society groups.

“We need to be cautious about imposing new restrictions on people, especially on young people,” said Gomes, who has been leading a delegation of around 80 environmentalists in a two-week-long tour of Spain.

The environmental protection ministry has so far issued just one warning, for a small group of protesters outside the national parliament, which is being held by the centre-left Democratic Party.

The minister said police would be “ready to respond” to any attempts by demonstrators to breach the law.

But critics say the legislation is being used as a weapon against protesters.

“This is a political instrument,” said Jose Antonio Lopes, director of the Madrid-based Institute for Climate Change Law.

“They are imposing new laws that will be used against any protest, any protest that does not agree with their agenda.”

He added: “If you are not with the government and you are against the government, you are also in danger.”

Spain’s environmental protection minister, Mario Perez, said on Tuesday that the new law could “cause real damage” to the country.

“In the event of a breach, police will have to react with force,” Perez said, adding that it was also “incompatible with the climate agreement”.

Gomes said she had received numerous calls from people who had been arrested, and said she was concerned that the police would “totally disregard” the laws.

“I am worried that people will be intimidated by this law,” she said, pointing to a recent incident where protesters were beaten up by police.

“If we don’t stop it, we will end up with more repression.”

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