UN Climate Change Summit – 2nd December

A United Nations’ Climate Change Summit due to be held in Chile, but cancelled as a result of mass protests across the nation, will take place in Madrid. The COP25 Summit will host around 25,000 people, including international leaders and will bring a cash injection of around €200 million to Madrid’s economy. Regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso hopes as many as possible of the 25,000 will find the time to indulge in a bit of tourism, experiencing Madrid’s cuisine, culture and heritage, including the city’s ‘Big Three’ art museums, the El Prado, Thyssen-Bornemizsa and Reina Sofía. 

Barcelona, Mallorca and Tenerife in TripAdvisor top 10 European Destinations

Once again, Spain has made its presence felt in the annual TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards. For Europe, Spain has three destinations in the top 10 – only Italy and Greece have this many, with the UK, Turkey, Portugal and France having two each.

Barcelona comes in at number five and also enters at number seven in the world’s best destinations. For Europe’s best Travellers’ Choice destinations, Mallorca comes 9th and Tenerife 10th. In both lists, London, Paris, Rome and Crete are the top four and the islands of Bali (Indonesia) and Phuket (Thailand) come above Barcelona in the ‘world’s best’.

Barcelona beats Istanbul, Prague and Lisbon, in that order.

High-Emission Cars To Be Banned From Central Barcelona Barcelona is set to ban high-emission vehicles from an area 20 times the size of the so-called ‘Madrid Central’ traffic-free zone starting next year. The ZBE will cover a whopping 95 square kilometres, compared to about five kilometres for Madrid Central. The oldest cars will be banned from the entire ZBE between 7am and 8pm, Monday-Friday, except bank holidays, with a minimum fine of €100.

From January 1st, a three-month trial will take place so everyone has a chance to get used to the idea, but fines will start to apply from April 1st.

Only cars and motorcycles are affected, since buses, coaches, lorries and vans have been given a year’s stay of grace to adapt. This is largely because it will take longer for drivers of these vehicles to change their practices, as they are mostly commercial or used for deliveries.

By 2021, a complete ban on the most-polluting vehicles will see up to 115,000 prevented from entering the city. Barcelona wants to reduce its nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions down to 15% and its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions down to 6%, to help fight climate change and to provide city dwellers, workers and tourists with cleaner air.

As well as speeding up climate change, these harmful gases trap heat inside the earth’s atmosphere. Air pollution, which is overwhelmingly produced by traffic, is the direct cause of death of seven million people on earth every year, or one in every 1,000 of the world’s inhabitants.

El Prado’s 200th Anniversary Goya Exhibition

Madrid’s huge El Prado art museum is 200 years old. ‘The best painter alive on the day we opened was Goya’ whose works now form part of a commemorative exhibition opened by Queen Letizia. You can discover one of the best visual artists of all time. 

One of Madrid’s ‘Big Three’ art galleries, along with the Thyssen-Bornemizsa and the Reina Sofía, El Prado was granted the Princess of Asturias Award for Humanities and Communication this year in the first-ever ceremony where the Princess herself gave a speech. It opened for the first time on November 19th 1819, decked out with some of the most valuable paintings and sculptures gathered up by Spain’s monarchs over 30 years, which included three by Aragón-born Francisco de Goya; two portraits on horseback of King Carlos IV and María Luisa of Parma and the one now known as El Garrochista.

El Prado has become one of the most-visited museums in the world and is likely to see a record number of visitors for 2019/2020, with around 150 of Goya’s paintings, 500 sketches, a series of prints and unique documents including letters to and from his close friend Martín Zapater.

Of these, 300 sketches belong to El Prado’s existing collection and the others come from private and public collections worldwide.

The exhibition, Solo la voluntad me sobra (‘I only have too much will’), runs in chronological order starting from his famous Cuaderno Italiano, or ‘Italian Notebook’, where Goya documents his memories of his first few years of training in Italy, through to his albums in Bourgogne created during the last years of his life when he was based in the French city.

The Goya Exhibition remains open at the El Prado until February 16th.

No Life Possible Here

Spanish and French researchers have found a place on earth where no life exists and where nobody and nothing of any species can live.

Dr Purificación López García led the team at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) on Paris’ Rue Michel Ange. It contradicts a study published earlier this year which claimed certain microorganisms are able to survive in ‘poly-extreme environments’, such as exceptionally-high levels of salt, acid or heat.

Dr López García’s team has discovered that the Dallol Pools in the Danakil Valley of Ethiopia are impossible for any species – human, animal, plant, fungal, bacterial, or any organism whatsoever considered to be ‘alive’ – to survive in.

Hyper-acidic, hyper-salinated pools of extreme temperatures spread out through a volcanic crater from which toxic gases are constantly being emitted are too hostile for any type of microbial life, the report claims.

The team analysed many more samples than in the previous research which claimed there was no environment on earth where some kind of life was impossible. In her article, she says “The mere presence of water in liquid form is not a criterion for habitability”

The Dallol area holds the record for the highest average temperature on the planet. The average middle-of-the-day temperature in the Dallol area is 41ºC in July and the coldest it is ever known to have been, on a winter’s night, was 21ºC in March and April in the early 1960s. Only a few buildings remain in the Dallol area, and these are built entirely from salt blocks.

Its acidity is of a pH of well below zero, salt levels are almost 10 times that of the sea and the water in the so-called ‘hot springs’ sits at an average of 108ºC, or above boiling point. Despite this, it is visited by hundreds of tourists every year – even though it has no monitoring or protection and is not yet a UNESCO heritage site, meaning it is currently highly dangerous for humans.