Spain Emission Reduction Challenges

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Leading Emission Reduction Challenges: (a) Rising consumer and/or industrial energy demand; (b) Political and economic crises

Current Greenhouse Gas Emission Levels

The most recent credible data contains information from 2012, which indicates that Spain’s greenhouse gas emissions were at 346.1.[i] Spain’s greenhouse gas emissions have actually decreased since 2000—most likely a result of efforts in the renewable energies industry. However, with a 20% increase in emissions since 1990, Spain still has one of the largest emissions increases in the European Union as of 2014.[ii]

Emission Reduction Challenges

There are two reasons why Spain’s recent economic crisis has set back progress in reducing its GGH emissions: 1) It completely derailed the progress that Spain had made in moving toward renewable sources of energy, 2) As Spain attempts to recover from its financial crisis, its largest sector of greenhouse gas emissions (transport) may continue to increase in activity and thus, increase its level of emissions.

1) Prior to its economic crisis, Spain was making a great deal of progress in moving towards renewable sources of energy, namely wind, biomass, and hydropower. However, the financial crisis caused the Spanish government to make large budget cuts and unfortunately, the renewable energy industry suffered as a result of these cuts: the feed-in tariff policy was suspended, subsidies were removed, new taxes were implemented, premiums to current producers were reduced, and a moratorium on premiums for new ventures was implemented. Naturally, this brought the development of Spain’s blossoming renewable energy sector to a halt, and it has far from recovered.[iii] From the years 2005 to 2011, renewable energies grew a cumulative 8.5% and in fact, accounted for 30% of the energy produced (versus fossil fuels at 49%).i,iii However, the economic crisis put such a dent in the progress of renewable energies that in order to meet the 2020 target under the Kyoto Protocol, the industry will need to grow at an annual rate of 4.8% from 2011 to 2020—a nearly impossible task.

2) Spain has by no means recovered from its economic crisis; however, the unemployment rate has dropped slightly.[iv] Since the dip in greenhouse gas emissions circa 2010 has been attributed in part to unemployment in Spain—being that one of the biggest emitters is transportation accounting for over 50% of total energy consumption—the increase in the workforce will also mean an increase in transportation and thus greenhouse gas emissions.[iii,v]

For now, Spain intends to limit its greenhouse gas emissions by focusing mostly on decreasing consumption. The government has implemented the Energy Saving and Efficiency Strategy and set forth the Efficient Vehicle Incentive Program, along with several other measures directed at the transportation and housing industries. The Energy Efficiency Action Plan, also implemented by the Spanish government, will encourage the shift to transporting both people and goods by railroad and sea, and will encourage the replacement of older, less efficient vehicles with newer ones.

While attempting to reduce energy consumption alone will not allow Spain to meet its target levels of greenhouse gas emissions, it certainly is a start. The government initiatives to limit consumption indicate that the issue of climate change is indeed a priority to politicians, which is essential in ensuring the ratification of the Paris Agreement.

Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Andrea Delmar Senties

Useful Resources

[i] European Environment Agency. Climate and Energy Country Profiles, 2013.

[ii] European Environment Agency. Total greenhouse gas emission trends and projections, 2014.

[iii] The London School of Economics and Political Science, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

[iv] Trading Economics. Spain Unemployment Rate.

[v] European Environment Agency. GHG trends and projections in Spain.

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