Spain’s Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan

The policy that will make a significant difference in lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Spain is the European Union’s (EU) binding Climate and Energy policy for 2030. This policy requires all member state governments to adopt Integrated National Energy and Climate Plans (INECPs) covering 2021 to 2030. In January 2020, the Spanish government declared a climate emergency and defined the climate action agenda by setting thirty priorities. The top priority was to submit the bill on climate change and energy transition (to create the INECP) to the EU. The Spanish Council of Ministers approved and sent the bill to the EU in May 2020.

In general, the bill set less ambitious targets than those endorsed in the INECP; therefore, the EU pointed out the ‘inconsistency’ between many figures in the bill and the INECP. Due to the imperative of UE, Spain, I had to update the INECP in 2023. The 23% reduction proposed in the INECP on GHG emissions by 2030 compared with 1990 rose to 32%. Also, Spain’s renewables target increased to 48% of final energy production by 2030, reaching 81% in electricity while improving energy efficiency to 44%.

In addition to all these continuous changes in targets, GHG emissions data released in Spain has not been done promptly; there is no data for 2023 yet. Therefore, it seems too soon to assess the real impact of the INECP on GHG emissions in Spain. Furthermore, the effect of the COVID pandemic caused a substantial decrease in GHG emissions in 2020 (17%), leading to an upward trend in emissions in recent years: from 2020 to 2022, emissions increased by 13.1% in Spain (National Institute of Statistics – INE). Eventually, Spanish GHG emission levels in 2022 did not reach the 333 MtCO2eq emitted in 2019, the year before the pandemic, so the figures for 2023 will determine if the country is still following the GHG emission downtrend that started in 2008. From 2008 to 2020, GHG emissions dropped by 30% (see the graph below).

Evolution of GHG emissions in Spain (KtCO2eq)

Source: Ministry for the Ecological Transition, 2022

How did Spain achieve this significant drop in just a decade when the country was among Europe’s worst offenders in GHG emissions? Between 1990 and 2008, Spain had the highest rise in absolute terms of GHG emissions in the entire EU. As a percentage, emissions grew by 17.9%, while the EU collectively reduced them by 23.5% during the same period.

Looking back in time and searching for long-term policies that had a more substantial impact on lowering GHG emissions, it is clear that emissions have dropped mainly due to a drastic change in the electric power sector. This sector reduced its emissions by 57% between 2008 and 2020 (National Institute of Statistics, 2022). The main reasons that produced this drop were not only policies or programs (for example, the government’s ban on coal-fired electricity in 2019) but were mainly due to market-driven situations (the high prices of CO2 in the carbon market and the cheapening and development of more efficient renewables).

Nevertheless, the INECP policy framework will continue fostering the fall in GHG emissions in Spain. The question is how long it will take for the country to transition to net zero. To accelerate on this path, Spain should include more ambitious objectives in the INECP, like the ones adopted at the EU Environment Ministers Council meeting in Luxembourg on 16 October and finally approved at the COP28 World Climate Action Summit in December, especially when it was the Spanish Minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, who represented the EU governments in the COP28 negotiations. Eventually, it depends on Teresa Rivera´s Ministry that Spain can correctly implement COP28’s agreed objectives of gradually phasing out fossil fuels, tripling renewable energy capacity, and doubling the average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030. She will be in office for four more years. After all the excellent work her ministerial team accomplished to reach the final agreement at COP28, it would be a real shame if her team failed to transpose effectively the COP28 agreements into the Spanish INECP, which will be reviewed and updated again in 2025.

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Spain Country Manager Juanjo Santos.


Climate Scorecard depends on support from people like you.

We are a team of researchers providing information on efforts to reduce global emissions. We help make you better informed and able to advocate for improved climate change efforts. Donations of any amount are welcome.