Internal Regional Political Polarization Threatens Spain’s Climate Policies

The last presidential elections in Spain were held in July 2023. Although the left-wing Socialist Party (PSOE), which was in power, received fewer votes than its primary right-wing opponent (PP), it managed to stay in government by forming a strategic alliance with regional political parties, especially those in the Catalonia region with separatist tendencies from Spain.

Regional elections are scheduled in Galicia, the Basque Country, and possibly Catalonia in 2024. These elections are expected to follow a similar pattern to the presidential elections, with regionalist parties advocating separatism playing a decisive role. Spain is currently experiencing a period of political instability, with a focus on seeking and maintaining the support of regional parties aiming for greater independence from the state.

In July this year, elections to the European Parliament will also occur, scheduled for Sunday, June 9, in Spain. To better explain the implications of these elections on Spain’s climate policy, it is best to draw an analogy between the situation in the Spanish elections (presidential and regional) and the European Parliament elections. Just as the Spanish elections are marked by skepticism towards the Spanish state, the June European elections are also characterized by significant Euroscepticism. If Eurosceptics win the elections, their interests would be contrary to the Green Deal, damaging the credibility of EU climate policy and energy transition in Europe and its external actions.

The European Green Deal is a package of political initiatives to guide the EU towards ecological transition and achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The package includes proposals to revise climate, energy, and transportation legislation and launch new legislative initiatives to align EU law with the EU’s climate objectives. It is the foundation for transforming the EU into an equitable and prosperous society with a modern and competitive economy.

It emphasizes adopting a holistic and cross-sectoral approach, where all relevant action areas contribute to the ultimate climate goal. The package includes initiatives that span climate, environment, energy, transportation, industry, agriculture, and sustainable finance, all of which are closely interconnected.

In Spain, the growing influence of groups skeptical of the Spanish state overshadows the climate policy that PSOE had previously led, particularly in their prominent role at COP28. The political year of 2023, during which Spain held the presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) with significant achievements, especially in climate policy, has been largely eclipsed by the complex formation of a government controlled by parties skeptical of remaining within the Spanish state.

Looking ahead to 2024, the regional elections in Spain, especially the European Parliament elections, will be crucial for the future of the European Green Deal and international climate negotiations, respectively. The global spotlight will be on ongoing conflict scenarios (Ukraine/Russia and Palestine/Israel, primarily) as well as various critical electoral processes that will determine, among other things, whether the disruptive Donald Trump returns to the White House and if there is a break in the traditional consensus in European institutions favoring further integration. Spain faces a newly inaugurated legislature with the challenge of preventing internal and external polarization from destabilizing the core of foreign policy while addressing the significant challenges climate policy faces (Real Instituto Elcano, 2024).

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.