How is Spain addressing the climate change challenge?
Renewable energy accounted for 50.7% of Spain’s total electricity production in October, according to Red Eléctrica de España, the public company operating national electricity grid in Spain. The share of the renewables, which was 42.1% in September, showed an increase of 8.6 points in October. This surge is attributed to the sharp rise in the wind power output. Renewable energy generated 10,609 GWh of electricity in October which marks a 25.5% year-on-year increase.
As the threat from climate change becomes grave, Spain has positioned itself as one of the principal powers proactively taking initiatives towards mitigating this challenge. Spain has integrated the issue of climate change into its national and regional politics. Further climate change, as also sustainable development, are among the core issues of Spain’s foreign policy.
Spain is approaching the challenge posed by climate change through formulating and implementing several policy initiatives for long-term and short-term. The long-term strategy is for 2050, short-term for 2030 while there are certain initiatives which are in force currently.
Strategy for 2050
This is currently the main long-term strategy that Spain is pursuing. In 2021, Spain released a policy document titled ‘España 2050: Fundamentos y Propuestos para Una Estrategia Nacional de Largo Plazo’ (Spain 2050: Foundations and Proposals for a Long-Term National Strategy). This document lists the challenges that need to be addressed in the future in a comprehensive manner. Apart from climate change, España 2050 includes targets for health, employment and sustainable development which are directly linked to the environmental and climate issues.
The 2050 document discusses the challenges from a comparative perspective. It examines the historical evolution and current position of Spain’s various indices and compares it with two specific groups. The first group is the EU-27 (27 member states of the EU. Where data for 27 states is not available, EU-22 is taken as a reference point which includes the EU states that are members of the OECD). The second group is of EU-8. This group is created particularly for this comparative analysis. It includes performances (according to the indices of this study) of the eight most advanced EU countries – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.
Spain’s renewable energy contributed 42.2% to the total electricity generation in 2022. This is higher than the EU average of 22.5% for 2022. Spain is also planning for carbon neutrality by 2050. Certain other measures that would be taken up to 2050 include a ban on new internal combustion engines in cars from 2040, ending fossil fuel production on Spanish territory by December 31, 2041 and restriction of fossil fuel subsidies, prohibiting new fossil fuel exploration as also uranium mining or fracking on Spanish territory etc.
Plan for 2030
As mandated by the European Union for its member states, Spain adopted National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 in March 2021. This plan proposed a reduction of 23% in the Greenhouse Gas emissions in 2030 as compared to 1990 levels. This plan also provided for periodic reviews in the targets. Pursuant to this provision, earlier this year, Spain revised its targets to be met for 2030. Now Spain proposes to reduce the Greenhouse Gas emissions by 32% by 2030 instead of earlier target of 23% as compared to the 1990 levels.
Further the climate plan provides for creating an electricity system where 74% of the electricity is generated through renewables by 2030, 39.5% reduction in primary energy consumption by 2030, requiring corporates to formulate climate action plans for reducing emissions over the next five years etc.
Policies in force
Apart from the two major strategies for 2030 and for 2050, there are several measures that are in force at present at national and regional level which are intended to cut carbon emissions and help achieve the long-term targets. Some of these measures are:
- Circular Economy Action Plan, proposed by Ministerio de Transición Ecológica y el Reto Demográfico (Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge) and approved by the Council of Ministers, is a plan having 116 measures taking place from 2021 to 2023. Some of the measures under this plan are energy-efficient and low-carbon transport solutions, sustainable urban mobility zones, biogas roadmap etc.
- Four-year investment plan to upgrade national electricity grid to cater to the growing demand for domestic electricity consumption as well as to enable integration of higher shares of renewables, which is expected to increase to 67%. This measure was first introduced in 2022 and is expected to be completed by 2026 and is targeted at benefitting the underprivileged areas. The Spanish government is expecting a reduction of domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 17 million tons by 2026 as a result of this plan.
- Regulation about exploitation of lithium mineral resources in Extremadura which is in force since 2022. The Autonomous Community of Extremadura has the largest lithium reserves in Spain. Companies that engage in mining and processing of lithium in Extremadura are eligible for public funding and expedited administrative processes.
Renewables are also gradually contributing to Spain’s economy. In 2022, the renewable energy industry accounted for 1.65% of Spain’s GDP amounting to €19.48 billion. The contribution of the renewables rose by 16.8% as compared to last year. This growth was driven mainly by wind and solar photovoltaic technologies that contributed 73% of the total renewables.
To support the policy measures and to achieve its climate goals, Spain has been focusing on the production of green hydrogen. After announcing the Green Hydrogen Roadmap in 2020, Spain has taken rapid strides in this sector. In 2020, Spain had set a target of four GW of green hydrogen capacity by 2030. However, Spain has achieved almost four times of its target in this year itself. Currently Spain’s green hydrogen capacity stands at 15.5 GW. At this rate Spain is expected to produce 50% of the total green hydrogen produced in Europe in the next few years.
Spain’s actions to address the challenge of climate would have an impact at domestic as well as international level. Domestically it would address climate challenges like extreme weather conditions at least to a certain extent. Internationally, although Spain has been a quiet performer, in the coming years, climate change could push Spain to assert its position in European as well as global politics.
Niranjan Marjani is an Independent Political Analyst and Researcher.