Spanish Draft Bill on climate change and energy transition passed

The Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge Commission has, with full legislative competence, passed the Draft Bill on climate change and energy transition. The Bill will now be sent to the Senate to complete the parliamentary procedure without having to be approved by a Plenary Session of the Spanish Parliament. 

Deputy Prime Minister, Teresa Ribera, emphasised that all parliamentary parties had been working on the drafting of this Bill since it was sent by the Spanish Cabinet to the Lower House on May 19 of last year. She pointed out that “today is an important day in which an enormously ambitious Bill, reinforced in the areas of governance, participation and transparency” has been passed. The Bill, which will now go through its final procedures in the Senate, represents “a tool that will make it possible to build a safer country in the face of the impacts of climate change, modernise Spanish industry, attract investment in the technologies of the future, avoid financial risks, generate stable employment and facilitate an equitable distribution of wealth in the process of decarbonisation”, according to the Deputy Prime Minister. The Bill establishes emissions, renewable energy and energy efficiency targets that are more ambitious that those set for Spain by the European Union.

Minimum national targets for 2030 and 2050 

This regulation establishes a number of minimum national targets for 2030 in the areas of greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energies and energy efficiency. The targets include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 23% with respect to 1990; achieving a penetration of renewable energy in final energy consumption of at least 42%; achieving an electricity system with at least 74% of generation coming from renewable energy sources; and improving energy efficiency by reducing primary energy consumption by at least 39.5% compared to the baseline set out in EU regulations.

Similarly, within the shortest possible timescale, and by 2050 at the latest, Spain must achieve climate neutrality and the electricity system must be based exclusively on renewable sources of generation. The Cabinet has the authority to revise the established targets upwards in order to, amongst other possible reasons, adapt to technological advances and new scientific knowledge, and to achieve compliance with the Paris Agreement and European Union regulations.

The Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), and the 2050 Decarbonisation Strategy feature as planning instruments in the Bill for the purpose of addressing the energy transition. The Government must approve this strategy, by Royal Decree, in order to establish a roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration in the Spanish economy as a whole between now and 2050. This is necessary to meet the targets set out in the Bill and to achieve compliance with European Union regulations.

Energy transition and emission-free mobility

When this regulation comes into force, no new exploration authorisations, research permits for materials with radioactive and hydrocarbon properties or exploitation concession contracts will be granted in Spanish national territory, including national waters, the exclusive economic zone of Spain and the continental shelf. Hydrocarbon exploitation activities involving the use of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking”, will no longer be permitted.

With regard to the 2050 decarbonisation strategy, the Bill provides for the adoption of the necessary measures to ensure that emissions from new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, excluding those registered as historic vehicles not intended for commercial use, are gradually reduced in order to achieve the zero CO2 emissions target set out in EU legislation by 2040 at the latest.

Moreover, municipalities with populations of over 50,000 and island territories will have to adopt sustainable urban mobility plans by 2023. These plans must introduce mitigation measures to enable emissions associated with mobility to be reduced.

Rehabilitation of buildings and rural development

The new legislation obliges the Government to promote the renovation and rehabilitation of existing buildings, both public and private, to achieve high energy efficiency and decarbonisation by 2050. Within a period of less than six months from when the legislation comes into force, the Government must draw up a Housing Rehabilitation and Urban Renewal Plan. With respect to rural development, renewable energies must be deployed in such a way as to be compatible with the conservation of natural heritage and appropriate land-use planning.

Moreover, public authorities will promote greater knowledge of the effects of climate change on public health and of initiatives aimed at preventing these effects. The Government must also review the treatment of climate change and sustainability in the education system and ensure that it is given a transversal role in the basic curriculum.

The Bill also provides for the creation of a Committee of Experts on Climate Change and Energy Transition, which will be responsible for evaluating and making recommendations on energy and climate change policies and measures, including regulations. To this end, the Committee will submit an annual report to the Spanish Parliament, where it will be debated with the participation of the Government.

Reinforced participative legislation

The Deputy President emphasised that all parliamentary parties had been working on the drafting of this Bill since it had been sent by the Spanish Cabinet to the Lower House on May 19 of last year. “This legislation has been reinforced in the areas of ambition, governance, participation and transparency. It has been enriched thanks to the contributions of the different political parties, as well as those of very different social and economic sectors, and it has also been enriched by science”, she said.

The Bill sets out measures to prepare for the impacts of climate change and the prevention of its causes through the implementation of tools for adaptation, anticipation and resilience. “It is a priority to ensure that all public and private resources are allocated to take advantage of the opportunities and reduce the costs associated with the effects of climate change, effects with which, unfortunately, we are already living”, pointed out Ribera.

She also emphasised that the new law will make it possible to modernise our industry and make it competitive in new markets, strengthen our social fabric, attract investment in the technologies of the future, avoid financial risks, generate stable employment and facilitate an equitable distribution of wealth in the decarbonisation process, guided by criteria of social justice and fair transition strategies.

The Deputy President stressed that this Bill represents the first step in the articulation of the remaining policies and measures aimed at guiding the recovery process towards a model of lasting prosperity that respects the limits of the planet. “It must serve as an institutional framework and a point of reference to provide certainty and stability, and to mobilise climate action”, she said.

Teresa Ribera pointed out that the Bill sets quantified minimum targets for greenhouse gases, renewables and energy efficiency, and she emphasised that these targets can only be revised upwards. These targets are higher than the targets set for Spain by the European Union (EU). The legislation is in line with the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), which includes the measures and tools required to implement the ecological transition set out in the Bill. The Spanish NECP has received very positive feedback from EU institutions.

Targets more ambitious than those demanded by the EU

In the words of Teresa Ribera, this “unwavering ambition” is reflected in the emissions reduction targets in different sectors (mobility, heating of buildings, waste and agriculture). Spain is committed to a 39% reduction in emissions, 13 percentage points above the 26% target set by the European Union.

Likewise, while the EU establishes a penetration of renewables of between 38% and 40% of final energy consumption by 2030, the Spanish NECP sets a target of 42%. Europe establishes increased energy efficiency targets of between 36% and 37% by 2030, while the Spanish target is 39.5%.

“It undoubtedly requires a great effort but one that is worth making and it will afford great opportunities for innovation and knowledge”, said Ribera. She referred to the new legislation as “a law that guarantees channels for participation, upgrading and constant improvement. A law that is good for everyone, for current and future generations, a law that leaves no one, no group and no territory behind, a law that protects the competitiveness of our industry and biodiversity. Ultimately, it is a credible national project to provide the green transformation and recovery from the COVID-19 crisis that the EU is committed to for all sectors of society”.

Source: Congreso de los Diputados y Ministerio para la Transición Ecológica y el Reto Demográfico