The Spanish parliament has adopted a new climate law that calls for just a 23% emissions reduction from 1990 levels by 2030, but immediately bans new permits for coal, oil, and gas operations, sets a 2040 deadline to phase out fossil fuel vehicle sales, and commits the country to generate 74% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
Energy and Environment Minister Teresa Ribera called the bill “an essential law we must continue to build on,” adding that the measure “should have been put in place 10 years ago,” Climate Home News reports.
“Lawmakers agreed that production of fossil fuels must end on Spanish territory by 31 December 2042 and restricted the use of fossil fuel subsidies by mandating that they be ‘duly justified by social, economic, or social interest’,” Climate Home writes.
“For the planet, for our future and for the next generations,” tweeted Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. “From today, Spain has a climate law on which to build a green, sustainable, fair, and prosperous future for all.”
The law received praise from multiple directions in a release circulated to climate media late last week.
“The new Spanish climate law, which requires companies to set targets every five years and report against them annually, is an example of the kind of rigour we need to see from the U.S., the UK, and the rest of the EU,” said Sir Chris Hohn, founder and managing partner of TCI Fund Management. “This new law has set a new standard for making net-zero meaningful. It draws a line in the sand against greenwashing, and we will be holding all corporations to these standards.”
“The agreement on the Spanish climate law adds up to ongoing European and international efforts to set up governance frameworks that put governments much closer to a credible trajectory towards climate neutrality,” said E3G climate governance specialist Elisa Giannelli. “The establishment of a Spanish independent advisory body will facilitate the streamlining of climate commitments across EU policy and support the Union in addressing future challenges in a timely and scientific way.”
Socialist parliamentarian Helena Caballero called the measure “a BRAVE law, because it is the only law in all of Europe that prohibits the exploration, research, and exploitation of hydrocarbons, fracking, and the cessation of coal mining and radioactive mineral mining in order to radically reduce emissions in our country and promote the energy transition.”
The country’s 2030 carbon reduction target “is significantly lower than goals set by other major European emitters,” Climate Home notes. “But unlike the UK and Germany, Spain’s emissions rose between 1990 and 2007, and are currently at levels seen in the late 1990s. Spain failed to meet its targets under the Kyoto Protocol, exceeding its emission cap by more than 20%.”
The new law does call for periodic review of the country’s climate goals. The first check-in is set for 2023, and Climate Home says campaigners are hoping to see Spain increase its ambition at that time.
“Only by increasing its emission reduction targets will Spain be able to decisively combat the climate emergency,” Greenpeace said in a statement.
But the limited initial target didn’t stop Oil Change International and the Global Gas and Oil Network from citing Spain as one of two jurisdictions taking action to phase out fossil fuel production. “Spain’s Congress approved a new climate law that bans new licences for oil and gas exploration and extraction as well as fracking, while California’s Governor announced that his state will end all oil extraction no later than 2045,” the two organizations state in their OilWire newsletter. “While California’s new measures are not fast or comprehensive enough, they make the U.S. state the world’s largest oil producer to set a phaseout date.”
OilWire points to the two announcements as a pale shadow of what might have been last month, when U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris convened their virtual Leaders’ Forum on Climate April 22.
The summit “would have been a prime opportunity for wealthy, significant oil and gas producing countries—like the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Norway—to step up with their own commitments to stop expanding extraction and help finance an equitable fossil fuel phaseout,” the newsletter states.
“Instead, the U.S., Canada, Norway, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia formed the Net-Zero Producers Forum as a vehicle to ‘develop pragmatic net-zero emission strategies.’ These countries should be talking about the climate harm of their oil and gas production. Together they account for 40% of global production and are among the countries on track to increase production the most to 2030.”
But “unfortunately, the framing and initial objectives of the forum appear more focused on fixes to make oil and gas production slightly less dirty, rather than on substantive measures to keep oil and gas in the ground.”