Gas emissions that cause climate change increased in Spain in 2022 by 5.7% compared to the previous year, according to provisional data from the Sustainability Observatory. The greater use of coal, oil and natural gas, the reactivation of road transport and the 40% decrease in hydroelectric production due to the drought largely explain this outlook.
After the decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, 2019 and 2020, the trend has broken in the last two years.
It is the consequence of a certain back to normal after the pandemic, whose crisis resulted in the largest decrease in emissions in 2020. And all this, despite the war in Ukraine and the high prices of natural gas, oil and electricity.
The result is that greenhouse gas emissions have been 5.17% above those of 1990, when the goal for 2030 is to reduce them by 23% on that date (according to the Climate Change law).
A key factor has been the sharp decline in hydraulic production due to the drought.
Dry years lead to less hydraulic generation and make it necessary to burn more coal and natural gas, with the consequent increase in emissions.
During the year 2022 there was a spectacular increase in electricity generation with coal of 59% (although it already represents a marginal source), while the consumption of natural gas in combined cycle plants grew by 61%, despite the high prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Oil consumption grew 9.1% until October while road emissions have grown 3.3% in 2022. Wind energy grew only 0.9 and photovoltaic 33%.
However, if observed with a greater perspective, emissions have decreased in Spain by 31% compared to 2005. Coal is being progressively replaced by natural gas and renewable sources (wind, photovoltaic and thermosolar), which which explains this decrease in long-term emissions.
Road transport, Achilles heel
The report indicates that the increases in emissions in the years 2021 (5.1%) and 2022 (5.7%) make it necessary to increase efforts to decarbonise the economy (since the goal of the Climate Change Law is to cut these emissions 23% by 2030 compared to 1990).
To reach the goal set for 2030, it would be necessary to reduce each year by 3.5%; but if a 55% reduction is to be achieved (in line with the new requirement of the Fit for 55 community policy), an annual reduction of 7.5% will be necessary until the end of the decade, says the report.
Are the community commitments for 2030 achievable? The Sustainability Observatory distinguishes between two situations. The sectors subject to the market for buying and selling emission rights (thermal, refining, steel, cement, tile…), which represent 33% of the total, will most likely comply, thanks to the planned closure of coal-fired thermoelectric plants and the development of renewable energies. But the goals for the so-called diffuse sectors (residential, transport, agriculture, waste…), and where road transport is included, require a much greater effort, adds the report.
The document from the Sustainability Observatory calls for new initiatives to achieve a decarbonisation of the structural and not temporary economy.
In this sense, it is essential to continue the substitution of coal and gas, and a greater development of renewable energies: thermosolar (technologies that concentrate insolation and heat at one point to achieve high temperatures), pumping (to be able to store flows in reservoirs) and massive implementation of photovoltaic installations on industrial, commercial, domestic or administration sites, as well as in areas without a significant impact (landfills, mining areas, tailings, annals, highways…)
A substantial modification of the current pricing model in the electricity market is also called for to promote savings and to better understand the cost of generation in each technology, all of which would require an updated audit of the costs of each technology used.
Likewise, it is recalled the need to implement less polluting technologies in sectors such as refineries or cement plants (clinker, petrochemical and metallurgical production, represent almost 10% of emissions, as of 2019) and that rehabilitation continues to be a pending issue of the housing stock with aid for the most vulnerable, especially in the cities.
The promotion of the electric car, the demand for greater control of emissions from the livestock sector (agriculture and livestock throw 14.2% of total emissions into the atmosphere in terms of CO2) and a plan to divert road transport towards the railway complete the table of proposals.