The gases that warm the planet are growing again in Spain, although without reaching pre-pandemic levels |  Climate and Environment

The gases that warm the planet are growing again in Spain, although without reaching pre-pandemic levels | Climate and Environment

Spain will close 2022 with an increase for the second consecutive year in its greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for the climate change that is affecting the planet and humanity. The increase will be notable: 3.6% predicts a study prepared by the Observatory for Energy Transition and Climate Action (OTEA), dependent on the Basque Center for Climate Change (BC3). However, despite this new rise, emissions will continue to be below those of 2019, that is, pre-pandemic levels.

As in other countries, the closure of activity in 2020 due to the fight against the coronavirus led to an unprecedented drop in greenhouse gases in Spain, which plummeted 13% that year compared to 2019. What was expected later it was a rebound, because the fall was not due to structural changes but to the slowdown in the economy. Indeed, in 2021 emissions increased by 5.1% and despite the 3.6% that OTEA now forecasts for this year, the pre-coronavirus starting box has not returned. In 2019, Spain emitted 314.5 million tons of CO₂ equivalent (the unit used for greenhouse gases). And this 2022 will close with 299.1 million, about 5% less than the levels of three years ago, according to the forecasts of BC3 researchers.

Energy —including here transport, electricity and industry— is the one that marks the future of emissions in Spain as in the rest of developed countries. Because that sector is highly dependent on fossil fuels, the main emitters of greenhouse gases when burned to generate energy. “2022 has been characterized in the energy field mainly by two facts. Firstly, a gradual return to normality in terms of mobility after two years of pandemic and, secondly, an energy crisis that has been reflected in the increase in oil and natural gas prices, especially since the Russian invasion. of Ukraine”, describes the OTEA analysis. Both circumstances have had an effect on the gases ejected by the Spanish economy.

Mikel González-Eguino, director of OTEA, explains that the largest increase in emissions is expected in the electricity sector. But, in his opinion, it is something “cyclical”. On the one hand, there is the drought. “This year has been particularly dry, so the contribution of hydraulics [que no emite gases de efecto invernadero] to electricity production has been reduced by almost half compared to last year”, indicates the OTEA analysis. The other important factor is the increase in electricity exports to Portugal and, above all, France, which has been largely covered by natural gas plants, which do expel gases that overheat the planet. In the case of France, González-Eguino points out, the problem has resided in the failures detected in an important part of its nuclear power plants, which have had to stop and have forced the country to increase its imports from Spain.

The positive data is that the implementation of renewables continues to grow in Spain, although the increase “has not been enough to offset the greater increase in electricity production that has occurred thanks to natural gas and, to a lesser extent, coal,” he explains. OTEA. His study points out that “Spain needs to continue accelerating the deployment of renewable energies, but if the commercial balance is reduced and the hydraulics return to normal, emissions should return to a downward path.”

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More complicated is the route that the transport follows. Despite the high fuel prices that have occurred this year, mobility has recovered and is close to pre-pandemic levels. “It is a worrying situation,” admits González-Eguino. To make their forecasts on the annual evolution of emissions, the OTEA experts use sectoral data from various official bodies. Spain is required to report its greenhouse gas inventory to the UN and the European Union annually by virtue of the international agreements to combat climate change to which it is a party. However, the progress of inventories is not usually known until about six months after the end of the year, so analyzes such as the one carried out by OTEA are useful to glimpse how the country’s emissions will evolve.

target for 2030

Spain is not only obliged to present inventories, but also to comply with emission cut targets. At this time, the Climate Change Law establishes that in 2030 Spain’s emissions must be 23% lower than those of 1990. And, according to OTEA forecasts, 2022 will end with emissions 3.4% higher than those of 1990. from 1990.

González-Eguino warns that there are only eight years left to meet the 23% reduction goal, so the measures must be accelerated. In addition, next year Spain is obliged by its own climate law and by the commitments of the European Union to revise its emission cut targets upwards for 2030, a process that the Ministry for the Ecological Transition has already begun to prepare.

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