Decarbonization is not just a challenge, it is an imperative. And it becomes visible every day in the midst of the circumstances that plague us: the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the relentless heat wave, the fires that devastate lives, hopes and our richest natural heritage, the price of electricity marked by the price of gas, largely imported from Russia, which suffocates families and businesses.
Decarbonization - the process of reducing carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels - is a legal imperative. Both the European climate law and, consequently, the Spanish law on climate change and energy transition make it mandatory to achieve climate neutrality - greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removals - no later than 2050, and to achieve this, decarbonization is essential.
It is an environmental imperative, since climate change is the main environmental problem to be tackled.
It is an economic imperative. On July 13, IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, published its study on the different costs of electricity generation, and concluded that generation from renewable sources continues to gain in competitiveness.
And decarbonization is also a geopolitical imperative, in order to be able to disconnect from Russian gas imports and what they entail. The aforementioned IRENA study highlights how wind and photovoltaic electricity generation in Europe from January to May 2022 alone saved $50 billion in fossil fuel imports. In other words, without the achieved development of renewables, the impact of the Russian invasion would be much worse and imports of its gas would be higher. And, therefore, a contrario sensu, if we had made more progress in the development of renewables, especially in recent years of a huge drop in their prices (since 2010 by 88%, 68% and 60% for photovoltaic, onshore wind and offshore wind respectively), we would be importing less gas from them.
Article 3.1 a) of the climate change law establishes that by 2030 greenhouse gas emissions of the Spanish economy as a whole must be reduced by at least 23% compared to 1990.
The Ministry for Ecological Transition recently published that greenhouse gas emissions increased in Spain in 2021 with respect to 2020 by 5.1%; and that removals have been reduced, so that net emissions increased by 6.1%, and the level of global emissions stands at -0.5% with respect to 1990. The lack of water for hydroelectric generation or particularly severe fires that will impact our absorption capacity do not facilitate the 2022 data. This means that time is passing, we are approaching 2030 and we do not seem to be progressing at the committed pace.
The European Union agreed to set intermediate targets for climate neutrality in 2050, which may force us to revise upwards those of our law: to reduce emissions by 55% in 2030 compared to 1990 and to set another target for 2040. The motivation: we cannot leave everything to the end. The same reading must be made within each time milestone. There can be no repetition of what happened in 2012, when, in a single year, the more than foreseeable and thus warned by the European Commission, Spain's non-compliance with the Kyoto Protocol for 2008-2012 had to be solved, since in 2011 we were quite far from the agreed target.
The ministry says that emissions have increased in line with GDP. We all hope and expect higher economic growth for Spain. But emissions cannot keep pace or we will not meet this legal, environmental and ethical imperative of decarbonization. And we will not succeed in decoupling economic growth and emissions without the necessary billion-dollar investments; and these will not materialize without creating the enabling environment:
"Spain must facilitate the right signals to attract investor confidence," reads the preamble of our law, which establishes the objective of facilitating decarbonization and, among its guiding principles, that of improving certainty for investments.
For various reasons and in various administrations, as in other European Union countries, applications are accumulating to install 126 GW of renewable energy in Spain (in order of magnitude, the renewable park in 2021 was 64 GW), which would facilitate the decarbonization of our economy, the reduction of Russian gas imports and lower electricity tariffs? Decarbonizing is more than a challenge. It is an imperative of such magnitude that nothing should stand in the way of moving in the right direction as a matter of urgency and priority.