Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with power generation in Spain have fallen by half since the implementation of the CO2 emission rights market. This is one of the findings of the study "Evolution of greenhouse gas emissions in Spain 2005-2018", carried out by the international environmental consultancy firm Liken Carbon Hub and published by the Naturgy Foundation.
With this decrease, in 2018 power generation activity represented 17.8% of total emissions. Meanwhile, transport was responsible for 27% of emissions that year, after having started to rise in recent years.
Luis Robles, managing partner of Liken Carbon Hub and co-author of the report, explains that “the improvement in the power sector is mainly due to two factors: the penetration of renewable energy technologies within the mix and the participation of natural gas in generation”.
For his part, José Antonio Gesto, managing partner and co-author of the study, states that “the fact that power generation has practically halved its share of the aggregate volume of emissions at a national level is very important, and reflects the sector's clear drive and efforts to make this a reality.”
Industry (fuel use and process emissions) caused 22% of total emissions in 2018, and the residential-commercial sector caused 9%. Emissions from the latter were reduced by 30% in the period analysed.
Accumulated emissions in the period 2005-2018 corresponding to fuel consumption were caused by transport activity (33%), power generation (28%), industrial facilities (17%) and the residential/commercial sector (almost 11%). All other emissions from fuel consumption correspond to other areas such as oil refining, fishing and agriculture or fuel manufacturing.
Spain reduces its emissions by a quarter
Over the period analysed — from the start of the implementation of the CO2 emission rights market in 2005 until 2018 — Spain recorded a 25% reduction in GHG emissions, 5 points above the European average, in addition to a 30% reduction in per capita emissions. According to the report, 80% of GHG emissions are CO2.
In 2005, Spain accounted for approximately 8.4% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union, a figure that had decreased to 7% by 2018. Spain's level of per capita emissions is slightly below the European average.
Another fact that reveals the downward trend in GHG emissions is the intensity of emissions in relation to GDP. According to Robles, “the fact that we need less GHG emissions to generate wealth is very important. While in 2005 approximately 475 tonnes of CO2 equivalent were emitted for every million euros of GDP in Spain, in 2018 only 278 tonnes were needed.”
“This means that we are disconnecting the generation of wealth, disconnecting the Spanish economy, from polluting GHG emissions, and that we are achieving environmental objectives that concern the whole planet, maintaining levels of both wealth and of the welfare state,” explains Robles.
But there is still some way to go in this regard, and therefore Gesto assures that “disconnecting economic activity from GHG emissions will also be a fundamental aspect to achieve the objectives that Spain has set both within the commitments of the Paris Agreement and within the framework of the European Union.”
Diffuse sectors increase their weight in total emissions
The report “also allows us to see the challenges that the Spanish economy will have to face in the coming years related to the diffuse sectors, which are mainly characterised by small, highly dispersed emissions producers and are sometimes technically more complicated to integrate into legislation and regulations”, explains Gesto, who highlights transport as one of the points where it will be necessary to work harder to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change.
The study provides data taking into account whether the emissions come from sectors that are within the emissions trading scheme or whether they correspond to diffuse sectors (transport, agriculture and livestock, and residential/commercial). While in 2005 diffuse sectors accounted for 58% of emissions, in 2018 this percentage increased to 62%. Conversely, emissions from activities included in the emission trading scheme increased from 42% of the national total in 2005 to 38% in 2018.
The information provided by this study shows the result of the implementation of European policies in Spain that give effect to the European Union’s commitment to the international agenda and agreements on limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Following the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, our country undertook a commitment to limit its emissions increase between 2008 and 2012 to no more than 15% compared to 1990 levels. Although emissions exceeded that value, commitments were met by using the flexible mechanisms provided for in the Protocol, just like other countries.
According to the authors, this course of action will be reinforced by Spain's commitment within the framework of the new European Green Deal, which has the ultimate goal of decarbonising the economy by 2050.
All data collected in the study come from emission levels recorded in the official sources of the European Environment Agency and Spain's Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge; Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism; Institute for Energy Diversification and Savings; and the National Institute of Statistics.