Spain aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 with new clean energy bill

Spain's parliament approved Thursday a clean energy bill aimed at achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 in line with EU targets, while also banning the sale of fossil fuel vehicles by 2040.

Spain wants to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050

As part of Spain’s efforts to meet its carbon emissions target, the legislation outlaws the sale of vehicles that emit carbon dioxide by 2040, and their circulation by 2050.

“For the planet, for our future and for the next generations. From today, Spain has a climate law on which to build a green, sustainable, fair and prosperous future for all,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez tweeted after the vote.

The overall aim is to implement measures that will enable Spain to meet the European Union’s target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

It also sets a national 2030 target for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 23 percent compared with 1990 levels.

The EU had set a 2030 target of cutting emissions by 40 percent compared with 1990 but in November, member states agreed to increase this to 55 percent.

The law also limits all new coal, oil and gas extraction projects and requires that by 2030, renewables account for 42 percent of Spain’s total energy consumption, and at least 74 percent of its electricity production.

And it stipulates that within two years, all towns or cities with more than 50,000 residents must have low-emission zones such as those in Madrid and Barcelona.

The ban on most petrol and diesel cars from the centre of the Spanish capital, dubbed “Madrid central”, was recently overturned by the courts.

In a tweet, Spanish Energy and Environment Minister Teresa Ribera called it an “essential law which we must continue to build on.”

However, in an interview with El Pais published on Thursday, she admitted that Spain was behind the times with the law, saying it “should have been put in place 10 years ago”.

And Greenpeace said the law did not go far enough and that its objectives were “inadequate for complying with the (2015) Paris climate accord” under which nations agreed to keep the planet’s temperature within 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels.

“The text is a starting point that will need to be reinforced to successfully tackle climate change in a European country that is one of the most vulnerable to its harsh consequences,” it said.

“Only by increasing its emission reduction targets will Spain be able to decisively combat the climate emergency,” it said.

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Police operation targets illegal water tapping in Spain

More than 130 people were arrested or placed under investigation for illegal water tapping last year, Spain’s Guardia Civil police said on Wednesday following a huge operation.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park”
Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in Andalusia. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

During the year-long operation, “133 people were arrested or investigated for extracting water through more than 1,533 illegal infrastructure devices”, the police’s environmental unit said in a statement.

A similar operation in 2019 had targeted 107 people.

Spain is one of the European countries most at risk from the impact of drought caused by global warming, scientists say.

Water usage issues are often at the heart of heated political debates in Spain where intensive agriculture plays an important role in the economy.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in the southern Andalusia region, one of Europe’s largest wetlands and a Unesco World Heritage bird sanctuary.

They were also operating in “in the basins of Spain’s main rivers”.

In Doñana, police targeted 14 people and 12 companies for the illegal tapping of water for irrigation, a police spokesman said.

Ecologists regularly raise the alarm about the drying up of marshes and lagoons in the area, pointing the finger at nearby plantations, notably growing strawberries, which are irrigated by illegally-dug wells.

“The overexploitation of certain aquifers for many reasons, mainly economic, constitutes a serious threat to our environment,” the Guardia Civil said.

The European Court of Justice rapped Spain over the knuckles in June for its inaction in the face of illegal water extraction in Donana which covers more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) and is home to more than 4,000 species, including the critically endangered Iberian lynx.

According to the government’s last official estimate, which dates back to 2006, there were more than half a million illegal wells in use.

But in a 2018 study, Greenpeace estimated there were twice as many, calculating that the quantity of stolen water was equivalent to that used by 118 million people — two-and-a-half times the population of Spain.

Spanish NGO SEO/Birdlife also on Wednesday raised the alarm about the “worrying” state of Spain’s wetlands.