Spain Lags Behind in Kyoto Protocol Compliance
By Tito Drago*
is the European nation with the biggest increase in greenhouse gas
emissions since 1990. Many companies are expected to turn to Latin
America in order to meet their emissions reduction quotas. The energy
company Endesa has announced it will invest 3.2 billion dollars
in the region.
MADRID - Spain will have to make quite an effort
if it wants to meet its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol on
climate change, and even so, the country is likely to fail, say
experts. Its emissions of so-called greenhouse gases increased 40
percent since 1990 and average temperatures rose 1.5 degrees Celsius
over the past 30 years.
The entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol on Feb. 16 marked the
hour of truth for Spain, admitted Environment Minister Cristina
Narbona, who described the ''bill'' the country will have to pay
for its growing reliance on petroleum as ''astronomical''.
The Protocol requires 35 industrialized countries to cut their greenhouse
gas emissions to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by
The European Union established cuts for most of its members, pledging
an overall reduction of eight percent of emissions. But Portugal
and Spain, because of their relative lag in development with respect
to other EU members, were authorized emissions increase of 27 and
15 percent, respectively, until 2012.
At the end of 2004, Spain had multiplied that increase nearly three-fold,
the largest in the EU, which overall had otherwise cut emissions
by 3.5 percent since 1990.
But the hike in Spain is also greater than in other industrialized
countries. According to United Nations figures from 2003, emissions
in Canada went up 20 percent, Australia 18 percent, Japan 11 percent
and the United States -- the world's leading producer of greenhouse
gases -- 14 percent.
Narbona called for a realistic approach, saying that in Spain ''there
was little concern expressed by the recent government about curbing
greenhouse gas emissions.'' She was referring to the conservative
Popular Party administration of José María Aznar, in power from
1996 to 2004.
Spanish officials announced the national emissions plan, which took
effect Feb. 14 and establishes quotas for the country's main industries
The plan allows 957 factories to produce a total of 513.6 million
tons of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas. The highest
emissions quotas were granted to the electrical energy sector (256.2
million tons) and the cement industry (82.6 million tons).
Companies exceeding those limits will have to turn to one of the
''flexibility mechanisms'' of the Kyoto Protocol, which allow the
industrialized countries to trade emissions credits or to invest
in clean development projects in the developing South -- gaining
reduction certificates and time to curb emissions at home.
Taking advantage of the treaty's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM),
the energy company Endesa will invest around 3.2 billion dollars
to expand hydroelectric plants in Latin America as a means to compensate
for the emissions of its fossil fuel-fired plants in Spain.
The Fortaleza plant in Brazil, Sombrilla in Colombia, Callahuanca,
Santa Rosa and Ventanilla in Peru, and Palmucho in Chile will receive
the Endesa funding. Work in Callahuanca is set to begin this month,
and Endesa estimates it will be able to compensate for more than
400,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually in the next 20
Spain also incorporated the EU standards for participating in the
bloc's emissions credit market, in force since January, and announced
that the national energy plan will be reviewed in order to promote
efficient use and clean energy sources.
And Spanish officials are optimistic. ''Our country is the world
leader in new potential (for wind energy) installed in 2004: more
than 2,000 megawatts,'' said Arturo Gonzalo Aizpiri, head of the
Environment Ministry's climate change and pollution prevention division.
The government plans to promote train and other public modes of
transportation and to discourage individual car use for short distances,
as 30 percent of Spain's greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation.
Also slated is a major campaign targeting citizens. Recent statistics
reveal a sharp increase in energy consumption: 15 percent since
Spaniards have reason to worry about the impacts of climate change.
According to a study by the Environment Ministry, in which 400 scientists
participated, Spain's average surface temperatures rose more than
1.5 degrees Celsius in the last 30 years. And the number of days
in which snow fell in the higher elevations declined by 41 percent.
In the 1990s, the sea level rose four millimeters a year, rainfall
was reduced, and storms and heat waves intensified.
Climate change will negatively affect many sectors, including tourism,
the driving force of the Spanish economy, warned scientist José
María Baldasano Recio.
But while officials stake their bets on the Kyoto Protocol, groups
like Greenpeace-Spain and Engineering Without Borders are questioning
the treaties flexible mechanisms, and CDM in particular.
The groups' activists note that 78 percent of development aid goes
towards pollution-generating energy projects in poor countries.
They are demanding that funds for financing CDM initiatives not
be considered development aid.
''The clean development mechanism is intended to help compliance
with Kyoto, while development aid should go towards eradicating
poverty in the neediest countries,'' Eduardo Sánchez, research director
for Engineering Without Borders, told Tierramérica.
* Tito Drago is an IPS correspondent.