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Climate change

Spain is a signatory party of the 1992 UNFCCC, which entered into force on 21 March 1994. In addition, on 22 April 2016, Spain signed the Paris Agreement resulting from the Paris Climate Conference, which sets out a global action plan to avoid dangerous climate change. The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016.

The Ministry for the Ecological Transition is the administrative body that, at the national level, is responsible for implementation and administration of climate change policies. Within that Ministry, certain subsidiary administrative bodies have been created with different responsibilities, such as the Spanish Climate Change Office, in charge of shaping the national climate change policy; the National Climate Commission, in charge of issuing recommendations in relation to climate change-related plans, programmes and lines of action; and the Climate Change Policies Coordination Committee, in charge of the coordination between the national and the regional authorities in this area. In addition, the autonomous regions have created specific bodies to implement policies on climate change within the scope of their powers.

The European Union has approved several regulations on climate change with the aim of obtaining a reduction of the GHG emissions of the Member States in an effective and efficient manner. One of the most important measures has been the implementation of an emissions trading system (ETS) that aims to reduce GHGs by means of setting a cap on the total amount that can be emitted by certain installations, a cap that is reduced over time so that total emissions decrease.

EU Directive 2003/87/EC (as subsequently amended) establishes a scheme for GHG emission allowance trading. This Directive has been implemented in Spain by means of Law 1/2005 (also amended several times to implement the amendments to the Directive), which applies to facilities included in Annex I that generate certain GHG emissions, and to certain aviation activities with origin or destiny within the European Economic Area. The existing trading period started on 1 January 2013 and will end on 31 December 2020. Thereafter, successive eight-year periods will follow.

Facilities under Law 1/2005 must obtain a specific authorisation for emitting GHG, unless the facility is considered a small-scale installation. Regional authorities have the power to issue this authorisation. Any change in the nature, operating procedures, size of the facilities or any other change entailing a significant enlargement or reduction to the capacity of the facilities, as well as any change affecting the identity or domicile of the operator, must be notified.

Operators subject to Law 1/2005 must have an emission allowance per each equivalent tonne of carbon dioxide emitted from its facility (or aircraft). Emission allowances are transferrable and registered within an ETS Registry.

Although it is envisaged that the auction becomes the main method for the allocation of emissions allowances, free allocation allowances may be requested to the Council of Ministers in certain cases.

In this regard, facilities included in sectors exposed to a significant risk of 'carbon leaks' will be granted 100 per cent free allocations.

Others sectors that do not pose a significant risk of 'carbon leaks' may also receive free allocations up to a maximum of 80 per cent, a percentage that will gradually decrease with the aim of reaching 30 per cent in 2020. The rest of the required allowances must be acquired in the auctions. These free allocations for sectors without risk of 'carbon leaks' are meant to disappear in 2027.

Power generators and capture, transportation and geological storage of carbon installations do not receive any free allowances except for certain high-efficiency cogeneration and urban heating and certain waste gases combustion power generators.

Aviation is also subject to free allocation of allowances, as only 15 per cent of the total amount of allowances is subject to auction.

Activities emitting GHGs must send the regional authorities, before 28 February every year, a verified report on GHG emissions of the previous year. This report will be assessed by the authorities to verify (among other circumstances) that the operator has obtained all the required GHG emission allowances.

Also, aviation operators must have a monitoring plan that includes certain measures to monitor and notify the data of their yearly emissions and tonne-kilometres transported. This monitoring plan must be approved by the Ministry for the Ecological Transition.

In addition to Law 1/2005, other national rules on climate change are worth mentioning:

  1. Law 40/2010 on the geological storage of carbon dioxide;
  2. Royal Decree 1722/2012 implementing certain aspects relating to the assignment of emissions allowances within the framework of Law 1/2005;
  3. several regulations on energy efficiency such as Royal Decree 235/2013 on the basic procedure for the energy efficiency certification of buildings; Royal Decree 163/2014 on the carbon footprint, offset and carbon dioxide absorption projects registry; Royal Decree 56/2016 on energy efficiency relating to energy audits, accreditation of providers of energy services and auditors, and promotion of the efficiency of energy supply; and
  4. several regulations on clean energy such as Royal Decree 413/2014 on the production of electricity from renewable energy sources, cogeneration and waste or Royal Decree 235/2018 establishing calculation methods and information requirements in relation to the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions from fuels and energy in transportation.

There is a National Action Plan on Renewable Energy Sources 2011–2020, which aims to achieve 20 per cent of the total energy consumption from renewable energy sources in 2020 (EU Directive 2009/28/EC).