- The efforts and objectives assumed by Spain in the Climate Change and Energy Transition Law commit the State as a whole, including the autonomous communities.
- Asturias, Castilla La Mancha, Castilla y León and La Rioja have not yet begun to draw up their energy and climate plans to help achieve climate neutrality in Spain by 2050.
Global warming is increasing at such an accelerated rate that unless greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced, it will be practically impossible to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5ºC or even 2ºC. This was revealed by the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published last August, widely discussed during the recent World Climate Summit (COP 26) held in Glasgow, which also points to human action as the main cause of climate change.
The fight against climate change is not only a matter for the States, but also a shared responsibility that includes all levels of government. In Spain, the autonomous communities play a decisive role in achieving the objectives set out in the Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition and achieving climate neutrality by 2050. According to this law, as of December 31, the autonomous communities must inform the Climate Change Policy Coordination Commission of their energy and climate plans. The International Institute of Law and Environment (IIDMA) has prepared the report ‘The role of the autonomous communities in the fight against climate change: autonomous energy and climate plans’ in which the progress of autonomous communities in the fight against climate change is analyzed. Specifically, the report examines the constitutional regime of distribution of competences on climate change and energy transition, analyzes the status and content of the regional energy and climate plans, as well as the institutional framework and existing mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of energy and climate plans and/or strategies at the regional level.
As Ana Barreira, director of IIDMA and co-author of the report, points out, “International climate negotiations where States participate, are essential to establish the path for action, but climate action must take place not only at the national level but also at the subnational level. Therefore, in our country, the autonomous communities play an essential role in implementing international commitments and, for this reason, the autonomous energy and climate plans are a key element in contributing to the achievement of a stable climate”.
By October 2021, most of the autonomous communities had already begun to draw up or adopt their respective energy and climate plans for the 2030 horizon or, in some cases, for 2050 with the exception of Asturias, Castilla La Mancha, Castilla y León and La Rioja. However, there are significant differences in the way the regions are designing their planning and the climate commitments assumed. According to the report prepared by IIDMA, the development of these regional plans is essential to achieve the objectives set out in the aforementioned State Law and in the Paris Agreement, but the autonomous communities must take into account the rules of distribution of competences established in the Constitution, ensuring that their actions do not infringe on other areas of state or local competence.
Ruling 87/2019, of June 20, 2009, of the Constitutional Court, which declared the unconstitutionality of certain precepts of the Catalan Law on Climate Change, has declared that the autonomous communities cannot establish specific objectives, i.e. quantitative, measurable and in term, of emission reduction and energy transition (renewable energies and energy efficiency), for violating the basic legislation of the State and the State competence scope.
It should not be forgotten that the efforts and objectives assumed by Spain in the Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition commit the State as a whole, including the autonomous communities, taking into consideration the particular context and reality of each region.
With this in mind, Alba Iranzo, environmental lawyer at IIDMA and co-author of the report, says, “It should be noted that in Spain there has not been a specific distribution of efforts between autonomous communities to combat climate change and promote energy transition. Although progress is being made at the autonomous community level, it is essential to promote greater coordination and inter-administrative collaboration between the State and the autonomous communities to ensure that the commitments, measures and actions proposed at the regional level in the energy and climate plans and/or in the autonomous climate change laws are coherent and contribute to meeting the objectives assumed by Spain in the medium and long term”.
Based on the analysis made in this report, IIDMA makes the following recommendations, which are necessary to promote climate action between administrations to achieve the objective of climate neutrality in Spain by 2050 at the latest:
- All autonomous communities must inform the Climate Change Policy Coordination Commission of their energy and climate plans and/or strategies in force as of December 31, 2021. Therefore, those that have not yet begun to prepare or have not yet adopted their respective planning instruments, must move forward by submitting their plans and/or strategies to the corresponding Strategic Environmental Assessment procedure, when legally required.
- It is necessary to ensure that the Public Administrations respect the distribution of state, autonomous and local competences in the area of climate change and energy transition, in order to avoid future conflicts of competence between the three levels of government, as disputes could delay the achievement of the objectives assumed.
- Given the differences identified in energy and climate planning and regulations between autonomous communities, it is essential to promote greater coordination and collaboration between the General State Administration and the Administration of the 17 autonomous communities. IIDMA proposes that this coordination and collaboration take place through the Commission for the Coordination of Climate Change Policies, with the collaboration of the Sectorial Conferences of Environment and Energy.
- It is recommended that the General State Administration assess, together with the representatives of the regional administrations, the possibility of agreeing on a specific distribution of efforts at the regional level, taking into account the particular context and reality of each region.
- The objectives, measures, and lines of action adopted by autonomous communities in the short and medium term, must be aligned with the objectives established in the Long Term Strategy 2050 and in the Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition to achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible and, at the latest, by 2050.
- To ensure the effectiveness of regional energy and climate planning, it is essential that bodies of government designated at the regional level carry out monitoring and evaluating the objectives and the level of implementation of the measures established in the medium and long term in the energy and climate plans and/or strategies.
- Finally, it is recommended that an agreement be reached between the autonomous communities and the General State Administration on the minimum content to be included in the autonomous communities’ energy and climate plans and/or strategies.