The received heritage: Spanish energy and climate change policy

After her recent inauguration, the Minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, has an arduous task in her portfolio considering the heritage received from the previous government.

It is not going to be an easy task. Next week Teresa Ribera will participate in the Energy Council where she will present, as already announced, an ambitious position in the negotiations of the clean energy package. There are several regulatory instruments on the table such as the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Directives and the Governance Regulation, among others.

Although, normally, until the Directives or Regulations enter into force, it is not necessary to carry out transposition and/or application actions, in the case of the Governance Regulation it was necessary to begin the work of implementation, something that the previous Minister of Energy did not do. This is because one of the key pillars of that Regulation, the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) were already foreseen as a foundation of the governance of the Energy Union. In November 2015, the European Commission already adopted some guidelines for Member States on the NECPs.

These ten-year plans, the first covering the period 2021-2030, bring together energy and climate change policies, including mitigation and adaptation, and the tools to manage the energy transition. The plans must integrate the five dimensions of the Energy Union:

  1. Energy Security
  2. Internal Energy Market
  3. Energy Efficiency
  4. Decarbonization
  5. Research, innovation and competitiveness

In compliance with this requirement, several EU countries have already approved theirs, such as Germany, France or Italy. Others are about to complete it, such as Austria or Sweden.

Spain’s future NECP will be the key to achieve the objectives outlined in the future Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition, which was not presented by the previous government, despite its commitment announced during the Paris Summit. Without a NECP that law means nothing.

PNECs must be submitted either in September or December of this year. Everything will depend on what is decided in the next Trilogue Meeting June 19. It is imperative to remember that, as we are talking about an energy plan, it must be submitted to an environmental strategic evaluation as required by Law 21/2013, of December 9, on environmental evaluation. In addition, in accordance with the provisions of the Aarhus Convention and the Governance Regulations themselves require the PNEC to undergo a public participation process. These consultation procedures take time. They do not take place overnight.

This is an example of the received political heritage and, following the principle of equity, which is part of sustainable development, we are dealing with a flagrant example of inequality.

There is no certainty that this executive can govern for two years.  However, in the face of uncertainty, the precautionary principle applies. We must therefore start working now. The path is not an easy one, but it should not be an impossible mission.

Ana Barreira

Ana Barreira is a lawyer and founding Director of the International Institute for Law and Environment (IIDMA). LL.M in International Legal Studies (New York University) and in Environmental Law (London University).