They rebound, but not at all until the levels of 2019. This is the conclusion drawn from the study carried out by the researchers of the BC3 (Basque Center for Climate Change) on the way in which the greenhouse effect emissions in Spain will evolve this year. is about to end. What they foresee is that 2021 will close with an increase in these gases of around 4% compared to the previous year. However, it does not return to the pre-pandemic situation: emissions in 2021 will still be close to 10% below those of 2019.
Is this difference of 10 points due to a structural change or to purely conjunctural circumstances? Or, put another way, will it return to the same pre-covid level when the economy fully recovers? Mikel González-Eguino, economist and co-director of the Observatory for Energy Transition and Climate Action of the BC3, considers that the best way to answer this question is to look at the evolution of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). “The forecast of Funcas [un grupo de estudio vinculado a la banca] is that the GDP will grow 4.6% this year, so that the increase in emissions would be below that growth of the economy, “he says. “This is good news because there is a fundamental trend to reduce emissions that began in 2018,” adds González-Eguino.
However, the BC3 report warns that the rebound effect of greenhouse gases in Spain does not seem to have ended: “Economic activity (for example, that of the tourism sector) is still far from reaching pre-pandemic levels and it is estimated that the GDP levels prior to the pandemic will be reached in 2022 or 2023. Therefore, the rebound effect resulting from the economic recovery could still continue in the future ”. In fact, the analysis prepared by this group of researchers indicates that in the last two months of this year greenhouse gases were already at levels similar to those of the same period in 2019.
In 2020, the restrictions motivated by the covid led to an unprecedented drop in these gases in Spain. They were reduced by 14% compared to 2019. It was the largest annual decrease in the historical series, which starts in 1990. That year is the one that is usually taken as a reference in many of the climate policies. The current Spanish Government has set a goal in the Climate Change Law, approved in May, a reduction of gases of 23% in 2030 compared to the level of 1990. In 2021, according to BC3 estimates, emissions would be 3 % lower than those of the early nineties. However, the risk now is that the rebound will make the path traveled back down.
“It is normal that emissions grew this year with the recovery,” explains González-Eguino. “But it is important that climate plans continue to be applied so that the rebound is minimal,” adds this economist in relation, for example, to the program for the promotion of green hydrogen and renewables that the Government has presented this week.
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This plan, which will be financed with European funds from the recovery program, seeks to accelerate the decarbonization of the energy sector, which is mainly responsible for the gases that overheat the planet. And, more specifically, fossil fuels: oil, gas and coal. In the electricity sector, Spain is moving towards this decarbonisation thanks to the abandonment of coal and the introduction of renewables. “In 2021 between 48% and 50% of electricity will be of renewable origin in Spain”, recalls González-Eguido. “The use of coal has again become very marginal despite the increase in gas prices,” he adds. Added to this is the reduction in electricity demand ”, as the BC3 report indicates.
If in the electricity generation sector there is a clear downward trend in emissions, in the mobility sector it does not appear at the moment in Spain. The reductions in greenhouse gases seem to be more linked to the economic reasons associated with the pandemic. “The change in emissions of petroleum derivatives would be closely related to the reduction in mobility caused both by the restrictions still in force in the first months of the year and by changes in mobility and consumption patterns derived from the epidemiological situation” explains the study. “The consumption of fuels for the automotive industry and kerosene for national and international aviation decreased by 6% and 34% and 60%, respectively, until October 2021 compared to the same months of 2019,” it is added. But the data show that despite the fact that “mobility levels prior to the pandemic have not recovered, as of June gasoline consumption had already begun to exceed the levels of 2019” in Spain. In this sense, González-Eguino is concerned that the fear of the coronavirus is leading to “a reduction in the use of public transport.”
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