Spain readies law on clean energy, hails potential economic boost

(Reuters) - Spain’s cabinet is set to approve a bill setting out a path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050 on Tuesday, putting it on course to join a handful of wealthy nations who have written the target into law.

Shifting away from fossil fuels requires hefty investment across the European Union (EU), whose central authorities have set out their own emissions-reducing plan to curb rises in the earth’s temperature.

Spanish Energy and Environment Minister Teresa Ribera echoed the EU’s commitment to use its “Green Deal” as a guide to the bloc’s recovery from the economic contraction brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Faced with COVID-19 ... the energy transition will become a strong driving force to generate economic activity and employment in the short term, in a way that fits our needs as a country in the medium and long term,” Ribera said in a statement.

Spain will join Sweden, Britain, France, Denmark and New Zealand in enshrining into law the promise to go “net zero”, which means offsetting all greenhouse gas emissions with measures such as carbon capture or planting trees.

United Nations-backed scientists say emissions need to fall by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 to have a 50% chance of limiting warming this century to the 1.5 degrees Celsius set out in a deal struck between world leaders in Paris in 2015.

Spain also aims to get all of its electricity from renewable sources by the middle of the century. In the interim, it wants 70% to be renewable by 2030, from 47.3% in April 2020.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said implementing his carbon-reduction plans would require 200 billion euros ($227 billion) of total investment in the next decade, 47 billion of which he said would come from the public sector.

Before the coronavirus struck, Europe had earmarked up to 1 trillion euros over the next 10 years for its Green Deal - the same amount of money it then agreed to put into a recovery fund for economies ravaged by the pandemic.

Once Sanchez’s cabinet approves the bill at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, it will present it to the rest of parliament for debate.

A previous green initiative, to establish low-emissions zones in big cities, was opposed by far-right party Vox, the second largest group in parliament behind Sanchez’s Socialists and their historic rival People’s Party.

Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne