Spanish energy minister aims to get climate law agreed by year-end

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s government hopes to overcome political opposition to pass a climate change law that campaign groups say could set a global example by the end of the year, its energy and environment minister told Reuters.

Slideshow ( 4 images )

The leftist coalition has put forward a bill including measures such as making firms report their exposure to climate risks and ending new oil exploration permits.

“I’m looking forward to seeing this debate because I think it will be a show of maturity,” Teresa Ribera said on Wednesday.

Far-right opposition party Vox, the third-biggest force in Spain’s parliament, has called for the bill to be rejected.

“To lead decarbonisation without waiting for other countries is as irrational as starting unilateral disarmament in a world that is armed to the teeth,” Vox said in its motion.

Ribera said she did not expect Vox’s support, but thought it would be possible to find agreement on areas including water management.

Although Spain only produced 40,244 tonnes of crude oil in 2019, environmental campaigners have welcomed the plan to stop issuing permits to explore for or produce hydrocarbons.

Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director at Canadian group Stand.Earth, said it set a precedent.

“When people see the Spanish law they may ask themselves, what is my government doing about that?” she said.

Some such as Madrid-based environmental consultant and former director of energy at Greenpeace Carlos Bravo said it would be better to scrap the projects currently being processed, as Spain is not legally obliged to extend them, but Ribera said if lawmakers introduce a limit they have to compensate for that.

Ribera said these already have legal rights, and she did not expect the projects to reach the 2042 limit.

The draft law also contains a pledge to map out state investments in organisations involved with fossil fuels and set a timetable to divest from them.

Ribera said she expected the future of oil and gas to be one of the areas where there would differences of opinion, but thought other parties were keen to see the law passed, predicting this would happen “around Christmas”.

Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Alexander Smith