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Shaping Spain's Climate Future: A Crossroads of Political Visions

by Adriano Rodari, Global Policy Analyst, FiscalNote Professional Services

An overview of the climate policies of Spain's main political parties ahead of the upcoming elections. From the PSOE's sustainability roadmap to Vox's denial of climate change, this election could shape the nation's future on environmental issues.

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As Spain gears up for an intense election season amid a scorching summer, the environment surprisingly takes a backseat. Despite being one of Europe's most vulnerable countries to climate change and the increasing number of heat deaths, headlines are dominated by debates on women's and transgender rights, employment, inflation, and pensions.

However, this crucial election could pivot the future of the nation and European politics. The four main parties have outlined their proposals, providing a glimpse into their potential plans for climate policies, energy reforms, transport, resources, and fiscal strategies to promote the sustainable transition.

PSOE's Roadmap for a Sustainable and Equitable Spain

Under incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, the left-wing Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español - PSOE) proposes a continuation of the agenda pursued during the current term. The PSOE has already achieved a milestone with the Climate Change law, that aims to help the country achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The party bets on continuity and stability in its program, banking on the”'Iberian Exception” — a solution that allowed Spain and Portugal to decouple the price of gas from that of electricity to shield citizens from the high energy prices experienced across the rest of the continent. The party also aims to support the installation of wind and solar panels alongside autonomous communities.

Recognising the challenges of droughts, floods, and biodiversity loss, the PSOE prioritises water management and protection of endangered species in its proposal. Investments in sustainable energy go hand in hand with more employment, as the party wants to carve a path for the country in the renewable energy sector's value chain.

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The PSOE also plans to take more measures toward making urban transport more fair and sustainable. It pledged to resume work on the Sustainable Mobility Law and establish a state fund to support sustainable transportation. The party has presented plans to facilitate the transition to zero-emission vehicles for commercial transport and proposed aids for buying electric bikes. Finally, the PSOE has promised to take steps toward the decarbonisation of maritime transport.

The PSOE’s plans also embrace the principles of circular economy, making ecodesign, reuse, repair, and recycling the pillars of its fight against pollution and toward more efficient use of natural resources. It also aims to promote the negotiations to reach an international agreement against plastic pollution.

As the PSOE campaigns for re-election, the party promises a continuation of their established policies. However, it is worth noting that recent challenges within the coalition, such as the “Transgender Law” and the Law ”Only yes means yes,” have tested the limits of PSOE-led collaboration. Fractures within the coalition have led to debates and attacks, leaving the Spanish public increasingly weary of such disputes.

PP's Approach to Climate Change

The main opposition party, the People's Party (Partido Popular - PP), acknowledges the importance of addressing climate change, in its program. The center-right party led by Alberto Núñez Feijóo has proposed 365 measures, including 119 propositions to promote sustainable growth, with a limited focus on environmental aspects. The PP's program, as well as the campaign pursued by Feijóo, is based on the view that Spain needs to catch up with its European counterparts post-pandemic, which requires various measures and investments in its economy.

The PP makes reference to the promotion of the 2030 Agenda and emphasises the need for improved coordination at local and state levels to implement decarbonisation strategies in the automotive sector. The PP also proposes better compensation of CO2 expenses for the electro-intensive industries.

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In the agricultural sector, which plays a significant role in Spanish exports and contributes over 8 per cent to the GVA, the PP promises to reorganise objectives and timelines related to the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy. It plans to adopt achievable measures and increase flexibility without openly challenging EU objectives.

The party also highlights the importance of adapting the agricultural sector to circular economy principles, particularly in reducing food waste. Finally, the PP plans to draft a new National Water Pact involving local governments and affected sectors to improve water governance, investment, and management solutions.

On the energy front, the party promises to unblock the process of granting permits and approval for the installation of renewables. It also proposes to maintain the operation of nuclear power plants in Spain. The conservatives argue that the Spanish decarbonisation effort lacks flexibility and suggest refraining from exceptional measures like the ”Iberian Exception,” which in their opinion hinders investments in the renewable energy sector.

While the PP's official stance on climate policies aligns with other right-wing parties in Europe, the possibility of forming a coalition with the far-right party, Vox, may influence its position. The local coalition governments in several autonomous communities formed after the local election of 28 May have shown that the PP is willing to compromise on climate policies when ruling with its far-right counterpart.

Sumar's Vision for a Green Transition

Sumar (Unite / Add up), the progressive left-wing platform led by candidate Yolanda Díaz, aims to take strategic economic measures to route Spain toward a greener and more equal economy. Its program places climate action at the forefront, envisioning a stronger state role in shaping industrial policy and directing investments toward socially, fiscally, and environmentally responsible companies.

The party sees the energy transition as an opportunity to boost employment and position Spain as a leader in strategic industries. Sumar proposes a national energy transition plan to drastically reduce CO2 emissions, decrease dependence on fossil fuels, democratise energy production and distribution, and lower energy prices. For instance, the platform proposes the Solar Roof Law to promote photovoltaic energy development on building roofs.

Sumar advocates for the full implementation of the principle of European strategic autonomy across sectors and time, not just during exceptional circumstances as it happened during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The party deems climate change a risk that requires rethinking the Spanish supply chain, especially concerning the agri-food system.

To support a greener economy, Sumar calls for a reform of the fiscal system with the introduction of "green taxation," favouring ecologically responsible practices and compensating economically vulnerable groups. It also aims to influence citizens' consumption patterns by promoting awareness and responsible choices, revamping local production and the Mediterranean diet.

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The platform emphasises a Just Ecologic Transition as its guiding principle, prioritising decarbonisation coupled with fair treatment of the Spanish people. To achieve this, the electoral platform is proposing a general tax on large polluting companies based on nitrogen oxide and sulphur emissions, with revenues transferred to the autonomous communities. Sumar also proposes to prioritise workforce training for the emerging green industry and further calls for the creation of an independent observatory to monitor and intervene against greenwashing.

The program dedicates significant attention to agricultural policies and biodiversity protection, setting ambitious standards to safeguard endangered ecosystems and species by 2030. Additionally, Sumar intends to limit domestic flights when feasible alternatives by railway are available.

Accoding to its proposals, the party’s ultimate goal is to make Spain's energy 100 per cent renewable, aiming to become a Green Industrial Powerhouse by 2030. This would be achieved by relocating the production lane of wind power and solar panels to Spain. However, critics question the feasibility of such ambitious proposals, given the required large state financing and societal transformation they entail.

Vox's Stance on Environmental Policies

Santiago Abascal’s Vox, the far-right party, strongly denies climate change claims in its program, criticising what it calls “climate fanaticism” and “climate religion,” particularly referring to the European Union and to projects like the New European Bauhaus. The party proposes abandoning international frameworks like the Paris Agreement, which it believes harm Spain's energy sovereignty and national interests. Vox aims to repeal the Climate Change Law, claiming it burdens Spaniards with green taxes and unfair treatment of workers and farmers.

Vox advocates for national-level environmental policies, disregarding the rules agreed at the European level. It suggests a new National Water Plan to boost water access and support the agricultural sector. The party also wants fishermen to be involved in the development of offshore wind parks to minimise the impact on their activities.

The party is promising to prevent the closure of industrial and energy plants due to climate-related demands. Vox proposals include using closed nuclear plants for mini nuclear reactors and extending the functioning of existing power plants. While it acknowledges the potential of renewables for increasing energy sovereignty, it is critical of major pivots toward renewable sources.

At the European level, Vox calls for a complete repeal of the carbon CO2 emissions market, which it argues limits companies' production capacity.

In general, Vox is expected to be a vocal opponent of climate change measures. In potential alliances with the PP, some of Vox's initiatives may gain traction, as seen at the local level after the May 2023 elections.

Staying on Top of Election Projections & Implications in Spain and Around the World

Climate policies stand out as a significant point of divergence among the four parties. However, the debates surrounding this issue have mostly centered on its impact on employment and economic development. The outcome of the election day will serve as a defining moment for Spain and Europe's approach to tackling climate change in the future.

This article is part of FiscalNote’s more extensive global election coverage, which brings you comprehensive and insightful intelligence that helps you in understanding the dynamics of upcoming elections around the world and how the possible outcomes could impact your organization.

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