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Transforming energy

 

JOSÉ LUIS RODRIGUEZ ZAPATERO
Prime Minister of Spain

Climate change is a global threat, with disastrous consequences for the well-being of all if the average global temperature rises more than 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The causes of this threat are well known. More than three quarters of greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change, stem from energy consumption. A gradual change in the energy model is therefore needed. The question remains whether we currently have sufficient means for achieving this.

With current existing technologies we are in a position to affirm that a shift to a sustainable form of energy production is possible. At its thirteenth session in Bali in December 2007, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change identified climate-friendly technologies as the pillars to build upon for future development.

Through the use of less carbonintensive energy sources and greater energy efficiency it is possible to reach an optimum level in reducing emissions. This change in the energy model requires new investments in infrastructure, in both developing and developed countries, as well as increased cooperation and reinforced policies that promote energy security. All these aspects require adequate financial support.

We must not allow the economic crisis to slow down this change. Rather, the crisis must spur the development of a new economic model for the twenty-first century. A historic opportunity exists to move towards a stable and sustainable model for growth. The time is ripe for what we have come to call a Global Green New Deal.

The European Union plays a key role in the global commitment to combat climate change, which simultaneously tackles the economic crisis. It has, to date, spearheaded global leadership in this area by acting responsibly and urging other countries to accept new ways of facing the problem.

During the Spanish presidency of the European Union, and in order to continue this leadership, member States agreed on the new Europe 2020 Strategy, aimed at achieving a sustainable economic model. By correctly implementing our policies, we will be able to transform our energy mix and reduce our energy import bill by 60 billion euros by 2020, and 150 billion by 2030. In so doing, we will not only reduce emissions, but generate employment and stimulate economic activity. These prospects speak for themselves: it is foreseen that the European Union’s 2020 renewable energy target will create an estimated 2.8 million jobs in that sector.

Within the European Union, Spain has been committed to renewable energies for more than 40 years. We have recently strengthened our commitment because we believe they are an essential component of our future. With this aim, Spain was the driving force in establishing the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and, as a country, we have invested heavily in research, development and innovation, particularly in technologies such as wind power, photovoltaic energy and thermoelectric solar energy.

This has enabled the rapid development of a flourishing industry built on technological innovation and using the clean domestically produced energy resources that Spain has in abundance. The process of incorporating renewable energies into Spain’s power generation has set a benchmark for the rest of the world, as was recognized in a recent IRENA report.

The key to our success in integrating these energy sources has undoubtedly been our economic and legal framework, based on a system of bonuses and regulated tariffs which has been in force for 30 years. This stable framework is nevertheless continually being improved and adapted to suit current levels of technological development.

At the end of 2009, renewable energies covered some 11 per cent of our final energy needs. Estimates for 2020 suggest that we could surpass the objective of 20 per cent of gross final energy consumption defined by the Renewable Energies Board for Spain.

The country’s renewable energy sector now consists of more than 4,000 businesses — some internationally recognized for their own technological development capacity — and direct or indirect employment for more than 200,000 people.

In conclusion:

The troubling scale and effects of global warming demand a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which is possible only through the increased use of new clean technologies. The commitment to renewable energy is both environmentally and economically sound. The future will depend to a large

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