By Lara Lázaro-Touza and Elena López-Gunn
In the light of Spain’s future foreign policy, it is necessary to develop a more pro-active climate diplomacy. This paper analyses Spain’s climate diplomacy in line with the Elcano report titled ‘Towards a Strategic Updating of Spain’s Foreign Policy’ and the State Foreign Action and Service Law (Ley de la Acción y del Servicio Exterior del Estado, LAESE). The paper seeks to provide policymakers with an analysis to support a more pro-active stance on climate policy, aligning Spain’s interests and values. This should help Spain become a more influential global actor as regards climate change, both within the EU and internationally.
Climate change is a global externality with local consequences that requires concerted action by sovereign nations. Climate policy is an area in which national and international dimensions are completely blurred. It is also an area in which the concept of global public goods –the provision of a stable climate that is non-rival in nature and non excludable– crystallises. Actions to provide such goods arguably require that countries engaging in international climate agreements have normative values such as solidarity and responsibility. In practice, however, a bird’s eye view of global climate policy shows that developed countries have sought to persuade developing countries to limit their emissions while shying away from significant emission cuts at home. Developing countries have repeatedly demanded aid to address climate change both through funds and technology transfers (Harris, 2009) in order to meets these demands. The EU has traditionally pushed for deep greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions, and Spain has accompanied EU climate policy, with greater or lesser enthusiasm and independence.
For countries like the UK, France and Germany, climate change became a foreign-policy priority, especially in the run-up to Copenhagen and before the economic crisis of 2008 was in full swing. Spain is a climate-vulnerable country, located in a climate-change hotspot, with key economic sectors that can be significantly affected by a changing climate. It has strong ties with Latin America, one of the most active areas in terms of renewable energy development (Bloomberg News Energy Finance, 2013), and it has expertise and technology that can effectively contribute to the expansion of renewable energy markets. Despite Spain’s (self)-interest in successful globally-orchestrated mitigation, it has traditionally been considered a passive laggard as regards its climate-related foreign policy. This has been the case until at least 2004, when Spain took a more active role (Costa, 2006).
This paper analyses Spain’s climate diplomacy in line with the Elcano Royal Institute’s report ‘Towards a Strategic Updating of Spain’s Foreign Policy’ and the LAESE. It seeks to provide policymakers with analysis that supports a more pro-active stance towards climate-related foreign policy, aligning Spain’s interests and values. This should help Spain become a more influential global actor as regards climate change, both within the EU and internationally.
The paper’s structure is as follows: the second section reflects on global changes in the climate system and their consequences for Spain, a key issue for science-based policy making. Section three briefly presents some of the critical actions taken within Spain’s climate diplomacy and then outlines the rationale and objectives for a more pro-active climate-related foreign policy. Section four analyses Spain’s geographical focus in terms of climate diplomacy. Section five presents some conclusions.
(2) Climate change as a threat?: latest findings and the consequences for Spain
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (henceforth 5AR) states that climate change is unequivocal and that human beings have undoubtedly influenced the climate system. The key impacts that will affect southern Europe include rising sea levels and coastal erosion, water scarcity and more frequent wildfires and heat waves. Economic activity will also be affected, especially in sectors like tourism, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, infrastructure, energy and health (IPCC, 2014). Table 1 below briefly summarises the main impacts of climate change in terms of temperature increases and rising sea levels, as well as effects on water, ecosystems, health and security.
The consequences of climate change, depicted in Table 1 above, provide Spain with strong reasons to pursue decisive action to mitigate GHG emissions and to adapt to the unavoidable effects of a changing climate.
(3) A vision: actions, goals, values, and interests in Spain´s climate diplomacy
Vision and actions: revisiting the European hot-house
The EU has historically pursued a leadership role in climate policy. The decision on a new policy framework for energy and climate will be made no later than October 2014 (European Council, 2014). Should the Commission’s proposal for a 2030 framework for climate and energy policies be endorsed by the European Parliament and the Council, this would mean a 40% GHG emission reduction for the EU by 2030, a 27% target for renewable energy consumption and the structural reform of the European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). The reform would imply the establishment of a market stability reserve post 2021 and provisions aimed at smoothing the process between trading phases, building on the experience gained in the transition from phase 2 to phase 3 of the EU ETS.
According to the Spanish Climate Change Office (OECC in its Spanish acronym), Spain is currently wholeheartedly aligned with the EU’s climate policy, especially as regards the revised post 2020 framework. At the international level, this implies trying to ensure that the 2ºC goal is met, supporting multilateralism, striving for full participation in future climate agreements and ensuring that commitments made by the various parties involved are transparent, quantifiable, comparable, verifiable and ambitious. The EU (and Spain) will also push for a strengthening of the multilateral rules-based regime (a robust set of rules on MRV, accounting and compliance) and will support adaptation and implementation as a key part of the 2015 agreement. Additionally, Spain argues that we should build on existing institutions and processes, strengthen linkages and avoid inefficient duplication of efforts at the international level. In this regard, Spain welcomes the establishment of the Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage associated with climate-change impacts, aimed at enhancing knowledge, coordination and support on this issue.
But achieving the 2ºC target is becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, given the current GHG reduction efforts. The task, in terms of mitigation, will require globally, at least, three distinct and interconnected energy-related strategies. First, increased energy efficiency; a potentially low-cost option that can take us over a third of the way to the carbon reductions needed by 2025 and less than a quarter of the way to the GHG reductions needed by 2050. Secondly, reduced energy demand. Third, and particularly important for Spain, ensuring renewable energy sources make a significant contribution to the energy mix. Graph 1 below illustrates how different technologies can contribute to mitigating CO2 emissions for given amounts of energy demand, using Anderson’s bottom-up analysis undertaken for the Stern Review (2007).
In Spain, the OECC has been entrusted, by way of article 3.1 of Royal Decree 401/2012, with representing the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment in international forums, especially at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the IPCC. The rationale for the OECC’s policies is that climate change is a global public bad that can threaten key sectors in Spain.
A key economic sector as regards climate-related foreign policy is the energy sector. In addition to the contribution that renewable energy sources (RES) can make to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, issues of energy dependence and energy security –which affect industrial production costs across the economy– are cited as reasons to promote renewables. Spain is already well positioned in terms of renewable targets. As Escribano (2014) outlines, Spain already surpassed the interim target set by the EU, reaching 15% in 2011. The most important strategy for Spain in terms of climate diplomacy arguably lies in ensuring energy security, an adequate level of interconnection with the EU and the establishment of a European energy market, which would increase competition, lower energy prices and allow consumers to enjoy greener energy. Pro-active policies in this area mean Spain could become an energy hub due to its geographical position, capitalising on its gas and renewable capacities (Ibid.).
In terms of Spain’s geographical focus regarding climate diplomacy, Latin America should be a prime area of interest through the Ibero-American Network of Climate Change Offices (RIOCC in its Spanish acronym). The RIOCC network was created in 2004 by the Ibero-American Ministries of Environment Forum. The RIOCC’s main goals include exchanging experiences and information, and identifying priorities, challenges and opportunities. It also fosters the implementation of the UNFCCC decisions, especially as regards mitigation and adaptation and promotes the inclusion of climate action within Official Development Aid (ODA) strategies.
Climate change is increasingly considered a transversal goal for development projects in Spain (Corrales, 2008). In fact, the current plan (Plan Director 2013-2016) includes climate change as one of its transversal goals. This inclusion of climate considerations in ODA projects in Spain is aligned with the Paris Declaration, the Accra Agenda (OECD, 2008) and the EU goal of policy coherence for development, which also sees climate change as a key global challenge (EC, 2007). In terms of funding climate-change initiatives within ODA, Spain contributed over €125 million in 2011 and €60 million in 2012 (MAGRAMA, 2013). As regards potential business opportunities, Spain’s National Climate Change Adaptation Plan (PNACC) has meant the development of important transferable knowledge and know-how for cooperation.  In fact, many Spanish institutions and businesses have considerable expertise in the evaluation of impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, particularly in areas such as coastal and water resources management, among others.
The opportunity to strengthen the integration of climate change and poverty is also emerging internationally. At the global level, and for the first time in 15 years, the Millennium Development Goals are being revised. These are now going to be renamed Sustainable Development Goals. It is currently being debated how and to what extent climate change will be included in these goals. The confluence of agreements to be reached at the end of 2014 in the SDGs and at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP21) a year later, could provide a unique opportunity to reinforce global governance in poverty reduction and climate change.
The recently approved Law for Spain’s Foreign Action and Service (LAESE) recognises climate change as one of its objectives in Article 2. Additionally, Article 29 states that Spain’s foreign policy as regards climate change will foster international climate agreements, strive for sustainable production and a sustainable energy model and protect ecosystems. It will also engage in capacity-building activities and render technical assistance to develop regulatory instruments and non-economic instruments such as awareness raising.
Interests and values
This subsection reflects on some of Spain’s main environmental concerns, economic interests, key stakeholder values and demands as regards climate-related foreign policy.
While Spain’s climate diplomacy is largely embedded in the EU position, Spain’s key interests and values regarding the environment sometimes differ from those of other EU countries. The northern EU countries have traditionally been concerned primarily with pollution issues. The focus of environmental concerns in southern countries such as Spain has been on water scarcity, wildfire soil erosion (Costa, 2006) and maritime pollution (Lázaro-Touza & Atkinson, 2013).
As regards climate-related foreign policy, according to Fride (2012), countries such as the UK, France and Germany, have a much greater involvement of their Ministries of Foreign Affairs in climate-change issues than Spain. Spain’s leading role in renewable energies in a carbon-constrained world, along with the impacts of climate change on the tourist sector, the wine and the milk industries, among others, are examples that serve to illustrate the powerful reasons for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MAEC in its Spanish acronym), in its commercial diplomacy capacity, to increase its interest and actions regarding climate change.
Concerning the values held by Spanish citizens interviewed by the European Commission, they are (self-reportedly) among the most concerned in the EU with climate change (EC, 2011), although concern has significantly decreased as a result of the economic crisis (EC, 2014). However, the actual behaviour of citizens (or lack thereof) in Spain towards climate change is still seen as a barrier to success in the climate-change arena. There is thus a gap between the concerns and actions of Spanish citizens as regards climate change. Pilot projects that demonstrate the co-benefits of climate-conscious behaviour (eg, money saved in energy efficiency) could help bridge the gap between stated concern regarding climate change and behaviour.
The business sector, through its main association in Spain (Confederación Española de Organizaciones Empresariales, CEOE), is highly organised and cohesive in terms of voicing its demands as regards national and international climate policy. These demands include: first, to ensure there is a balanced agreement that includes both developed and developing countries. The business association hence opposes the current EU 2030 framework for climate and energy and will continue to do so until an inclusive, balanced and legally-binding international climate agreement is negotiated. The reason for this opposition according to the CEOE is that the industry’s competitiveness may be severely damaged. Recent literature on the existence of competitiveness losses and industrial flight provides some support for the intense lobbying on behalf of the CEOE as it has found a statistically significant effect on relocation partially derived from environmental regulations (Levinson, 2008). The pollution-haven hypothesis exists primarily for carbon-intensive industries like coal, oil, gas, cement, iron and steel, among others, which are heavily exposed to international trade. However, other variables such as labour costs, investment climate, regulatory stability and distance to markets, arguably have more weight in relocation decisions (Cole, 2004). Secondly, Spanish industries should be treated fairly. Third, subsidies to immature technologies should be limited. Fourth, greater attention should be paid to adaptation. And fifth, it should be ensured that there is regulatory stability that is conducive to long-term investments.
On the renewable energy front, the APPA (the renewable energy association for Spain) has demanded, at the EU level, ambitious renewable energy targets (30% by 2030), expressing regret that the Spanish government did not support, and that the EU Commission did not adopt, this target, proposed by the European Parliament. Initiatives that facilitate decentralised energy production according to EU Directives are also demanded. Domestically, the APPA is eager to work alongside the government in the development of a long-term strategy for the power sector that can transcend political terms (ie, an Energy State pact). This strategy would have RESs play an increasingly important role subject to environmental, social and economic sustainability criteria. Further demands from the renewable sector include ensuring regulatory stability and avoiding retroactive measures which reduce investor confidence, and thus increase the risk of lower investments in renewables globally (Schoenberg, 2014) at a key point in the transition to low-carbon economies. For the transition to materialise the APPA demands a coherent energy policy that promotes RESs not only internationally, but also nationally.
There are a wide variety of environmental organisations in Spain. There is, to our knowledge, no common position that provides the Spanish government with Environmental Non-governmental Organisations’ (ENGOs) demands on Spain’s climate-related foreign policy. The requests, however, are fairly consistent. ENGOs’ demands from the Spanish government (both nationally and abroad) include: further emission reductions, increases in forest protection initiatives and a climate-sensible energy policy (promoting decentralised renewable energy generation, saving energy and backing energy efficiency policies). The ultimate goal of these demands is that the international climate negotiation process abides by the 2ºC average temperature increase in accordance with the scientific consensus. The above demands by ENGOs should be met taking into account the different responsibilities and capabilities of developed versus developing countries. A just transition towards a low-carbon energy model both nationally and internationally is also seen as paramount. The transition implies not only moving away from fossil fuels but also embracing renewable alternatives. National policies should be integrated across government levels and stakeholders. Private firms should be part of the GHG abatement solution and should be transparently monitored. Citizens, in turn, should change their consumption patterns to reduce GHG emissions nudged by the ‘choice editing’ role of governments (Assadourian, 2010). Equity is another key concern for ENGOs. This implies a fair burden-sharing agreement, making adaptation a priority and ensuring additional and adequate funding is disbursed to less developed countries by the international community. Additionally, technology transfers should be fostered to ensure the ‘climate Kuznets Curve’ can be tunnelled by rapidly developing countries. Table 2 below summarises some of the specific demands from the business sector and from civil society.
It is therefore in Spain’s interest (in particular regarding the tourist sector, renewable energies and the agricultural sector), and in accordance with Spanish citizens’ values, to foster action to curb GHG emissions and to adapt to changes that are already occurring.
(4) Spain’s strategic climate alliances
Considering the goals of the recently-approved law (LAESE), as well as the interests and values described above, this section provides a brief analysis of the key geographical areas where Spain could focus its climate diplomacy efforts.
Strengthening the Latin climate connection
Spain can further contribute to the EU objective of cooperating with Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) partners to integrate climate change into development processes and strategies. The EU has adopted a relatively proactive stance under its EUROCLIMA project. Spain can continue to build on these initiatives, reinforcing the synergies and complementarities with the RIOCC network and other regional initiatives promoted by Spanish Development Cooperation.
In addition to the RIOCC initiative, that has strong political support at the highest level, Spain can continue to build on a range of rich and well-established relationships across the Atlantic. Civil society, the private sector, NGOs, academics and think tanks can enhance traditional Spanish climate diplomacy. These institutions diffuse the power from the state, bringing civil societies on both sides of the Atlantic closer together. In fact, climate change can provide a ready-made lab to test the concept of an integral system. Latin America would be a good testing ground because of the many shared values around fundamental rights and freedoms, all of which would enhance existing links between political parties, trade unions, regional climate expertise, the media and NGOs; a true mesh of rich experience from diverse actors.
Our southern Mediterranean neighbours: in the same climate boat?
Security, migration, shared environmental problems and business opportunities are the key axis along which Spain’s climate-related foreign policy could further develop in the Southern Mediterranean region.
While climate change has not been a significant factor directly driving migration in the recent past, it is however anticipated to be a relevant factor in the future (IPCC, 2014). This is particularly important considering the Mediterranean is a climate hotspot already affected by scarce water resources, dependency on food imports, a political winter after the Arab spring and significant income differences between its northern and southern shores. Spain’s aid and adaptation strategy abroad could help limit the adverse threat multiplier effect of climate change, which is expected to result in further resource scarcity, social unrest, possibly an upsurge in extremism and an increased demand for military support to respond to humanitarian crises (NIC, 2009). As Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General, said: We will not enjoy development without security, and we will not enjoy security without development, and we will not enjoy either without human rights. Unless all causes are advanced, none will succeed’.
A further aspect that is inextricably linked to climate change in the Mediterranean region is food security (Luomi, 2012). This is so due to the fact that in these arid and semi-arid countries agriculture represents 80% to 90% of water consumption. Climate change implies a threat to the livelihoods of a population living in areas that are already some of the world’s most water-scarce. Thus water, food and environmental security in the Mediterranean context are inextricably linked to climate change.
Concerning business opportunities, the Mediterranean region, in addition to being a hydrocarbon-rich area, also has significant renewable potential. This bodes well for Spanish expertise on renewables. Should energy markets be integrated across the Western Mediterranean, this could also help reduce Europe’s energy dependence while also helping to decarbonise its energy footprint. Initiatives like the DESERTEC project and the Mediterranean Solar Plan were, geopolitical and cost issues notwithstanding, potentially innovative solutions to improve conditions on the southern shores, ensuring security through shared development. Renewed political commitments on these projects would indicate Spain can develop a strategic vision for a key sector. This strategic vision seems particularly significant after the Ukrainian crisis and the energy opportunities opening up in Spain due to its geographical position in the Mediterranean. Spain is already actively engaged with Morocco and Algeria in bilateral relations (Elcano, 2014) and with the 5 + 5 initiative in the Western Mediterranean, where the 10 countries involved have put climate change as a thematic priority.
It can therefore be argued that Spain’s climate diplomacy with its southern neighbours should further focus on the food-water-energy-aid nexus, perhaps through a regional network of climate change offices à la RIOCC as well as through innovative initiatives in the renewable energy arena.
The world axis of economic power continued shifting East in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis. Sixty per cent of the world population, three of the five biggest world economies and the second and third largest global investors are in Asia (Elcano, 2014). Asia will also be severely impacted by climate change, mainly because of its large population (much of it located in vulnerable areas such as deltas or cities in coastal regions) as well as by the economic consequences of climate change (Piao et al. 2010). Spanish foreign policy interests in this region remain mainly economic (Elcano, 2014) and this also applies to climate diplomacy. As for mitigation, for example, the Chinese market provides an opportunity for Spain’s renewable energy technology, and as regards adaptation, through water resource management (López-Gunn & Stucker, 2014), Spain has considerable relevant experience and know-how.
(5) Conclusions and recommendations
Spain’s future climate policy is likely to continue working towards an inclusive, ambitious and legally-binding international climate agreement that would aim to limit maximum global average temperature increases to 2ºC compared with pre-industrial levels. Spain will also back the use of flexibility mechanisms and will promote efficiency in the use of existing institutions at the international level. The above are all in line with the EU’s climate policy. Independently of the EU, Spain will continue to nourish the Ibero-American Network of Climate Change Offices (RIOCC), building on our historical ties while contributing to the advancement of international climate negotiations.
As discussed throughout this paper, if the climate challenge is to be tackled decisively, the deployment of renewable energy en masse will be of paramount importance. The reasons for supporting the renewable energy sector in Spain include: its renewable endowment, past investments and leadership in renewables, the increase in energy independence brought about by a high penetration of renewable energy sources in the energy mix, the reduction in GHG emissions, the contribution of the renewable energy sector to Spain’s GDP and its potential future contribution to economic growth. In sum, Spain’s past efforts in renewable energy development should not be wasted, a climate (and commercial) diplomacy strategy that would align Spain’s values and interests.
The pending challenges for Spain’s climate-related foreign policy as regards its geographical outreach include further coordinating national institutions such as the Spanish Climate Change Office with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, and developing new networks à la RIOCC with its North African neighbours, to minimise threats such as climate change-related migrations and conflict. These new networks could support existing efforts in terms of Spain’s security policy and humanitarian response. Additionally, regions where Spain has traditionally had less ties, such as countries across Asia, are likely to be looking for potential solutions, technologies and lessons learnt on the management of extreme events, coastal areas, water resources management, migration, etc. Spain can provide significant experience, technology and know-how to these regions, a strategy that could bring much needed business opportunities.
About the authors:
Profesora de Teoría Económica del CES Cardenal Cisneros.
Directora ICATALIST e investigadora UCM.
This article was published by Elcano Royal Institute and may be accessed here.
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 The authors are indebted to Ángel Gómez de Ágreda, Lieutenant Colonel of the Spanish Air Force, Laura Gallego Garnacho, Responsible for Climate Change and Industry at CEOE, Jaume Margarit, Director of APPA, Gonzalo Escribano Francés, Director of the Energy Program at Elcano, Iliana Olivié Senior Analyst in International Cooperation and Development at Elcano and Michel Zoghby, independent consultant, for their comments and insights.
 Climate diplomacy can be defined as ‘the interface between national interest debates and international cooperation… the practice and process of creating the international climate change regime and ensuring its effective operation’ (Mabey, Gallagher & Born, 2013, p. 6).
 See IPCC (2000) for a description of the scenarios.
 Other variables include: cultural tensions, resource scarcity, disease and rapid urbanisation of coastal regions.
 For the whole of the EU (but freedom for member states to set their own targets) and with a wait stance on efficiency targets until the Commission Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency is reviewed.
According to the EU Commission proposal for the establishment and operation of a market stability reserve, the reserve ‘represents potentially a significant change to the design and operation of the EU ETS. Early lessons from operating the reserve rules may prove valuable and allow for improvements in the design of the reserve rules. At the same time predictability and stability are important for a successful carbon market. In order to strike the right balance the proposal foresees a review with particular focus on certain reserve parameters by 2026. The proposal also contains provisions aimed at smoothening auctioning supply in the years around transitions between trading phases in cases where the default would otherwise have resulted in sharp changes.
 Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente, La Integración del Cambio Climático en la Cooperación Española al Desarrollo.
 Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente, Proyectos de cooperación.
 Congreso de los Diputados, Proyecto de Ley de la Acción y del Servicio Exterior del Estado.
 Tourism significantly contributes to Spain’s GDP (10.9% in 2012) and employment (11.9% in 2012), see INE (2013).
 Note that the Eurobarometer on climate change also affirms that 57% of Spanish interviewees saw the national government as the institution responsible for addressing climate change (EC, 2011). Additionally, Spanish citizens also recognise their knowledge regarding climate change is low (Arto et al., 2013).
 Just Transition refers to ‘the notion that the transition process to a greener economy has to be inclusive of all stakeholders, and that the unavoidable employment and social costs of the transition have to be shared by all’ (Cunniah, 2010, p. 122).
 ‘Choice editing’ refers to ways in which government shapes behaviour by using different policy instruments, from removing ‘perverse subsidies and taxing unsustainable behaviours to outright bans of unsustainable technologies like the incandescent light bulb’ (Assadourian, 2010, p. 6).
 Flexibility mechanisms currently include three market-based mechanisms (Emissions Trading, Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanism) that conform the carbon market, and joint fulfilment. These mechanisms help countries meet Kyoto Commitments in an efficient way.
 EUROCLIMA ‘is a regional cooperation programme between the European Union and Latin America, focused on climate change. The Programme’s objective is to facilitate the integration of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies and measures into Latin American public development policies and plans’.
 See Elcano Report (2014) for a definition and discussion of the integral system.
 See REMOC for more information on the first meeting held on 26 February 2014.
 According to APPA (2012), the renewable energy sector in Spain amounted to 1% of Spain’s GDP in 2012, it employed 113,899 people, avoided fossil fuel imports of 13.5 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) (saving €2,429 million), avoided the emission of 215,5 tons of CO2 from 2005 to 2012 (saving €3,000 million). In the same period, 2005-2012, the renewables sector avoided the emission of 171,752 tons of NOx and 322,974 tons of SO2.
 The World Academy of Science for the Advancement os Science in developing countries, Science Diplomacy.
 A triple win of ending poverty, shifting to low/zero carbon development and enabling adaptation, disaster risk management and resilience to environmental shocks and stresses.
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