Draft proposal on how to drastically reduce carbon emissions presented less than two weeks before parliament is due to be dissolved ahead of a general election
By Isla Binnie
MADRID, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Spain's government presented a draft proposal on how to drastically reduce carbon emissions on Friday, less than two weeks before parliament is due to be dissolved ahead of a general election that may nix its chances of becoming law.
The package aims to make Spain carbon neutral by 2050, through measures including phasing out coal and nuclear power generation in favour of renewables and making sure all new cars are emission-free by 2040.
The ruling Socialists have emphasised their green ambitions since taking power last summer, promising support for renewable energy generation and passing measures aimed at cooling Europe's fourth-highest electricity prices.
But the long-promised draft has reached parliament two months before an April 28 snap election that Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was forced to call after a spat with his regional separatist partners.
Presenting the package, Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said it was worthwhile to forge ahead.
"This is not pie in the sky," she told a news conference. "There is no reason for us to delay this debate. I am convinced that whoever (is in government), this will be approved and broadly supported by all Spaniards and political forces."
A shift away from fossil fuels necessitates deep change and hefty investment across Europe to meet national and regional objectives for renewable generation while guaranteeing the lights stay on.
Sanchez has said implementing the carbon-reduction plans would require 200 billion euros ($227 billion) of total investment in the next decade, 47 billion euros of which he said would come from the public sector.
By favouring cheaper, renewable generation, the package would reduce Spaniards' steep electricity bills, before taxes, by 12 percent by 2030, the energy ministry calculated.
An energy ministry source said the government expects investment in renewable generation projects, which are set for a record year in 2019, will not need much public money, but works to increase the energy efficiency of the housing stock would.
The package includes the draft law, a national climate proposal all European countries have to send to Brussels, and a strategy for offsetting job losses in polluting industries.
The government submitted the national plan on Friday to European authorities who will start assessing it.
The plan foresees the weight of coal - which fired 13.5 percent of mainland Spain's electricity last year - dwindling although perhaps not entirely disappearing from the energy mix by 2030, the draft document showed.
"We do not expect to force closures, we believe that the companies will naturally stop their coal businesses," the ministry source said, adding the plan envisaged incentives to close coal plants.
Meanwhile, nuclear plants, which provided just over 20 percent of Spain's electricity in 2018, would close gradually in order of age between 2025 and 2035, the source added.
Ribera said the obligation for cars to be emission-free did not imply a prohibition of any type of vehicle, but she did not explain how such a result would be possible without a ban.
A previous draft of the law which said new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars would not be allowed in Spain from 2040 caused some consternation in the industry.
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(Additional reporting by Jose Elias Rodriguez and Belen Carreno; Editing by Susan Fenton)
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