Despite Action, Spain's Carbon Footprint Increases For the last ten years, Spain has said all the right things about controlling its carbon emissions in the face of the looming climate crisis. It has even taken concrete action: A new law demands every new house in Spain must have a solar water heater. The country also has made massive investments in solar power plants, wind farms and public transport. However in the last ten years Spain's carbon footprint has increased by more than 30 percent.
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Despite Action, Spain's Carbon Footprint Increases

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Despite Action, Spain's Carbon Footprint Increases

Despite Action, Spain's Carbon Footprint Increases

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Now, to France's neighbor, Spain. With its sunshine and windswept plains, the country is well suited to harness renewable energy. For the past decade, the country has tried to do just that, helped by an infusion of government subsidies. Despite those efforts, Spain's greenhouse gas emissions are still on the rise. Jerome Socolovsky reports from Madrid.

JEROME SOCOLOVSKY: Sebastian La Rouso(ph) knows where there's money to be made in Spain. Sitting in a Madrid café, this Argentine-born 38-year-old says he's a partner in half a dozen businesses here, but he made a killing in solar panels.

SEBASTIAN LA ROUSO: (Foreign language spoken)

SOCOLOVSKY: Spain used to be the world's hottest solar market. Electricity from solar panels was bought for up to five times the market price and all new homes were required to have them. But last year, the government slashed the subsidies and now La Rouso says he doesn't have a single order. That boom did make Spain the leading installer of solar cells in the world, but all those panels still produce less than one percent of the country's electricity needs. Spain's investment in wind power was a bit more successful.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

LA ROUSO: (Singing) I crossed mountains, the green light valley...

SOCOLOVSKY: The office of Spain's Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Teresa Ribera, was buzzing in the days leading up to the Copenhagen Summit. She gives two reasons for the rise in emissions. First, she says, it was the 10 percent increase in Spain's population in the last decade mainly due to immigration.

TERESA RIBERA: The second thing, and this was a great mistake that we learned later, was that the economic policies were based in cheap access to energy, so to have competitive advantages for our economy.

SOCOLOVSKY: Many experts say that the main cause of the increase in emissions was that Spain had one of Europe's biggest economic booms during that period. It came with a rapid suburban sprawl and sparked a love affair with the SUV among Spaniards, which now zoom along the country's many new highways.

(SOUNDBITE OF VEHICLES)

SOCOLOVSKY: And yet, there has been virtually no debate here about these vehicles impact on the environment.

MIGUEL DUBUISSON: (Spanish spoken).

SOCOLOVSKY: Dubuisson runs this operation for the National Electricity Network. He says it cuts carbon emissions by giving priority to renewable energy sources while letting carbon-emitting power plants meet the rest of the demand.

DUBUISSON: (Spanish spoken)

SOCOLOVSKY: Using this control center, we can guarantee an even supply of power, even though renewable energies are not as reliable as conventional sources, he says.

SOCOLOVSKY: For NPR News, I'm Jerome Socolovsky in Madrid.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: Later today, you can go to our news blog, The Two-Way, at npr.org. We'll have a live chat with scientists in Antarctica to get a penguin's eye view on the impact climate change.

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