FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
- Adam McGibbon, adam.mcgibbon [at] priceofoil.org
- Pedro Zorrilla Miras, pzmiras [at] greenpeace.org
Spain’s export credit agency restricts fossil fuel finance, but leaves major gas loopholes
- Spain has released a new policy for CESCE, the Spanish government export credit agency, restricting public finance for oil and gas
- Spain is a major public financier of international fossil fuel projects, providing USD 2.1 billion a year between 2018-20 to fossil fuels, and USD 47 million per year to clean energy, or 97.8% to fossil fuels and just 2.2% to clean energy.
- Loopholes include support for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) processing, transportation and storage, as well as a widely-defined loophole for gas power that could mean gas power plants could be approved in most developing countries
- Policy falls short of a major pledge Spain made at the 2021 COP26 UN climate summit to stop financing fossil fuel projects.
Spain has joined a growing list of countries implementing new policies to restrict international finance for oil and gas to implement a key climate pledge. At the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in 2021, alongside 38 other countries and institutions, Spain pledged to end international public finance for fossil fuels by the end of 2022 and shift this money to clean energy. However, Spain’s new policy (English translation here) released by the Spanish export credit agency CESCE falls short of the Spanish Government’s commitment to end all financing for fossil fuels with only limited exemptions in line with the 1.5°C climate goal.
If all signatories follow through on their pledges with integrity, this will directly shift USD 28 billion a year from fossil fuels to clean energy and help shift even larger sums of public and private money away from investments in climate-harming fossil fuels. Spain would have accounted for a significant share of this shift if it had delivered on its pledge with integrity. Analysis shows that from 2018-20, Spain provided an average per year of USD 2.1 billion to international fossil fuel projects and only USD 47 million to clean energy – 2.2% of its support went to clean energy and 97.8% of its support went to fossil fuels. This is one of the most lopsided fossil-to-clean-energy ratios amongst high-income countries. The vast majority of Spain’s international energy finance came via CESCE.
Although the CESCE policy ends support for oil and gas extraction and refining (coal support was already prohibited), the policy contains a loophole that allows liquefaction, regasification, transportation, processing, storage, and distribution of Liquified Natural Gas to continue. This loophole is of particular significance given that LNG infrastructure receives the largest share of international public finance globally.
LNG is fossil gas that is cooled to -162°C, in order to reduce its volume and allow it to be shipped across oceans, to new markets, where it is again regasified. This process makes gas more widely available geographically, creating new markets, creating more fossil fuel demand, and enabling more upstream gas development. Like other forms of fossil gas, LNG is damaging for the climate, leaking methane throughout the supply chain, which is 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it is emitted. But LNG also requires extra energy-intensive processing, adding a significant amount to the full lifecycle emissions of producing and using gas.
Recognizing these impacts, the International Energy Agency (IEA) net-zero scenario that maintains a 50% chance to limit global warming to 1.5°C not only has no investments in new oil fields, but also not in gas fields, nor in new LNG infrastructure.
In addition, the CESCE policy allows continued support for gas power, where gas power plants can still be approved in low-income countries if they meet a number of conditions, including fitting into the climate plans of a developing country’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), the climate plans that countries must submit to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In reality, gas power will fit into the NDCs of most developing countries, despite the climate harm and fossil fuel lock-in they will cause. Science suggests that emissions from already-existing fossil fuel power infrastructure puts the 1.5C target in jeopardy. In addition, gas is not a solution to the energy access problem in low-income countries. Of the 800 million people worldwide who are lacking electricity, 85% live in rural areas where distributed renewable energy is, in most cases, better able to provide electrification at a lower cost.
All in all, the CESCE policy is not up to the standards of the policies released by fellow signatories, including France, the UK, and Canada.
Although the policy contains a commitment to reduce CESCE’s exposure to the hydrocarbon industry by 75% by 2035 (from 2020 levels), no milestones are provided between now and 2035 that will guide the exposure reduction and this 2035 target does not guarantee that no climate-incompatible gas expansion would be financed in the meantime.
Pedro Zorrilla Miras, Climate Change Campaigner at Greenpeace Spain, said:
“The alleged climate leadership of the government of President Sánchez vanishes when we see how Spain wants to continue financing gas infrastructure in the world. It is absolutely unacceptable to fund climate catastrophe with money from taxpayers.”
Adam McGibbon, Public Finance Strategist at Oil Change International, said:
“This new policy breaks Spain’s promise to stop funding fossils. Although it restricts CESCE’s oil and gas finance, it leaves significant loopholes. Scientists are clear that there is no room for new LNG infrastructure if we are to have a chance of meeting climate goals, but CESCE’s policy gives the green light for public finance to LNG to continue. Spain can still keep its promise, but it must close the LNG and gas power loopholes in CESCE’s policy.”
- The Glasgow Statement was launched at the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 26) in Glasgow. The 39 signatories (full list here) aim to “end new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022” and instead “prioritise our support fully towards the clean energy transition.”
- Oil Change International has compiled this implementation tracker that outlines country-level progress on implementation of the Glasgow Statement, which will be regularly updated in the lead up to and during COP27.
- Oil Change International’s Public Finance for Energy Database shows that G20 countries and the major multilateral development banks (MDBs) provided at least USD 55 billion per year in international public finance for oil, gas, and coal projects between 2019 and 2021, almost two times more than their support for renewable energy.
- In its latest report, the IPCC highlighted public finance for fossil fuels as ‘severely misaligned’ with reaching the Paris goals, but that if shifted, it could play a critical role in closing the mitigation finance gap, enabling emission reductions and a just transition. More background on the role international public finance plays in shaping energy systems is available in this Oil Change International briefing.
- A legal opinion by Professor Jorge E Viñuales from the University of Cambridge and Barrister Kate Cook of Matrix Chambers argues that governments and public finance institutions that continue to finance fossil fuel infrastructure are potentially at risk of climate litigation.
- In May 2022, 122 civil society organizations sent letters to signatories to the Glasgow Statement calling on them to meet their commitment. Letters to Germany, Italy, Canada, France, the US, and other non-G7 countries can be found here.