Spain saw its gross domestic product (GDP) grow by 4.2% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2023, while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas production by 1.86%. This makes Spain’s economy the fastest growing in the EU among countries that managed to reduce pollution.
This is according to data published by Eurostat on Wednesday. While there were countries that surpassed Spain in reducing their pollution – including greenhouse gases, these countries grew less in the first quarter of this year.
This is the case for Bulgaria and Greece. Despite seeing their production of environmentally damaging elements fall by 15.2% and 8.34% respectively, they saw their economies perform worse than Spain’s. Growth there is less than half that in Spain: 2.28% in Bulgaria and 2.07% in Greece. Spain also outperformed the EU as a whole. The EU limited its emissions by 2.93%, but GDP growth was almost four times lower than in Spain.
Major European economies
Among the major European economies, the case of Germany stands out. Despite reducing its emissions of harmful gases by 0.4% more than Spain, it suffered from the stagnation of its economy in the first quarter of the year. France not only grew four times less than Spain but reduced its emissions of molecules similar to CO2 by 0.8%.
In Spain, all socio-economic sectors emitted 77 million tons of toxic gases at the beginning of this year. This is 8% less than in the first quarter of 2019. Energy demand has fallen due to high electricity and gas prices, and this has reduced economic activity.
Eurostat does not provide detailed country-by-country data on which sectors contributed most and which least to these emissions. What is known at European level is which economic sectors were responsible for most of the 940 million tons of pollutants.
These are ‘households’ (24%), ‘manufacturing industry’ (20%), ‘electricity and gas supply’ (19%), ‘agriculture’ (13%), followed by ‘transport and storage’ (10%).
Compared to the first quarter of 2022, published data shows emissions fell in five of the nine named economic sectors. The largest decrease was recorded in ‘electricity and gas supply’, which fell by 12.3%. The sector in which CO2-equivalent gas diffusion increased the most was ‘transport and storage’ (+7.2%).
Record investment needed to meet climate targets
According to the New Economics Foundation, Europe would need around €855 billion a year in private and public capital to achieve the highest emission reduction scenario. These targets are in line with the Paris Agreement of 1.5°C temperature control and 65% reduction of polluting emissions by 2030.
So far, spending has been insufficient to meet the goals of the European Green Pact. The European Central Bank indicated in a recent study that environmental investment in the EU averaged about 0.15% of GDP in 2019, compared to the 3.7% a year that would be needed to meet the European Commission’s climate targets – €520 billion, 45% of which is public money.