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Portugal is “on the frontlines” of climate action, says Minister of the Sea at Faro UN panel

frontline environmentThis morning in Faro Ricardo Serrão Santos, Minister of the Sea, issued journalists and environment experts with a stark statement on the fight against environmental issues, saying that Portugal is “on the frontlines”.

More than 250 global experts on climate change gathered earlier today at the University of the Algarve (UAlg), to discuss a series of reports that will provide the government with an assessment of the impacts of climate change on Portuguese ecosystems and human activity.

Organized by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the meeting brought together experts from 60 countries that will be in the Algarve’s capital until Saturday, February 1st.

At the opening session, which took place this morning, in the Grande Auditorium of the University of the Algarve, the Minister of the Sea, Ricardo Serrão Santos expressed: “Portugal has in its government program carried out action against climate change, and contributed to a better planet”, which, in the coming years he hopes will translate “into reforms that will change energy policies, in cities, in agriculture and in forests”.

The minister explained that in his opinion, despite Portugal not having a significant weight on the global geostrategic scale, and the actions of other great nations, the country must set an example. “This is a problem that requires the commitment of both the large and small. Portugal has excellent software and intelligence to actually seek to intervene in global changes, negotiate with other countries and lead the world on the right path”, he argued.

Regarding the protection of sea ecosystems, Mr. Santos stated that the government “is particularly concerned with the problems that the oceans suffer. And it’s not just the issue of plastics. The sea is more acidic, it has less oxygen, and suffers from changing currents. We have to better forecast these scenarios for the better management of these environments.”

“We also have a program for a network of marine protected areas and policies for marine reforestation, because at this moment it is necessary to be more precautionary in protecting these habitats. We have to make sure that all we do in the ocean has no serious impact,” he added.

Despite the progress which the government have made so far on the legislative scale, there is still much to be done on a regional scale. “Big new policies of climate action have to be made in the reform of our society, with policies of circular economy, decarbonisation, and energy reform”.

When asked about the importance of this UN panel meeting in the Algarve, Ricardo Serrão Santos said that “Portugal is indeed interested in hosting substantive working groups such as the IPCC, with great syntheses on knowledge worldwide. In fact, the policies we need are not only made between scientists and politicians, they require society, industries, non-governmental organizations and they will all have access to the report that is being prepared.”

The minister also covered recent controversy, not hiding the fact that “some countries intend to leave the Paris agreement, which was a tough point to reach. It is an agreement that has very important commitments and contains opportunities to reverse, or not to let the planet’s temperature rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius. Some countries are resigning. Portugal and the European Union are strong in this process and I think we are at the forefront. We have to commit ourselves to national, regional and local governance strategies, in the context of climate change mitigation.”

Asked about the current position of the United States of America and their specific withdrawal from the agreement, Mr. Serrão Santos admitted “they are not currently on board. But American science is strong and is not complacent with some attitudes. In addition, there are several states that have differing policies. It is good not to fall into a global pessimism, and believe that we are going to win this challenge”.