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Zero looks forward to an environmentally positive 2019

Published on 28/12/2018

In a year full of environmental news and incidents, ZERO has identified some of the key moments that demonstrate the many weaknesses that persist in environment protection.

On January 24, there was serious pollution in the Tejo river causing a thick blanket of foam to form on the river in the Abrantes area, (pictured). This capped more than two years of recurrent pollution in the upper and middle sections of the Tejo. Following the foam episode, more assertive measures were taken by the government to ensure the improvement of water quality. Test results over the next year will show whether this is working.

March was the month in which the Portuguese consumed electricity exclusively from renewable sources. The renewable electricity produced in March (4,812 GWh) exceeded the consumption of Mainland Portugal (4,647 GWh), 103.6% of total.

July 30th was the best day for air quality in the country due to meteorological conditions that dispersed pollutants. Most zones had a “very good” air quality index.

3 to 10 of August The great fire of Monchique, the most destructive in the year, burned 27,000 hectares. Very high temperatures and strong wind made it hard to put out. The fire caused a sharp deterioration in air quality with high particle concentrations recorded in mainland Portugal.

August 4th was the hottest day of the century in mainland Portugal, with an average temperature of 32.4°C and an average maximum temperature of 41.6°C.

The month of August was the warmest ever since records began, in 1931, with an average temperature of 32.4°C. During a heat wave between August 2 and 6, mean values ??of maximum temperature above 40 C were recorded on 2, 3 and 4 of August.

On August 13, the Loulé Administrative and Fiscal Court granted the precautionary measure filed by the Algarve Free Petroleum Platform (PALP) to halt the oil drilling that was planned for September off the coast of Aljezur.

Incomprehensibly, the Portuguese Government decided to appeal the decision, but on October 29 the GALP-ENI consortium gave up the project, a huge environmental victory for the population.

On November 19, a road collapsed at a quarry in Borba and killed five people, even though the council and government knew the road was unsafe.

In the Alentejo, of the 347 licensed quarries, only 30% are being used and about half do not have an environmental and landscape recovery plan, which is mandatory.

In November it became evident that Portugal will not meet its European target for urban waste disposal until 2020, mainly due to the policy of the Ministry of Environment over the last 3 years.

On December 4, the Roadmap for Carbon Neutrality 2050 was presented by the Government. With more ambitious targets than those presented by the European Commission a few days earlier, the road map aims to be a guiding document for national policies that could be adopted in the coming decades, with a view to achieving 100% renewable electricity, the total decarbonisation of transport, including the issues of consumption and waste and a sustainable forest.

The challenges for 2019

The great challenges for 2019 are the adoption of measures aimed at the effective implementation of the Circular Economy and Carbon Neutrality in the coming decades, namely:

 The adoption by the Portuguese Parliament of a Climate Law, which will include the main objectives of the Road Map for Carbon Neutrality 2050, guaranteeing consistency in the policies to be implemented in the near future, regardless of which government is in charge. This regime should be adopted before the next elections and will be another step towards affirming Portugal’s position at the forefront of climate action and the future of humanity.

Substantial changes in waste policy, promoting and encouraging a true Circular economy, aligning national targets with European targets, reducing the shipment of waste to landfill and incineration, and increasing the flow of recycling at national level, including industrial and domestic composting.

Measures to safeguard soils and to foster a resilient and multifunctional forest should also be implemented. The adoption of the Integrated Rural Fire Management Plan should promote governance at all levels of management and society and should be comprehensive enough to allow for new policies for valuing ecosystems and the rural world.

The involvement of all is also necessary in the case of water. Effectively implement the Efficient Water Use Plan, promote safe reuse of treated wastewater, use of grey and rainwater, and to raise awareness to stop waste. The long-awaited publication in the first quarter of the Recycled Water Utilization Regulation could contribute significantly to this paradigm shift.

 Special attention is also paid to the sea. At a time when much is being said about the potential of the Blue Economy, it is essential to ensure that exploitation of the many and varied marine resources does not jeopardise their future viability and will not be a source of serious problems in the future. The Maritime Area Plan should guarantee the protection of ecosystems and coastal populations.