Portugal’s carbon emissions reach record high in 2017

New “dramatic” data shows that the amount of carbon emissions in Portugal reached a new record high in 2017, says environmental association Zero.

The unprecedented level of emissions was caused by the country’s drought, forest fires and the use of coal in electricity production, said Zero president Francisco Ferreira.

“It is a record that we do not want to see repeated in the future,” he told Lusa news agency.

In 2017, the consequences of climate change led to an intense drought and two major fires as well as the production of electricity using coal at the Sines and Pego power stations.

“Nearly 540,000 hectares of forest area burned down in 2017, well above what was registered in 2003 (471,000) and 2005 (347,000),” explained Ferreira, adding that the country’s soil and forests have a lot of stored carbon which is released into the atmosphere during fires.

The areas that were destroyed have also become unable to “counteract the emissions” that result from human activity such as energy production, agriculture and waste management, the association president said.

But there were other “unfortunate records” in 2017, which was the year with the highest amount of emissions associated to the use of soil and forest since records started being kept in 1990. Positive emissions of 7.2 million of carbon dioxide equivalent were registered, the association said.

It was also the third year with the highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions behind only 2003 and 2005.

2017 was also the worst year of the decade in terms of emissions associated to the production of electricity using coal at the Sines and Pego power stations – around 12.2 million tons of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere.

To change this worrying tendency, Francisco Ferreira believes there are two “absolutely crucial priorities: taking concrete steps to safeguard the soil and foster forest ecosystem resilience, and stop using coal to produce electricity way before 2030”.

Improving the country’s “energy efficiency and using renewable energy sources” are also important aspects of what Zero believes should be Portugal’s strategy for the future.

Ferreira hopes that 2017’s “sad records” will not be broken but warns that “unfortunately, the tendency is for droughts to become more frequent and dramatic”. He also says that if an alternative form to produce electricity is not found, “there will continue to be a large amount of gas emissions.”

Thus, it is “fundamental to do everything to ensure we do not repeat what happened in 2017”.

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