Portugal’s PM António Costa has cancelled his plans to give a speech tomorrow at the opening of global climate conference COP26 in Glasgow.
Instead he will be staying in Portugal – an integral part of the ‘next steps’ before President Marcelo dissolves parliament (believed to be coming after the Council of State taking place on Wednesday).
The PM has made no personal announcement about this change in his diary – but environmental association ZERO has already lamented the decision, albeit admitting it fully understands why he made it.
Accepting his absence is “understandable bearing in mind the situation the country is going through”, ZERO suggests nonetheless that “this is a decisive moment in the struggle against climate change, in which Portugal has played an active part and should assume strong and ambitious leadership at a European level”.
What is at stake by not turning up; by not giving a speech with other prime ministers on the first day of the conference is “the image, reputation and credibility of policies developed in the name of the country”, says the association.
“The subject of climate change and decarbonisation has been one of the great priorities” of Mr Costa. In ZERO’s mindset this is the moment when it “deserves visibility and the possibility of discussions and perspectives with other world leaders, regardless of the government’s immediate future”.
Be that as it may, the PM clearly believes he is needed more at home in the coming week, if not weeks, as his party will be mounting a re-election campaign that results in a ‘reinforced’ majority.
International news agency Reuters has covered the PM’s withdrawal from COP26, describing Portugal as “braced for a potential snap election” following the fall of its proposed budget last Wednesday.
As things stand, environment minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes is due to represent Portugal at COP26, but only on the 8th day of the conference, long after the initial explosion of media coverage.
Mr Matos Fernandes has already spoken of his “pessimism” that COP26 will actually achieve its ambitions (click here).