“There is no Portugal B, just as there is no planet B”. This was the stark message by Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa during his speech at the UN Climate Change Summit which took place in New York on Monday (September 23).
“Time has been wasted. Complacency and indifference are no longer tolerable,” said President Marcelo, explaining that Portugal was one of the first countries to commit to achieving “carbon neutrality by 2050”.
Stressing that the next decade is “critical”, the president said that Portugal is now trying to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030.
He also revealed that the country wants to reach a 35% energy efficiency target in the next decade and have 80% of its energy come from renewable sources whilst also “completely eliminating the use of coal”.
Marcelo added that the country has imposed a levy on carbon, gradually eliminated subsidies for fossil fuels and started restoring degraded marine ecosystems.
“Our goal is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 with the help of citizens and the private sector. We want to preserve natural habitats and biodiversity whilst also creating jobs, and it is up to politicians to set the example,” said Marcelo, adding that Portugal should not allow critical voices to say “we failed at this crucial time. I’m sure about this, we will not fail”.
Portugal’s efforts to fight climate change were praised by Secretary General of the UN António Guterres, who was the country’s prime minister between 1995 and 2002.
“For me, as a Portuguese citizen, it makes me proud to see Portugal has been at the forefront in terms of climate change,” said the secretary general. “The time is now to act.”
Citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he explained that “any temperature rise above 1.5 degrees will lead to major and irreversible damage to the ecosystems that support us.
“Science tells us that on our current path, we face at least 3-degrees Celsius of global heating by the end of the century.
“The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win. This is not a climate talk summit. We have had enough talk,” he added.