Portugal’s 11.3% decarbonisation rate not enough to meet Paris Agreement goals

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Introducing Sustainability: Ossian Smyth, TD and PwC Portugal’s Cláudia Coelho
Tackling Sustainability from the ground up

Portugal’s decarbonisation rate of 11.3% in 2020, while commendable, is not sufficient to meet Paris Agreement targets which would require the number to be multiplied by five.

This was one of the conclusions of the Irish-Portuguese Business Network St. Patrick’s Day Sustainability Conference which took place at the Portugal Chamber of Commerce and Industry headquarters (CCIP) in Lisbon and was well attended by IPBN members, industry experts, and special guests from the sector.
In a video message to conference attendees, Ossian Smyth TD, Irish Minister of State with responsibility for Public Procurement and eGovernment sent a pre-recorded message direct from Lisbon’s Irish Embassy in which he introduced the UN Council’s Sustainability goals as an important and achievable set of standards to target through these talks and future actions making use of teamwork, shared strategies, and transparency in innovation between leaders and key players throughout all sectors. “All of this is happening with an unfortunate backdrop of…a war in Ukraine…of Russia’s outrageous and unprovoked campaign in Ukraine and of the suffering that it is bringing”.
The minister cited a recent meeting in Versailles of European leaders discussing what should be done in solidarity with Ukraine while managing the effects of the war on soaring gas and oil prices on the continent, and how best to move away from the current pipeline dependency.
Ossian Smyth, a member of the Green Party cited Ireland’s recent Climate and Action Plan campaign, which includes an ambitious retrofit upgrade program for homes in Ireland to be more sustainable and energy-efficient, in order to reduce Ireland’s emissions by 51% in ten years.
Additionally, there is a campaign to bring fibre-optic broadband to all homes, and directly connect Ireland and Portugal with sub-sea cable, one of the first of many steps the countries are taking together in alignment with sustainable practices that can best benefit our edge countries.
In an interview with IPBN Chair of the Board Aoife Healy (pictured on EB Newsletter), Ossian Smyth, TD cited his background in Computer Science and his work with Microsoft leading him to gain interest in the wider problems in both the city and the environment, at which point he turned his life’s work over to politics.
In terms of taking idealism and turning it into policy, the minister says, “In the past green politics might have been seen as something unusual…now it’s become a lot more mainstream. In essence, it’s not about whether we go green anymore, it’s how we go green”.
To that end, Aoife Healy asked about the decentralisation of business due to remote working brought on by the pandemic, and the minister was generally positive about the implications on family life and the environment, and the expectations of business owners on filling large office campuses to capacity during a 40-hour workweek.
This brings on implications for improvement in terms of rural regeneration and suburban development, while simultaneously putting city centres at risk. “We need more people living in the city centres with offices more spread out. That’s what’s coming for cities, but it is broadly positive”.
Ossian Smith, TD went on to field questions about the circular economy and marrying reuse and recycling with a push for the new, saying “The government can give certainty to businesses about what the policy landscape is going to look like over the next 10 years.” In this sense, businesses will know how to invest, and employees will know how to train for new opportunities. Making sure taxes and incentives are aligned to encourage people to build better habits and business practices in circularity is key, according to the minister, second only to general education and regulation. Governments as a whole will need to work together to ensure change can benefit the businesses and the people they govern.
Cláudia Coelho, Partner at PwC Portugal (pictured) gave an introductory presentation entitled “Take on Tomorrow: Companies’ Responsibility in Carbon Change and Green Energy Transition” beginning with a call to action regarding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions’ direct impact on the planet’s rising temperatures.
This trend will continue if organisations and governments, along with the private sector, do not take an active role in reducing emissions. Cláudia noted that €1,017 billion is the estimated value for Portugal to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050 through initiatives in line with the national and EU commission frameworks, as well as international commitments.
She cited the PwC study, “Net Zero Economy Index,” which concluded that the economy’s decarbonisation rate in 2020 was 2.5% globally and 11.3% in Portugal, noting that these values are not enough to meet the Paris Agreement goals, which would require these numbers to be multiplied by five.
Claudia went on to mention that Portugal, in order to meet its aggressive carbon neutrality by 2050 goals, would have to reduce its GHG emissions by around 85-90%.
Cláudia then laid out the top ten conclusions made at COP26, citing fossil fuels, internal combustion engines and methane gas, the misappropriation of finance, the Race to Zero campaign.

Visit out Sustainability section at www.ireland-portugal.com for more information about the conference and other articles