“Due to its geographical characteristics, Portugal is among the European countries with the greatest vulnerability to these changes”, stated environmental organisation ZERO in a press release to Lusa, adding that: “in Portugal, climate change should be a national priority”.

To justify this stark warning the association highlighted how “the Mediterranean region (and its intersection with the Atlantic) presents itself as a ‘hotspot’, that is, a geographical area of greater vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change”.

According to ZERO, among these effects, are desertification, drought, forest fires, coastline erosion due to the rising sea levels and increased storms, decreased agricultural productivity, difficulty in maintaining agricultural systems that are more sensitive to limitations or traditional production, the spread of vector-borne diseases and air pollution.

The situation in Portugal “is aggravated by exposure to extreme meteorological events, such as heat waves combined with droughts associated with conditions of enormous reduction in humidity and rising sea levels (factors that cause potential floods)”. Having said that, ZERO understands that “it is urgent to adopt immediate mitigation actions, which fight the causes, and adaptation, which minimise the impacts, with a view to a carbon neutral and climate-resilient society”.

The comments from ZERO came following the report of the first working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The association stressed that “the document presented the most severe warning ever from the world scientific community about the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and consequent climate change, before the planet reaches a temperature increase of more than 1.5 ºC”.

In the European context, it was emphasised that not only “the Mediterranean region presents great vulnerabilities and less opportunities to deal with climate change”, but “it is one of the most vulnerable to climate change”. Specifically, it is expected that this region will experience heat waves, droughts and forest fires even worse than those experienced before, with an impact on agriculture, fishing and tourism. Some sub-regions may have agricultural production reduced by two-thirds and the area of burned forest tripled. It is also estimated that tens of millions of people are affected by increased water shortages, risks of coastal flooding and potentially deadly heat waves.

Portugal’s commitment

Meanwhile, the Minister for the Environment has reiterated the commitment of Portugal to be a carbon neutral country by 2050.

João Matos Fernandes told Lusa that the report from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) represents “a warning” which is the pace at which global warming is happening and the consequences it is causing. “If it’s true, and it’s true, it [report] comes at the right time because we are three months away from the Climate Conference”, six years after the Paris summit, “and it’s time for the World to make the commitment that Europe has already assumed and in which Portugal is heading to be carbon neutral in 2050”, he stressed.

He added: “I will say that more than saving the planet, we are saving ourselves as a species. In fact, we are not able to withstand this increase in temperature and what it causes on a daily basis”. And, for that reason, he defended, “the economy has to grow in a completely different way and with investments that are focused on sustainability with the certainty that these investments will generate, perhaps, even more wealth than traditional investments”.

“Portugal has taken a path that, obviously must always be accelerated and which is obviously not free from flaws, but not only in terms of commitment, we were the first in the world to say we are going to be carbon neutral by 2050”, he stressed.

To highlight work being undertaken in Portugal the minister recalled that 38 percent of the investments foreseen in the Recovery and Resilience Plan are dedicated to climate action. He also drew attention to the support that is being given to families, adding that nearly 17,000 have already submitted applications to make their buildings more efficient in terms of energy. “But nothing is ever too much when it comes to investing in saving ourselves as a species on the planet,” he reiterated.