Sustainability in PortugalLocated on the Iberian Peninsula in Western Europe, Portugal was one of the world’s most powerful seafaring nations throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. However, environmental destruction, loss of colonies, war and political instability catalyzed the decline of Portugal’s wealthy status.

In a bid to turn things around, the coastline country has been emphasizing sustainability since 2014. Through the reallocation of resources and renewable energy, Portugal seeks to enhance economic, social and territorial development policies. Here are 10 facts about sustainability in Portugal and its dedication to responsible and sustainable growth.

10 Facts About Sustainability in Portugal

  1. Portugal 2020 is a partnership agreement between Portugal and the European Commission dedicated to sustainable economic and social development. Between 2014 and 2020, the European Commission agreed to allocate 25 billion euros to Portugal. This funding will allow for the stimulation of growth and creation of employment.
  2. Smart, sustainable and inclusive growth is at the center of Portugal 2020. Within the next calendar year, Portugal aims to have a greenhouse gas emission equal to that of the early 2000s. The goal includes having 31 percent of energy come from renewable sources, along with increased exports from the promotion of sustainable development.
  3. Portugal 2020 is designed to have a large impact on social development. This impact includes a 75 percent employment rate, 200,000 fewer people living in poverty, decreased early school dropout levels and a dedication to combating social exclusion.
  4. One improvement stemming from Portugal’s emphasis on sustainability is water quality. Since the beginning of Portugal 2020, 100 percent of urban and rural drinking water and bathing water meets health standards. This is just one way in which civilians are benefiting from the emphasis of sustainability in Portugal.
  5. Another area of improvement is air quality. As of 2019, Portugal has satisfactory air quality with pollution posing little to no risk on human health. However, Portugal still plans to improve its air quality further.
  6. Portugal is on target to hit the goals outlined in Portugal 2020. With the aid of the European Commission, Portugal is set up to meet the economic, environmental and social goals outlined in the partnered agreement.
  7. Portugal’s goals for after Portugal 2020 include decarbonization. By 2050, the country aims to be carbon neutral, which means they will not release any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Aside from utilizing environmentally-friendly methods of energy production, another goal is transportation reform. Portugal’s plan includes replacing more than 500 buses with electric powered vehicles and investing in two new underground networks. Increasing access to quality public transportation will hopefully have a drastic impact on the use of carbon emission via cars.
  8. Solar power is another focus of Portugal 2020. The Portuguese Minister of Environment believes the country can harvest more than 10 percent of energy production within the next five years. Currently, Portugal harvests more wind than solar energy. However, this other prospect for sustainable energy sets new goals for the future and more opportunity for job creation.
  9. Portugal has embarked on a green growth agenda. The country aims to be a national leader in sustainable and economic growth. Portugal’s Commitment for Green Growth targets a low-carbon economy, high efficiency in resources and more jobs centered around sustainability. This sets a high standard for countries wanting to build up their economies in a sustainable way.
  10. A 2030 agenda will outline new goals for a sustainable and inclusive Portugal. This new plan aims to focus on issues pertaining to peace, security, good governance, increased emphasis on fragile states, conservation and sustainable use of oceans. It also aims to focus on human rights, including gender equality. Although the seaside country will have many successes to celebrate in 2020, the Portuguese government is already preparing its next steps to keep driving forward sustainability.

Portugal 2020 and other national sustainability goals highlight the country’s commitment to investing in the future. Focusing on resourcefully building its economy, sustainability in Portugal also focuses on improving societal issues, such as poverty and education.

Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Portugal
With the passage of the European Drinking Water Directive 98/83/CE by the European Commission (E.C.) in 1998, Portugal has aimed to make 99% of its drinking water safe for human consumption. This has been done in order to protect human health from the adverse effects of water contamination as originally envisioned by the Directive.

It may seem like an ambitious plan, but water quality in Portugal has seen steady improvements. Prior to the directive, drinking water regulations in Portugal were controlled with laws that also governed the usage of both urban water and industrial water.

Today, a so-called “integrated risk analysis” approach is utilized to control the levels of pesticide in tap water, taking into account variables such as agricultural practices and type of water source that affect the presence of pesticides in drinking water.

Non-compliance with drinking water quality in Portugal is corrected by requiring the drinking water suppliers to not only register the causes for the possible health risks but also incorporate remedial actions with verification analyses.

This way, the Water and Waste Services Regulation Authority, known as ERSAR, and pertinent health authorities can apparently evaluate the water with greater immediacy. ERSAR was created in 1990 as a national regulatory agency to monitor water efficiency and ensure compliance.

However, this aim to make drinking water completely safe has not been dutifully followed in the past. Portugal initially failed to follow some of the parameters of the Directive in managing urban wastewater in 2007, forcing the E.C. to refer Portugal to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

As an example, the E.C. noted that although Portugal had taken some steps to improve water treatment plants, almost 50% of water supply zones did not comply with the limits on total coliforms, while 20% of the zones did not comply with the fecal coliforms parameter.

Portugal’s water sources mainly include the rivers of Tagus, Douro, Guadiana and Minho. More than half of these water sources have significant levels of pollution.

In 2015, the director of ERSAR’s water quality department referred to the annual Quality Control of Water for Human Consumption report, stating that “we continue to be able to drink tap water in Portugal without worry and, despite already being close to perfection, the safe water percentage continues to rise, from 98.2% in 2013 to 98.4% in 2014.”

In the 1990s, Portugal could only guarantee about 50% of its water to be safe for human consumption. Even that came at a great disparity between rural and urban areas.

According to a report by European Environmental Agency in 2013, Portugal was one of the eight European countries listed as having an “excellent” water quality with 87% of the country’s bathing waters meeting environmental standards.

Luís Simas, the head of Drinking Water Quality Department at ERSAR summarized in a Regulatory Model Report that ensuring good water quality in Portugal in the future can be accomplished through “the national implementation of the water safety planning approach and the application of a certification scheme for all products in contact with drinking water.”

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr