Portuguese parliament votes to increase greenhouse gas emissions less than it could

Portuguese parliament voted against cancelling oil and gas contracts but voted in favour of the suspension of the new oil drill for exploration in 2018.

After years of popular struggle, several petitions and various campaigns against fossil fuel extraction in Portugal, on December 21st, following a petition delivered by ASMAA, the parliament voted several proposals. The bottom line: the deputies agreed to slightly and partially reduce the increase in greenhouse gas emissions in Portugal.

Background

Seven parties are represented in the Portuguese parliament: the right-wing opposition parties PSD (Social Democrat Party) and CDS-PP (People’s Party), the minority government of PS (Socialist Party), the left-wing parties BE (Left Bloc), PCP (Portuguese Communist Party) and PEV (Ecologist Party “The Greens”), and one deputy of PAN (People Animals Nature).

The petition discussed in the plenary session was against the first ever offshore oil and gas exploration in Portugal planned in the Atlantic coast with the consortium of ENI/GALP. A recent request by the companies to extend the deadlines of their three contracts made it into a burning topic as GALP had announced in their shareholders meeting that they would drill near Aljezur in Spring 2018.

Proposals and votes

BE and PAN had a joint proposal, based on an argument about sound climate change policies, recommending the government to

  • not extend ENI/GALP’s contract in the Atlantic coast
  • terminate all oil and gas contracts, without compensations,
  • not permit any new fossil fuel concessions during its mandate, and
  • order a detailed study about the composition and extractive methods involved in the natural gas imported through Sines port.

The parliament voted against this proposal: BE, PAN and PEV voted in favour. PS voted against. PSD and CDS-PP abstained. (PCP voted against 2nd and 3rd points, and in favour of the others.)

PEV had a proposal, based on an argument about environmental sustainability, recommending the government to

  • make the most effort to stop all fossil fuel contracts in the country, and
  • not extend ENI/GALP’s contract in the Atlantic coast.

The parliament voted against this proposal: BE, PAN, PEV and PCP voted in favour; PS voted against; PSD and CDS-PP abstained.

Finally, PCP, with an argument about public interest and a demand for a more participatory process, proposed

  • the suspension of all fossil fuel exploration activities in Aljezur, until the finalization and public discussion of the assessment of environmental impacts and impacts on other economic activities.*

Deputies of BE, PCP, PEV and PAN, and some of PS deputies voted in favour of this proposal, while the rest of PS as well as PSD and CDS-PP abstained. Thus, it was approved.

From a climate perspective, the result translates to “continue increasing emissions, but not as fast as one could.”

Talking the talk

It is at moments like this – when there is a clear Yes/No question about a particular policy – that the real meaning of papers and declarations get revealed.

Just last year, the Prime Minister António Costa announced that Portugal would be carbon-neutral in 2050 (a commitment we could confirm only after his death). It was also last year that new gas pipeline projects were announced. This year, the government declared that all coal power plants would be shut down by 2030 (meaning, surely not during their mandate), a less ambitious measure than the one of the previous right-wing austerity government. Finally, next year, the government will organize a mobility summit in partnership with Volkswagen, a summit without any reference to the decaying public transportation infrastructures.

We are amazed by how little action the government is capable of fitting into so many promises.


* In the Alentejo basin, there exist three contracts of ENI/GALP. This proposal seems to refer to only one of them: the one which includes Aljezur, where ENI/GALP wanted to drill in 2018.

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