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.


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.

Climate deniers vs. Climate realists: Conformism is not fashionable anymore. – Sinan Eden

Social equity activists divide into two: climate deniers and climate realists.

By climate deniers, I mean not only the people who deny the scientific evidence on climate change, but also those who accept the facts yet refuse their meaning. And it seems to me that this second kind of deniers lock the left into a political conformism with far reaching consequences.

The story so far

You may have heard of the destructive floods in Bangladesh, exceptionally strong typhoons in the Philippines, unprecedented droughts in Australia, pervasive wildfires in Russia, worldwide massive biodiversity losses, and hurricanes in North America.* You also may have heard of scientists commenting that the strength and frequency of such devastating events will multiply as global temperatures rise.flood

The news is that these observed impacts are due to a 0.85°C increase in temperature compared to pre-industrial levels, and – embrace yourselves – we are on a path to 3.6°C by the end of this century. In short, material conditions for human survival are worsening and will get even worse in the business as usual scenario.

But this was not the bad news.

Bad News: Urgency

The bad news is that there are tipping points in the Earth systems that will accelerate warming and push us down the cliff. These ‘positive feedback mechanisms’ add an extra parameter to any struggle: a point of no return, a moment after which social equity turns materially impossible.

The worse news is that this tipping point lies somewhere around 2°C warming. Unless we make urgent, substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we will face what many climate scientists call “the end of the world as we know it.” This means a world in which natural ecosystems cannot support the basic needs of civilization such as freshwater, agriculture and infrastructure services.tipping

The maths is clear: We must leave at least 80% of all fossil fuel reserves under ground and we must reduce global emissions by at least %60 per cent in only 35 years.

These are the physical constraints of our struggle.

As Naomi Klein put it, “What climate does is provide the parameters for these [social justice] movements to work together. The parameters are that we’re on a deadline and, as a writer, I really appreciate deadlines. Things don’t get done without deadlines.”

Now the worst news is that the huge majority of the left is used to not working with deadlines.

Think about it: When we shout “The struggles continues.”, the underlying assumption is that the struggle can continue ad infinitum. When a political leader says “We will bring back health care and education for all.”, s/he doesn’t really tell us when. The narrative is that we will win one day in an unspecified future, and then that would legitimize all our previous resistance as a prelude to victory.

This is indeed really comforting. It is the business as usual for social movements. Business continues as it had for centuries, and social movements continue to resist as they do. Sometimes we win a bit, and sometimes they win a bit. It is a dynamic balance in which everyone has a function for the sustenance of the system.

But here’s the deal: You may have mixed feelings about your “country with future” or “future with dignity” or whatever you call it. You may not agree whether to negotiate, re-negotiate, restructure, re-restructure or cancel the debt. What climate science tells you is that you will have to do all those things you would like to do while reducing emissions by two thirds, and do all of that during your own political lifetime.

Good news: Climate Realism

The good news is that international climate justice movement is building up. After the Peoples’ Climate March in New York last September that mobilized half a million people worldwide, 2015 is becoming a year of mass mobilizations.

On May 30/31 we saw climate actions in 30+ countries and 100+ cities, including Lisbon and Faro.

After a next stop in September 26/27, we will be in Paris in December for COP-21 where a new climate agreement will be finalized.

We have three possibilities:

  • The optimistic one: They repeat Copenhagen and fail to write down any agreement.
  • The pessimistic one: They do write up with an agreement, which would further commercialize forests and the atmosphere, increase the use of bio-fuels and geo-engineering methods, while not touching fossil fuels or climate debt issues. (The negotiations in Bonn reached a provisional text that mentions fossil fuels only twice, and in both cases related to subsidies only.)
  • The climate-realistic one: We repeat Seattle in Paris, we the 99% come with our agenda and priorities, we set the political power free from corporations before they lock us in to 4°C warming.

The better news is that this is a big opportunity to revive all social movements as a/the real solution to injustice, inequality and poverty. The climate dimension is the “call for the offensive” for all the left.

It is not enough any more to “defend the rights of the people”; we must reclaim, expand and deepen them. And we have to do it now.

Climate science enlightens the path for a sustainable and just future by turning the spotlight to the choice between socialism and barbarism – a choice that will be made in a few decades.

Now the best news is we can have a test-drive here in Portugal as elections approach. Put aside the parties who already identify themselves as the representatives of the ruling class**, we have a very concrete, testable question for those who claim to defend us: What is your master plan for completely transforming the society in 30 years? What is your calendar to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds in five years?

Or in short: Are you serious about changing the world, or are you a conformist climate denier?

This is the question that in a few years will abruptly re-shape all the political landscape.


* I was told that people would not relate to climate change if I refer to distant lands. It is ironic because Europeans literally do not relate to climate change while the victims are in front of their eyes – especially when some ‘alien’ boats are captured in the Mediterranean for security reasons. So I was talked into referring to the unprecedented sea level rise particularly in Aveiro, heavy rains followed by inundations of the city center in Lisbon, and forest fires that recently raised strong public concern. There you have it…rossio inundado

** The government recently released a “green growth” plan which claims to “decrease” carbon emissions from 68Mt to 68-72Mt in five years?!

A Febre do Metano – João Vinagre

Quando se fala em aquecimento global, o que nos vêm á cabeça muito devido á informação que vamos recebendo, é o Dióxido de Carbono (CO2). Mas na verdade outro gás é igualmente responsável, se não até mais, pelo buraco na camada de ozono, esse gás é o Metano.

O Biologista evolucionário Robert Howard e o engenheiro civil e ambientalista Anthony Ingraffea divulgaram num estudo apresentado no jornal Climatic Change que os poços de Fracking (fractura Hidráulica) perdem 40% a 60% mais de Metano que os poços convencionais de gás natural, que é maioritariamente libertado quando são retirados os fluidos utilizados na operação de perfuração do poço e armazenados em grandes lagos ou tanques. O Metano, molécula por molécula cria cerca de 20 vezes mais aquecimento atmosférico que o CO2, a diferença é que o CO2 pode durar mais 15 a 70 anos que o Metano na atmosfera antes de desaparecer naturalmente. Num estudo científico tirou-se a conclusão que o Metano em 2050 contribuirá para quase 50% dos gases efeito de estufa, pouco mais de 20% serão de operações de gás natural. 20110126-natural-gas-flaringNeste momento a principal fuga de metano pela indústria petrolífera vêm dos gasodutos (fugas, derrames, dispositivos de controlo de pressão). Outro estudo publicado no jornal The Guardian, diz que o Metano dentro de 100 anos será 34 vezes mais potente que o CO2 para a subida do aquecimento global, e que num período inicial de 20 anos essa diferença será de 86 vezes. Noutro estudo da Academia Nacional de Ciências dos EUA, até as explorações de gás pelos métodos “tradicionais” resulta na libertação de metano mais elevada do que até recentemente era considerado “seguro”. Outra equipa de investigadores da Universidade de Duke chegou á conclusão que a concentração de Metano na água de consumo humano em locais dos EUA onde se pratica o fracking era 6 vezes maior do que o normal e que o Metano chegava a ser 23 vezes superior nos poços de água situados a um quilómetro da prospeção.

A Fractura Hidráulica (Fracking) é uma das soluções da industria petrolífera para extrair gás de xisto (shale gas) e Petróleo de rocha (Tight Oil/Shale Oil) em Portugal. Adicionando os vulcões de lama/hidratos de gás (Mud Vulcanos) encontrados ao largo da costa do Algarve e explorados para possível produção podemos ver a pegada ecológica de Portugal e mundial a aumentar drasticamente. Os vulcões de lama são tipicamente formados por água quente, misturada com vários minerais de depósitos subterrâneos, que são expelidos através da pressão criada pela terra. Cerca de 85% dos gases libertados é Metano, que está preso dentro de gelo. Com a intenção de explorar comercialmente estes vulcões de lama como fonte de energia “não convencional” (mais cara para extrair) as corporações farão a febre do planeta subir a novos limites com consequências assustadoras para o planeta e consequentemente para a sociedade humana.Gas Drilling Western Politics

Em Portugal este tipo de gás não convencional, o gás de xisto está provado existir na Bacia Lusitânica, em on-shore (terra). A Formação da Brenha, dentro da bacia lusitânica é a mais apetecível para a indústria, encontra-se principalmente na área do Bombarral, Cadaval e Alenquer, e na formação da Serra dos Candeeiros, Torres Vedras também é local de estudos. Também está identificadas Rochas produtoras de gás ou petroleo na Bacia do Algarve, e na Serra da Ossa e na área de Estremoz. Os gazes não convencionais mais procurados são o gás de xisto e o tight gas. Dos anos 30 aos anos 60 foram também realizados pequenos estudos na região de Lisboa. Em 2006 em Alcobaça foram encontrados fortes indícios de gás e em Torres Vedras foi recuperado petróleo. A formação de Coimbra é outra considerada rocha mãe (Shale gas). Ficando assim a parte norte como representante de Portugal de rochas geradoras de gás. No offshore (no mar), as concessões deep offshore no pré sal libertará novas gigantes quantidades de CO2. Todo nestas novas operações de extração de energias fósseis não convencionais para o séc XXI terá um impacto que tornará a terra febril, e os seus habitantes doentes. Se continuarmos assim, estamos a cometer eutanásia/suicídio colectivo.

A bacia Lusitânica ocupa cerca de 20.000 km2 da margem ocidental de Portugal, alongando-se por 200 km NW-SE e por mais de 100 km em perpendicular. 2/3 encontram-se na área continental em terra, o restante emersa (no fundo) no oceano. Da área do Alto Alentejo, pouco se sabe. Na bacia do Algarve os trabalhos estão activos, como também no Barreiro e toda a península de Setúbal.frack image

Quase todas as reservas petrolíferas portuguesas são Reservatórios Pré sal, provavelmente de gás, em offshore (no mar), os conhecidos até agora na bacia lusitânica para no futuro serem explorados economicamente e serem rentáveis, o petróleo ou gás destes reservatórios é extraído perfurando-se um poço com brocas com diamante, resfriadas com um fluido (que é acompanhado com vários químicos). No final recorre-se á técnica de perfuração horizontal, depois provoca-se uma explosão e injeta-se gases ou líquidos para provocar fracturas, chamado processo de fracking.

Também o Flaring, como o avistado em Aljubarrota, quando dos testes de viabilidade económica é uma tecnologia utilizada nos complexos industriais petrolíferos, poços de extração e complexos de processos (transformações) químicos/as. É utilizada para queimar gás inflamável libertado durante as operações de perfuração e extração. Muitas vezes é injectado vapor para diminuir o fumo preto. Para o sistema estar seguro e manter uma pressão equilibrada existe sempre uma chama piloto a queimar constantemente. Esta técnica liberta Metano para a atmosfera. Na Nigéria a queima de gases através desta técnica equivale a cerca de 25% do consumo total de gás de toda a Grã-Bretanha, e equivalente a 40% do consumo de todo o continente Africano. Esta situação vai piorar com o aumento das explorações pré sal no Atlântico, na Europa e no mundo. Na Europa 99% do gás das explorações é capturado e injectado no chão. Todo isto pode mudar para pior, e vai mudar se nada for feito para resistir a este novo produto da indústria de extração, da indústria das energias, da indústria dos transportes, das embalagens, da indústria de consumo.

No site da SGS Portugal S.A. as jazidas de metano (coal bad’s metane). O gás metano nas jazidas é considerado uma fonte potencial de rendimentos adicionais para a indústria de mineração, se recuperado de forma econômica. Pretende realizar estudos para mapear e quantificar os recursos de gás associados ao cravão e promover a produção de metano de jazidas de carvão (CBM) e de metano de mina de carvão (CMM).

Para o séc XXI, os problemas da extração de energias fósseis vai chegar ao quintal dos europeus, pode muito bem ser no teu quintal… A perceção dos europeus sobre gás e petróleo vai mudar… falta saber mudar para que lado. Para o lado da resignação, submissão e aceitação? Ou da liberdade, igualdade, direitos e amor?… A informação está ai, a verdade é visível, o impacto da indústria está a ser sentido por todos nós há muito, vamos deixar piorar, sem tentar resistir?

Com produção e o consumo de energia sucede algo análogo ao caso da tecnologia industrial: nas condições actuais é impossível que a sociedade se aproprie da energia sem fazer um exame das suas necessidades.” Los amigos de Ludd; Las Ilusions Renovables.