A report released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development today, shows Portugal is performing well in areas such as renewable energies, greenhouse gas emissions and air quality, but needs to improve in waste recovery and circular economy.
The data are included in the fourth review of Portugal's environmental performance OECD, in which the organization of 38 countries leaves 26 recommendations, which "aim to help Portugal to strengthen the coherence of policies to boost green economic recovery” and progress towards carbon neutrality and sustainable development.
Like the performance reviews in 1993, 2001 and 2011, the fourth review looks at Portugal's environmental performance, in this case over the last decade. The two examining countries were Costa Rica and Luxembourg.
Among the main environmental indicators, referring to 2021, the percentage of renewable energies in the total energy supply stands out positively, 29%, with the OECD average at 12%, or the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions 'per capita', which is 5.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, when the OECD average is 10.5 tonnes.
On average population exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), a major air pollutant, Portugal is also better positioned, as it is also slightly better on municipal waste per capita.
As for the recovery of materials from urban waste, the percentage of composting and recycling in total treatment is 28% in Portugal, when the OECD average is 34%, an average that is also higher than Portugal in the area of circular economy.
“Portugal is lagging behind in relation to the circular economy”, says the document, which adds that “the generation of urban waste has grown at a faster pace than the economy. In 2020, Portugal generated more urban waste 'per capita' than the European average. It was also one of the countries with the highest landfill rates”. And for 2020 the country “has not met most of its waste targets”.
If in the treatment of urban wastewater Portugal is well above the European Union average (92% to 76%), the OECD warns in the document, in relation to water, that agricultural abstraction, the main source of freshwater abstraction, has increased about 25% since the mid-2010s.
It also warns that the state of 'habitats' and species has deteriorated.
In terms of environmental protection expenditure, Portugal reserves 0.7% of GDP, with the European Union average being 0.9% and the OECD average being 0.5%.
But the OECD “wins” in the research and development budget in the environmental and energy area, 6.4% of public expenditure on research and development, when in Portugal it reaches only 4.3%.
“Portugal has made progress in wastewater treatment and expanding protected areas. However, efforts are needed to better manage water and waste and reverse the deterioration of habitats and species.
Highlighting the “good performance” in reducing greenhouse gas emissions” (GHG), and the “commendable progress” in the development of renewable energies and the phasing out of coal in 2021, the OECD adds that the country needs to “take advantage of the decarbonization potential of all sectors to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050”.
The report highlights the threats posed by climate change, such as droughts, and advises that more be done to “improve knowledge and monitor progress on adaptation policies, and increase the value of rural areas for climate change mitigation and adaptation to them”.