Porto is reducing its ecological footprint and becoming more sustainable

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Through the course of two days, Porto was mentioned, many times, as one of the most sustainable cities in the country, where some municipal programs promote habits that lean towards reducing this ecological footprint. This happened during the conference “Cidade Azul” promoted by the City Hall and the newspaper Público, at Super Bock Arena – Pavilhão Rosa Mota.

This Friday, before the final intervention, carried on by the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the mayor of Porto City Hall participated in a panel (“As políticas”), inserted in a more general debate under the theme “Coastal towns and the climate crisis: from a threat to the urgency of adaption”.

It was there, accompanied by Elena Espinosa, counsellor of the municipality of Vigo and ex-minister of Agriculture in Spain – (Axel Schmidt Grael, mayor of Niterói (Brazil), participated through videoconference) – and moderated by David Pontes, associate Director of Público, that Rui Moreira guaranteed that it is “necessary to change habits. [It is necessary] for young people to teach their elders and for there to be more environmental training in schools”.

“We must adjust the cities to that which is a new reality and that must go through two fundamental lines of action: one is to mitigate what we cannot prevent anymore. We are living through a profound alteration of climate conditions”, said the politician, using as an example the action of the Municipality in Parque da Asprela, inaugurated this year: “Water retention basins were created. Not only to capture the water in order not to lose it completely, but also so that it does not cause any damage”.

On the other hand, the new Plano Diretor Municipal (PDM) added a set of measures that predicts, in many coastal areas, closer to the sea “an impossibility to make more buildings. Measures must be taken because the sea level has risen in 20 centimetres”, he added.

Regarding the ecological footprint, Rui Moreira has also presented demonstrative examples of its reduction in the city. “When we arrived at the leadership of the city, non-billed water was around 23%, 24%. Right now, it is at 13.5% and we’ll accomplish 10%”, he said, revealing that, on the other hand, municipal houses were given more energy efficiency: “Not only did we reduce the necessity of energy consumption to heat houses, but we also alleviated the bill that families have to pay. Today, we are trying something daring, using the roofs of those houses to produce photovoltaic energy”.

On the other hand, he stressed that “in Porto, we have been able to separate circa 42% of waste. Right now, less than 1% of it goes to a landfill. The rest is used for energy production”.

The problems with stage agencies

In broader terms, Rui Moreira asserted that, in Portugal, state agencies are “an obstruction to the democratic power”, giving as an example the role of Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente (APA) in regard to the Plano de Ordenamento da Orla Costeira.

“We have a problem when it comes to intermediate levels of power. In APA, for example, it’s despair inducing. We started discussing the coastal area with the minister Jorge Moreira da Silva [minister of the Environment from 2013 t 2015], made the mapping of the necessity of taking measures to protect the coast, and to this day we do not have any plans for the beaches”, he said, adding that “when we look at the sea’s advancement, it always feels like it depends on whether the municipalities are from the government party or not”.

In the closing session, the President of the Republic also approached the political topic, highlighting that “overcoming issues of political, administrative and action conjugations” is necessary. “We must overcome them, it is not possible to start over in every government political cycle” he said, leaving to the metropolitan areas “the same state of mind” in environmental management, in conjunction to the State.

According to Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, in this matter it is still necessary to have a “civic consciousness” and “a very big effort to avoid irreversible casuistries for the future”. “If we want sustainable development, that implies that there will be moments in which there are sacrifices of economical profitability that are compensated in the future”, he said, giving the example of renewable energies and green hydrogen.

According to the head of state, everything is a matter of reinforcing social cohesion. “If we do not correct inequality, there is a big portion of the Portuguese society that is doomed to suffer the consequences of climate change in a more damaging way than the rest. That is an injustice”, he stated.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa defended that the country “has more to accomplish when it comes to civic activism”. “Young activists have been doing everything they can. We must do even more in terms of activism, it is a must. If we don’t, no one will do it for us, and in an increasingly older society with less young people, the unbalance between ages is such, that it is unfair for young people who are optimistic”, he added.

Porto, leader in ecological innovation

Dedicated to debate coastal cities and climate change, besides researchers, specialists and politicians, the European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira was also present in the conference and took on the theme of “the future of the cities”.

When it comes to climate change she guaranteed: “we do not have the excuse of not expecting or not knowing about this. Nothing justifies the unpreparedness or inaction. Its effects are having serious repercussions in our lives”, she said.

Elisa Ferreira noted that some studies show that in 2050, seven in ten people will live in an urban agglomerate. “There is desertification and agglomeration”, but the cities are also “in the front line of the solutions”. “They are leaders in ecological innovation and here we have seen some examples of what is being done in Porto, she added.

The event “Cidade Azul” started this Thursday, with a tour around the city, aiming to show, in the territory, some of the most emblematic projects of the Municipality, in the fields of the environment and sustainability.