Portuguese Presidency of the Council of The European Union

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Portugal will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first six months of 2021 – what does this mean for nature?

Portugal takes over the presidency from Germany with the motto ‘Time to deliver: a fair, green and digital recovery’. The following three priorities have been set:

  • To promote a recovery leveraged by the climate and digital transitions;
  • To implement the European Pillar of Social Rights of the European Union as a distinctive element for ensuring a fair and inclusive climate and digital transition;
  • To strengthen Europe’s autonomy whilst remaining open to the world, taking a leading role in climate action and promoting a digital transformation in the service of people.

Positively, climate is mentioned throughout, so what are some pillar moments during Portugal’s presidency?

Portugal’s premise

2021 promises to become a big year for nature and climate, with important events planned for the coming months. Portugal’s aim is therefore to put climate high on the agenda:

Climate change will be of particular importance, as well as the consequent need to make the economy of the European Union more sustainable, in line with the vision and strategy defined in the European Green Deal and the Paris Agreement, while also bearing in mind the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Source

The country itself has taken quite a few steps towards a more sustainable future, like carbon neutrality by 2050 and the National Energy and Climate Plan, which established national goals for renewable energy, energy efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The commitments Portugal makes as it takes on the presidency, will be in line with their national commitments. You can read them all here.

Big moments

During the upcoming six months, there are some decisive moments for the Council that will show if Portugal can deliver on their premise. One of them being the approval of the European climate law. Portugal aims at bringing the European Climate Law into action during their term:

I’m quite sure that during the presidency we will have the law approved. It’s our big priority for the semester.

said João Pedro Matos Fernandes, the Portuguese minister for environment and climate action. This would be a big step in the right direction, as it would make the EU’s climate targets irreversible.

When the European climate law is approved, the next step will be the Fit for 55 Package, which is part of the Green Deal. The package is aimed at reaching Europe’s climate targets for 2030. It will cover the whole range of EU climate and energy laws. On this Fernandes said: “We have to go further than what we did in the past … When we did it in the past, we didn’t exactly have a goal”. Now, with clear goals for 2050, he hopes a consensus will be easier to reach.

Additionally, new strategies are on the agenda, like the European Commission’s Chemical Strategy for Sustainability, an updated Industrial Strategy for Europe, the EU Climate Adaptation Strategy, the Soil Strategy and the EU Forest Strategy, for which the Presidency will start preparing a response. To measure Portugal’s performance, the European Environmental Bureau has created “Ten Green Tests to make a difference”, you can check them out here.  

In short: there is a lot coming up! EUROPARC and it’s Brussels office will follow all developments with great interest, represent Protected Areas and report on all developments – so stay tuned.