The first steps of the proposed Climate Law

The European Green Deal and the path to sustainable development undertaken by the European Commission and its member states require the implementation, by each state, of a Climate Law defining guidelines and strategies geared to achieving the goals set for 2050. Portugal took the first steps down this road early this year

Portugal is now paving the way for the implementation of its Climate Law. It is of paramount importance that zero greenhouse gas emissions are achieved by 2050 here as well, just as the European Commission and all the signatories to the European Green Deal intend to do. Presented in late 2019, this document is basically a strategy of growth geared to transforming the European Union (EU) into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy, in addition to a region in which net greenhouse gas emissions will cease to exist by 2050, in which economic growth is disassociated from the use of resources, and where not a single person or place is left behind.


To ensure this roadmap for rendering the economy of the European Union sustainable is adhered to, the EC has created the European Climate Law. It aims to ensure that all EU policies contribute to this goal and that all sectors of the economy and society participate in the effort. However, for this to actually happen, we need to define long-term guidelines for achieving climate neutrality along a path that is easily foreseeable for both people and economic agents, ensuring equal opportunities. According to the European Commission, this needs to be done in a socially just and cost-efficient manner.

Due to the fact we need to ensure that the transition to climate neutrality is irreversible, European institutions and the member states are required to take the necessary measures to achieve this goal, not least because it is essential to promote equity and solidarity among the countries involved, Portugal included.


At the initial debate held in the Assembly of the Republic in January to discuss the implementation of the Portuguese version of the Climate Law, it was decided that all the proposals submitted by the political parties and independent deputies would be passed on to the specially formed committee, currently entrusted with the mission of drawing up as broad a proposal as possible.

Some of the entities and individuals invited to contribute were named in late January, including Frans Timmermans, vice president of the European Commission and in charge of the European Green Deal, and Ed Miliband, the architect of the British Climate Law. The new law needs to be consensual, obviously, as well as wide-ranging, rational and easy to understand, and needs to be passed as soon as possible in order to help lead the Portuguese economy and society to the end of the path. We mustn´t forget that, in addition to the United Kingdom, countries such as Denmark, France, Germany and Spain have already implemented their laws and the remaining European countries are expected to follow suit in the near future.


Recently, the National Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development (CNADS by its acronym in Portuguese), having analysed the bills submitted to the Assembly of the Republic, emphasised the need for a consensus of the contents, in addition to putting forward several recommendations in a report sent to the Parliamentary Committee for the Environment. One of these recommendations states that the future Climate Law “should have a simple structure, easily understood by all social partners and citizens, and a clear and easily understandable content for everyone, given the impact it is expected to have on the Portuguese economy and society”. Another is that it should provide a long-term vision. The document also recommends the definition of intermediate targets, for 2030 and 2040, “for greenhouse gas emissions and protected-status areas, as these are clear signs of the trajectory in perspective and are extremely important for decision-making by economic agents and citizens”.

The proposal to include the concept of Negative Emissions in the future Climate Bases Law is innovative. This involves removing excess carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, harnessing that CO2 and putting it to economic and social use or storing it in a safe place. The CNADS stresses that there are two recognised approaches: nature-based solutions and negative emission technologies. It also argues that special care should be taken when dealing with the sectors of activity involved, avoiding legislative incompatibilities and the overlapping of competences.