Can the economy ensure that the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs? This question was the central theme of the debate that brought together managers, politicians and thinkers at the Sustainability and Society Forum, held at Matosinhos Town Hall on 11 and 12 May, to discuss sustainability as the driver of a new economy, a generator of wealth to combat the exclusion of the poorest members of society. Several speakers expressed their ideas to the audience, including Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the President of the Republic of Portugal, Kadri Simson, the European Commissioner for Energy, Filipe Silva, the CEO of Galp, Lee Hodder, Galp´s Vice-President for Strategy and Sustainability, and Georgios Papadimitriou, Galp's Executive Vice-President for Renewables, New Business and Innovation.
Revealing the manner in which Galp is working on sustainability, Galp CEO Filipe Silva announced that the energy corporation intends to invest 2.2 billion euros in the commitment to decarbonise Sines, in what is “by far the biggest industrial project ever seen” in Portugal. The company is striving to ensure that the Sines refinery “does not suffer the same effects as Matosinhos”, emphasising that it needs to invest and to create a fair and competitive environment.
“We are going to have to invest a lot of money in Sines”, declared the CEO, pointing out that Matosinhos continues to operate as a large logistics complex, supplying the entire north of the country and part of Spain, and that when the industrial part of the refinery closed, “Galp’s emissions dropped 25%”, meaning that 75% of the plant´s operating emissions still need “to be eliminated”.
ENERGY TRANSITION SPEEDS UP
To increase the consumption of renewable energy by 2030 and to reduce “dependence on Russian gas”, the European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, said that Member States “must speed up” investments in renewables or, at the very least in goods and services with low carbon emissions. She also praised the vision of Portugal and Spain in the creation of energy interconnections: “Portugal is one of the cases that will need this type of investment to reinforce its energy capacity and the interconnection projects between Portugal and Spain will be decisive”.
“At the time it seemed overly ambitious, and here we are, in 2023, in the midst of a global climate crisis and the tumultuous situation caused by the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Last year, we set the goal for Europe to generate 42% of its power from renewable sources of energy in just seven years. This is an unbelievable figure”, he affirmed.
In order to meet the aforementioned European target, Georgios Papadimitriou defended the need for action on the ground to ensure “affordable costs”, not least due to the fact “ridding ourselves of fossil fuels overnight” is impossible. Energy transition is “inevitable”, he guaranteed.
HELPING PORTUGAL LEAD THE WAY IN THE LITHIUM SECTOR
Lee Hodder, Vice-President of Strategy and Sustainability, stressed that lithium processing could position Portugal as a “leader” in the sector, and confirmed the company's interest in this area. Moreover, he pointed out that this is “an example of a completely new value chain in Portugal, and one we really believe can help the country become one of the leaders in this sector in Europe”.
In order to promote a fairer transition process for everyone, Galp is not just looking at direct business. “We need to ensure that we learn from experience and scrutinise the places involved in our operations – from which we import waste oils in Asia and lithium for refining, for example – monitoring the way in which we have an impact on communities around the world”, said the Vice-President of Strategy and Sustainability.
The inspirational Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen bank – the first in the world to specialise in microcredit to guarantee financing for the most disadvantaged – and the winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, claimed that society´s primary objective should be entrepreneurism rather than employment”. In the opinion of the award-winner, “you have power in your hands when you´re an entrepreneur”, it seems that “nothing is impossible for human beings and all you have to do is broaden your horizons”. Yunus believes that being an entrepreneur equates to having power and freedom, “whereas having a job can mean slavery”.
Finally, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa underlined the fact that “sustainability is for people” and not for “defining better goals”, while warning us that “either we include the perspective of people or we run the risk of losing sight of what is really essential”.