Environmental country reviews

OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Portugal 2011



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OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Portugal 2011

The Environmental Performance Reviews identify good practices and make recommendations to improve the reviewed country’s environmental policies and programmes.

This review of Portugal, analyses the way it has addressed national objectives and international commitments regarding climate change, biodiversity conservation, waste and materials management and, more generally, the management of its environment and natural resources.

The Highlights (also in French and Portuguese) contain the main OECD findings. A summary is presented here below.


Developments since the 2001 Review

  • In the decade since 2000, Portugal’s economy has grown at a relatively modest rate compared with other OECD countries. A switch from fossil fuels to renewables in the energy mix, and a significant strengthening of environmental policies and institutions have enabled Portugal to improve the environmental quality of its people’s lives.
  • The Portuguese economy was badly affected by the global economic and financial crisis, and now faces a period in which fiscal consolidation will be a major priority in order to address a serious budget deficit.
  • The main short-term challenge for Portugal is to enhance the cost-effectiveness of environmental policies; to do more with less.
  • In the longer term, Portugal should integrate environment into the structural reforms that are underway to boost productivity and long-term competitiveness.


Greening growth

  • The Portuguese anti-crisis stimulus package included several environment-related measures, such as support for energy efficiency, renewable energy technologies and investment in electricity and smart grids.
  • Reforming the tax system, further expanding environmentally related taxes and removing environmentally harmful tax concessions and subsidies could help fiscal consolidation without hampering economic recovery.
  • Public funds, including those from EU sources, continue to account for about two thirds of total environmental expenditure. Nonetheless, private environmental investment, eco-industries and related employment have increased in recent years.
  • Portugal needs to further promote eco-innovation and improve its workforce skills, with a view to enhancing productivity, international competitiveness, and growth prospects of its economy. 


Implementation of environmental policies

  • Portugal has developed a comprehensive environmental planning and programming framework that encompasses the EU requirements. There has been an impressive evolution with mix of environmental policy instruments, including regulatory, economic and information-based measures.
  • An extensive system of environmental enforcement and compliance promotion is in place, and efforts have been made in promoting public participation in environmental decision making and opening up access to information and justice.
  • Progress has been noted in the improvement of air quality, in particular in urban areas, reducing pressures on inland and coastal waters, strengthening the management of water supply and sanitation systems, and improving waste management efforts, including reduction, appropriate treatment, and safe disposal of hazardous waste.
  • Steps have also been taken to strengthen nature protection and biodiversity conservation. 



Energy and Environment Integration
  • Portugal’s climate and energy policies are closely intertwined. The country is highly dependent on imported fossil fuels, which has stimulated diversification of the energy mix. The increased use of both natural gas and renewable energy sources is the main reason for the decline in greenhouse gas emissions since 2005. The challenge will be to sustain this reduction once economic growth resumes, with a view to achieving Portugal’s targets by 2020.
  • Portugal has actively supported energy efficiency and renewable sources, and it is poised to meet its ambitious renewable energy target. However, these policies should be assessed to ensure that they do not overlap with the EU Emissions Trading System, that energy prices reflect environmental costs, and that they are cost-effective.
  • Portugal has introduced strong incentives to use more efficient vehicles and has developed ambitious plans to promote electric vehicles. Nonetheless, incentives to optimise decisions concerning car use could be further improved.   


Coastal zone management

  • There are key challenges in the management of coastal zones of mainland Portugal, namely in coastal areas and coastal waters.
  • These pressures, natural and man-made, including coastal erosion, extensive development of secondary housing, as well as pressures brought by growing tourism, fisheries, industrial development and maritime traffic.
  • There have been steps taken to reduce these pressures, including the development of an integrated coastal zone management plan, reform of the institutional framework, and the introduction of a mix of regulatory, economic and investment measures.
  • These measures are analysed in light of their effectiveness and efficiency, and the integration with other policies, including tourism and climate change.


International co-operation
  • Portugal has been a forerunner of the European maritime policy. It has also influenced EU policy development on water scarcity and drought, climate change and biodiversity, but ensuring compliance with the EU Common Fisheries Policy remains a difficult challenge.
  • Over the last decade, Portugal has ratified important international agreements aimed at preventing marine pollution from ships.
  • Multilateral co-operation has been fruitful in preventing illegal movements of waste and trade in endangered species of wildlife fauna and flora.
  • Joint management of shared river basins is a continuing challenge in Portugal’s co-operation with Spain.
  • Budget constraints bear on Portuguese development assistance, including for the promotion of the environment.


Access the full version of Environmental Performance Reviews: Portugal by choosing from the following options:

For more information please contact Krzysztof Michalak or Shayne MacLachlan




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