Home | Ecology | “What are politicians thinking about when they try not to think about global warming?”

“What are politicians thinking about when they try not to think about global warming?”

There is nothing that reduces credibility in government policies more than a lack of trust in its climate measures. When someone travels from one climate conference to another by plane, despite being responsible for implementing measures that mitigate the greenhouse effect, this demonstrates a contradiction in their way of thinking, a contradiction between the statements that they make and their attitude. It has been proven that the burning of oil, gas and coal causes the overheating of our planet’s atmosphere and poses a threat to all of humanity. So why is it that European governments do not set a limit on the use of fossil fuels, establishing a date for the abolition of the burning of coal, oil and gas, thus ending these emissions and replacing such fuels with renewable energy obtained from the sun, the water and the wind?

There is nothing that affects our confidence in politicians more than their failure to introduce climate protection policies while, simultaneously, pouring billions of euros in subsidies into protecting the tourism, automobile and air transport industries. These three industries are jointly responsible for a large proportion of the world’s CO2 emissions and are the driving force behind climate change. In other words, our message to politicians is that their lack of integrity increases distrust, as there is a contradiction between their political discourse and their complete inaction. Time is pressing. One of the solutions could be to present a plan committing the government to a specific agenda, setting a date for ending the burning of oil in Portugal and Europe.

© Dpa

I confess that I am confronted with an unpleasant feeling, which, in Psychology, has been given the name of cognitive dissonance. Everyone knows that flying by plane destroys the atmosphere, but they still travel by plane: either for leisure or for work, while products still continue to be transported by plane from one corner of the globe to another. Why do António Costa and his ministers not invest in the local economy, in the thousands of small companies that operate within their local area in a sustainable way?

Many people, from the most varied origins, are beginning to have an increasingly unpleasant feeling when flying by plane, a feeling that gets worse from year to year. So why is the State still obliged to invest money in this area, in the destruction of our atmosphere? It’s only possible to overcome or reduce a politician’s cognitive dissonance if there is a change in their behaviour or opinion. But many politicians, businessmen and tourists are not willing to give up flying and to start, for example, using and investing in the train, which is more environmentally friendly. There is a need for a lot of investment in the railways to make them more competitive. If António Costa really wanted to reduce the CO2 emissions caused by air traffic, he would have to reduce the number of flights and tax this form of travel in the same way as other means of transport. Some steps in the right direction would involve the introduction of a tax on petroleum products and the levying of VAT on air transport and aeroplanes, covering the costs of the collateral damage to the environment caused by aviation.

But, before that, the State should sell its stake in TAP so as not to arouse suspicions of corruption and not to remain trapped in this disastrous conflict of interests. How can State participation in an airline be allowed? And how can the State support the construction of a new airport in a nature reserve, essential for birdlife, in order to serve its own and other airlines? So many contradictions. The time has come to bring them to an end.

The very important theme of climate change and the monitoring of our ecological footprints has been one of the main goals of ECO123 ever since the very first issue of our magazine. To avoid any contradictions, we created a series of measures to accompany us in our journalistic work. The energy consumed at the ECO123 offices comes from a clean source: solar energy. Our hot water is produced by our own solar thermal panels and, since 2016, we have been using an electric car for our investigative work and distributions. This vehicle’s battery is kept charged through our photovoltaic panels. We have stopped travelling by plane. Our emissions are below 3,000 kg/CO2 per person per year.

With this in mind, ECO123 has designed a special game for its subscribers. This follows the recommendations of the KYOTO protocol and has clear and practical goals related to climate protection. If we commit ourselves to climate protection, there is a clear route to follow. ECO123 provides an online account that allows all employees and subscribers to take part in this game. Players begin with a credit of 3,000 kg of CO2, which they can then use like a bank balance., available to them for the whole year. This is the value that was set as the level for the average emissions of a European citizen at the first UN conference on climate change, held in KYOTO (Japan), in 1997. It was with this “bank balance” that 100 of our readers began the first climate test on 1 March, last year. They undertook to devote 10 minutes each week to filling out three forms. Now, after 52 weeks, we have a winner of the KYOTO game.

The winner was ECO123 subscriber José Paulo Carraca (63 years old), from Lisbon, who ended the 12 months with a balance of 633.3 kg of CO2, spending only 2,366.7 kg in total. Congratulations! We have to start at home if we want to make a difference in preventing climate change. Here we have the answer for how to get a good result. ECO123 analysed our participants’ weekly reports about their mobility (car, underground, train), consumption (food, clothing, sundries, recycling) and energy expenditure in the home. José Paulo filled out his forms for a year, demonstrating great flexibility in adapting his habits to reality. When he saw that his balance was going down a lot, he stopped driving and started using public transport. He didn’t travel by plane during that period of time. He’s not a vegetarian, but neither did he choose to eat meat and fish dishes every day. He recycled 75% of the packaging of the goods he purchased and led a balanced life. His energy supplier provides electricity from renewable sources, therefore green energy. He shares his flat with three other members of his family.

Lénia Rio (balance -77.8 kg of CO2), from Gondomar near Porto, also participated in the test, as did Mathilde Major (balance -139.3 kg), who lives in Monchique. These two women took second and third places. Thank you for taking part.

ECO123 will be launching the second phase of KYOTO, once again for the period of one year. All subscribers who want to register for this challenge can download the online registration form at https://kyoto.eco123.info and send it to info@eco123.info. First come, first served.

What is our motivation for this initiative? We are optimists and we think we have a duty to leave something of value to future generations, not only the debts caused by the Covid-19 crisis and the problems with climate change. We all have a chance to make our lives sustainable. If 100 people can manage to live a good life by emitting less than 3,000 kg of CO2 a year, a thousand or a million more will also be able to achieve this. There is nothing that destroys our confidence in the future more than a lack of honesty in the face of climate change.


Uwe Heitkamp

traduções: Fernando Medronho & Chris Young | fotografias: Dpa e Uwe Heikamp

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