The Portuguese government is embarking on a green growth agenda that incorporates circular economy policies and targets across sectors including construction, industry and waste management. The Green Growth Commitment was developed in collaboration with 100 organisations, and represents a long term economic strategy for Portugal to plot a course to recovery since the 2007-08 financial crisis.
Once the Economic and Financial Assistance Program to stabilise its economy after the financial crisis was complete, the Portuguese government was looking for an economic development vision that promoted long-term benefits in growth and employment.
The government established a Green Growth Coalition in 2014 to represent around 100 organisations from the business, science and finance sectors, along with public bodies, NGOs and foundations. This coalition took on the task of devising a national strategy to stimulate economic growth and jobs whilst addressing resource scarcity and climate change.
Intensive public consultation
The coalition set up a four-month public consultation on a Green Growth Commitment to canvas views from a wide range of stakeholders on the opportunities and constraints of this vision. Along with 74 written contributions, this process included 10 seminars on specific themes, attended by 1,500 people and featuring 91 speakers, with an accompanying online portal and social media presence. The government found that this intense consultation process strengthened the initiatives and the commitment of stakeholders across society to implement them.
The resulting vision has 14 objectives, each with quantified targets for 2020 and 2030, and is updated annually. They span the following areas:
- Stimulating green activity sectors, including creating new jobs
- Promoting efficient use of resources, including increasing water and energy efficiency
- Increasing renewable energy use, and improving biodiversity quality.
Three objectives under ‘Promote efficient use of resources’ are of particular interest to the move towards a circular economy:
- Increasing the productivity of materials (from 1.14 EUR of GDP per kg of materials consumed in 2013 to 1.17 in 2020 and 1.72 in 2030)
- Increasing the use of waste and by-products as raw materials in the economy (from 56% in 2012 to 68% in 2020 and 86% in 2030)
- Increasing the ratio of building renovations to new buildings (from 10.3% in 2013 to 17% in 2020 and 23% in 2030).
To meet these objectives the agreement sets out 111 initiatives across 10 sectors. In the waste sector for example, initiatives include:
- Encouraging the use of waste in the production of new products
- Stimulating the selective collection and recycling of urban waste
- Increasing the operational efficiency of urban waste treatment systems
- Promoting industrial symbiosis type agreements between different industries that involve the trade of waste and by-products.
Policy types in the package span a range from public procurement, fiscal measures, information dissemination and R&D support. More information about the initiatives can be found here.
A replicable approach
Policymakers have learned a number of lessons during the process of developing the commitment. Firstly, a solid and well-balanced framework setting out a clear vision of green growth in 2020 and 2030 was a crucial starting point, and was followed by stakeholder involvement at an early stage to ensure that sectorial contributions supported the overall strategy. Collaboration with other ministries was also a key factor at the start of the project, in order to gain wider support and avoid the Green Growth Coalition being seen as a political project of the Ministry for Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy.
Today, Portugal can be proud of having a Green Growth Commitment that is no longer a political unilateral initiative but rather a strategy that was appropriated by our society. This is the main guarantee that green growth is not a trend in Portugal, but a paradigm shift that is rooted in our population and a fundamental part of our future.
In order to progress the initiative, policymakers found thematic workshops useful in selecting ambitious but realistic goals and targets, and capacity building in government bodies at regional, local, sectorial level was essential to developing “Regional Green Growth Strategies”. Finally, building alliances with external partners, such as the Green Growth Knowledge Platform or Green Growth Group, was important to network with international initiatives and share best practice. Though still in its early stages of implementation, the Portuguese Green Growth Commitment is an early example of an economy wide vision that incorporates circular economy policies into a more traditional green growth agenda that focuses on renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. When taken alongside the country’s Green Taxation Reform, which aims to divert taxation from labour and income to resources and pollution, the vision of resource husbandry is a bold one that will surely be watched closely by policymakers around the world.