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“We have just a limited number of years left to avoid causing ecocide”

26 Feb · 11h05

In his opening speech at the “Climate Change – New Economic Models” conference, organised under the scope of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Union, pointed out that “the climate and biodiversity crises threaten – without any exaggeration – our very survival”.


In a recorded statement, Timmermans said that “even though the pandemic still dominates our daily lives, Europeans still strongly – and increasingly – support climate and environmental action”. On the current situation, he emphasised that “the pandemic has taught us a harsh lesson about how our own health and wellbeing depend on that of the planet”.

"Making peace with nature"

Timmermans said he completely agreed with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, who said that “making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century, adding that “we have just a limited number of years left to avoid causing ecocide”.

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European Union Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans during his speech at the opening of the conference © Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2021

On the conference programme, the Executive Vice-President underlined the relevance of debating the bioeconomy and the circular economy. “To become the first climate neutral continent by 2050, we must decouple growth not only from emissions but also from resource use. We must embrace the bioeconomy, respecting the principles of the circular economy, profoundly changing the way products and services are designed, made and consumed. The EU market should be for products that are durable, reusable, repairable and safe; products that are designed for high-quality recycling.”

In his welcome message, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa also recalled that Europe has made a commitment to be the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050, and that this is the “core aspect of the vision enshrined in the European Green Deal, which establishes a new development strategy for Europe and a roadmap for making Europe sustainable". 

“ The pandemic has reminded us to pay closer attention to the risks scientists have been warning us about and to redesign our development strategy. The economic model that brought us to this point has no future and will not allow us to respond to the main environmental challenges: tackling climate change, reducing pollution and reversing the loss of biodiversity ”

António Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal

The Prime Minister highlighted the need for “development that is fairer and more equitable and within the limits of the natural system”, saying that we must “work along the entire value chain of products and services and increase its circularity.”


“The pandemic has also shown us Europe's need to reduce its dependence on critical materials and assure greater autonomy in different areas of activity”, he added, pointing to the example of the sustainable bioeconomy, one of the topics in the spotlight at the conference.


António Costa also recalled the main priority of the Portuguese Presidency: the approval of the European Climate Law. And he added that Portugal is “one of the European countries with the most ambitious goals for 2030”.


As to funding, he pointed out that “47% of the funds for the Recovery and Resilience Plan are earmarked for climate action”.


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