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License to drill: oil threatens nature and tourist hotpot

Last year in major disregard to climate targets, the Portuguese government handed out a license to Galp/ENI companies for deep offshore drilling in Alentejo, a beautiful biodiversity protected area and a tourism hotspot.

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In January 2017, the Portuguese directorate general for maritime resources granted a license to use the offshore maritime space (a TUPEM permit) to the oil companies Galp/ENI in the deep offshore of Alentejo, off the beautiful Portuguese southern coast.

This permit grants right to private use of the offshore area - a form of special treatment and an indirect subsidy. It could serve positive objectives, assessing wind and tidal renewable energy for example. In a country known for its leading role in renewables and which is preparing a national plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, it is outrageous that fossil fuels are benefitting from this special treatment. Prospection for oil and gas is not compatible with a decarbonization pathway.

Moreover the Alentejo coastline is a biodiversity protected area and a tourism hotspot. The region is characterized by 35 natural habitats, many of which are unique. The site has a high number of priority plant species. The coastal cliffs, beaches, dunes, moorlands and wetlands coastal plateau and mountain ravines support diverse flora. Algarve and Alentejo regions are known for nature tourism activities, such as cycling, trekking, surfing or bird watching. Fishing is also important for local communities. But there have been no economic, environmental impact studies, or cost-benefit analysis for this oil drilling permit.

NGOs (including ZERO) are objecting to the license for deep offshore drilling in Alentejo, and have launched online petitions (one reached 42.000 signatures and was discussed in the National Parliament), minute letters, marches, social networks, legal actions and crowdfunding. Municipalities and regional authorities launched legal actions to stop the concession. Scientists have also signed an open letter against the project because of its climate impacts.

As a result in February 2018 the National Parliament approved a resolution calling on the government to suspend the fossil fuel prospection and studies on the coast of Aljezur, in Alentejo. At the beginning of March, deep offshore prospection and preparatory studies in Alentejo were suspended by a national court for three months.

But this does not mean the fight against fossil fuel exploration is over. 

NGOs are now calling for the cancellation of all concessions to explore fossil fuels in Portugal, and the revision of the national legislation to stop new concessions.

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Credits and acknowledgements

Graphic design: Mark Bitter, BITTER design,

Web design: Olov Källgarn, Pixelengine

Financial support: This project has been realized by the helpful support of the KR Foundation and the European Commission LIFE program

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