April 14, 2023

The world does not have the “luxury” to ignore the international challenges of energy pollution, said Portugal’s ambassador to the United States during the Global Connections Series discussion at The Catholic University of America April 12.

The Global Connections Series is a University initiative that brings together world leaders and the campus community to discuss pressing challenges.

The Hon. Francisco Lopes, who spoke on “Sustainability & Innovation: Efforts to Reduce Human Impact on the Earth,” said the world must combine forces to make a difference on the pollution issue.

“There are some questions that we have to deal with together,” said Lopes. “If we don’t deal together with these global challenges, we will never be successful.”

While carbon emissions were still going up in most countries in 2022, Lopes said Portugal saw its peak in 2005 and carbon emissions have been decreasing since. 

“We are relying more and more on energy that we are producing ourselves, and this is all renewable energy,” said Lopes.

Renewable energy makes up 60% of Portugal’s electricity. The country expects to see an increase to 80% by 2025 and be close to 100% by the end of the decade. These alternate energy sources include wind, hydro, solar, and biomass power.

The challenges of energy transition included an initial increase in energy costs, which have since gone down, and technical issues while adapting power grids.

“We learn by doing and by failing sometimes,” said Lopes.

Collaboration between countries on renewable energy innovations is gaining momentum. Lopes said Portugal has been partnering with American research centers for the past 15 years to explore renewable energy options.

“They are clearly benefiting both countries and both economies,” he said.

Lopes said there is a recent agreement between Portugal and California to share fire prevention strategies and research “because the challenges and soil in California are very similar to ours.”

“It’s more and more obvious that there are different causes for this dire state for our planet, but one of the causes is our actions as human beings,” said Lopes. “This is of course a common challenge to all of us and all the countries in the world (and) if we don't accelerate our action, we will be in trouble soon.”

Duilia de Mello, University Vice Provost of Global Strategies and Physics Professor, introduced Lopes, who visited the Oliveira Lima Library while at the University. The library is Catholic University's special collection dedicated to the history and culture of Brazil and Portugal.

Watch the full discussion below.