Article written by João Pedro Costa, Portugal
In an event that brought together children and adults, on January 11 2020, Lisbon was marked official as the Green European Capital for 2020. The event took place in the Amália Rodrigues garden and in the Carlos Lopes pavilion. As a slogan, Lisbon has adopted “choose evolve” to give voice to those who want to use it.
National and international figures were present at this event, such as Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (President of the Portuguese Republic), António Costa (Prime Minister of Portugal), António Guterres (General-Secretary of the United Nations), Frans Timmermans (Vice-President of European Commission) and Fernando Medina (Mayor of Lisbon), among many others.
The greatest presence was felt by young people. But what young people? Young people from the Portuguese capital. Young people who want to make the change and see this distinction as “different” and “motivating”. Why? Because everyone has the opportunity to make the change. This change is beginning to build at school, in this case the Lisboners who contributed to open the debate among the world leaders who were present.
These leaders were given a symbolic award for the Lisbon logo as the Green European Capital for 2020, as well as flags (from Portugal and the European Union) made entirely from recycled materials, as a way to make a new commitment. These flags were produced using plastic from the oceans and produced in Santo Tirso, in the Oporto district.
Among the four pulpits that spread across the stage, presented by Inês Castel-Branco, four questions were voiced by young people from county schools and by organizers and promoters of the student climate strike – “Fridays for future”, internationally motivated by Greta Thunberg. Over the course of more than half an hour, the questions of these young people were answered in various ways. Issues such as the veracity of the Tagus River cleanliness, meeting the carbon dioxide reduction targets by 2030 and by 2050 were the focus of the debate.
Lisbon assumed the European Green Capital award for a year (with Oslo being the winner for 2019), with a commitment to honor the city, honor the Portuguese and the Lisboners and fulfill the established goals for this year and for the future. Of note, are five measures given during the conference at the Carlos Lopes Pavilion: the creation of a new garden in Praça de Espanha, the mobilization of two electric wagons in the Carris fleet, the construction of 3000 carbon-free houses (128 in 2021), the creation of a new reused water network and the implementation of a zero emission zone in the Baixo Chiado area.
The year 2020 thus becomes the year of climate change in the city of Lisbon and especially in Portugal, as all ministers of the 22nd Constitutional Government of Portugal will “circulate within the Lisbon area in electric cars”, according to statements made by António Costa. This measure thus demonstrates the concern that all Portuguese have to take a new position in relation to the climate change impacts that are plaguing and will plague Portugal, in terms of its vulnerability.
With this distinction, José Sá Fernandes, an independent councilor in the Lisbon City Council, “made a dream come true” and he was the one who made this ceremony official, together with other world political figures. This officialization began with the opening of a pop-up book of Lisbon, as the green capital, by Leonor Brilha, teacher at the António Arroio School, in Lisbon.
In January 2020, the first steps towards a different county have changed and “turned to a new paradigm that is found and will be found in the minds across Europe and the world”: choose evolve.