World Nature Conservation Day – Interview with the Regional Director for the Environment and Climate Change – Ana Cristina Pereira Rodrigues

Based in the Azores archipelago, SATA Group has as a priority not only to become an increasingly sustainable organization, but also to actively contribute to the sustainable development of our islands.
On this World Nature Conservation Day, we spoke with the Regional Director for the Environment and Climate Change to better understand and proclaim the need to protect the Azorean nature and how we can contribute to this noble and urgent collective mission.

Come with us to discover projects and actions that can make a difference in the legacy we will leave for future generations.

“Making the correct separation of recyclable materials is no longer an option. In fact, it is everyone’s obligation as economic agents and responsible citizens concerned with the planet we live on.”

“Companies must assume responsibility for ensuring the efficient use of natural resources, increasing efficiency in their use and promoting a circular economy, instead of a linear economy, where reduction, reuse and recycling are promoted, reducing their negative effects on the environment, and involving employees, suppliers, customers and the general community.”

1) What is the focus of the Regional Directorate for the Environment and Climate Change?

The Regional Directorate for the Environment and Climate Change ensures a sustainable development strategy for the Azores that aims to promote a balance between social and economic development, the protection of environmental quality and the management of natural resources, through strong instruments for the protection of environmental quality, nature conservation, management of water resources and efficient territorial planning and protection of populations.

The Directorate is very focused on the challenges imposed by climate change, promoting actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change in the Region.

In addition, we promote a circular economy instead of a linear economy, focusing on the prevention of waste production and the use of waste as a resource, continuing the life cycle of materials and returning materials and energy to the economy.


2) What are your main concerns regarding the Azores archipelago?

The loss of biodiversity due to human factors, whether they are greenhouse gas emissions, invasion and destruction of habitats, pollution (noise, light, air and material – waste), over-exploitation or the introduction and proliferation of invasive species.

Climate change effects on the different sectors (agriculture, sea, forestry, energy, transport, spatial planning and the protection of coastal zones, among others), with a particular focus on the risk to people and the loss of their property, in areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, examples of which are extreme weather events (storms, floods, …), are also at the top of our concerns.

3) What projects are underway for nature conservation in the Azores?

The Regional Secretariat for the Environment and Climate Change has several ongoing projects dedicated to Nature conservation, co-financed by LIFE Program, such as LIFE IP AZORES NATURA, LIFE VIDALIA, LIFE BEETLES and LIFE SNAILS, with the participation of the Regional Directorate for Environment and Climate Change.

Among many other projects, we have the LIFE IP AZORES NATURA project, which covers 24 ZEC’s (Special Conservation Zones), 15 ZPE’s (Special Protection Zones) and 2 SIC’s (Sites of Community Importance) of the Natura 2000 Network in the Azores, which seeks to contribute significantly to the conservation of species and habitats protected by the Habitats and Birds Directives that underlie their designation.

We also have a system for depositing non-reusable beverage packaging, in operation on all the islands of the Azores, with at least one reverse logistics machine for each municipality (project co-funded by EEA Grants),where non-reusable beverage packaging made of plastic, glass or metal can be deposited, with the granting of a prize of 5 cents for each package deposited, and which is having an extraordinary popularity.

We also highlight the measure to reduce plastic bags, which induced a substantial change in the habits of consumers in the Azores, promoting the replacement of disposable plastic bags with alternative and reusable means, which led to, in the Azores, between 2016 and 2020, 300 million fewer plastic bags have been distributed in the retail trade, removing around 2,000 tons of plastic.

We are also implementing the LIFE IP CLIMAZ project, co-funded by LIFE Program, which aims to contribute to the implementation of the Regional Program for Climate Change (PRAC), with actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change in several sectors of the economy; and to prepare the Roadmap for Carbon Neutrality, funded by REACT-EU, which will help prepare the Region to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

4) How is the population’s awareness of the need to preserve nature done?

We have Environmental Centers, structures of the Regional Secretariat for the Environment and Climate Change, which contribute to promoting knowledge and conservation of protected areas, landscapes, habitats, geosites, notable species or other elements of environmental interest, being structured as spaces for interpretation and, in some cases, to support visits. These Environmental Centers are equipped with exhibitions and specialized information on natural values, where visits are promoted in areas where these values are particularly important. In addition, we develop several activities with children, whether in the Azores Natural Parks, in the Environmental Centers or even in the Wild Bird Rehabilitation Centers (CERAS).

Through specific programs, such as EcoEscola, the Regional Secretariat for the Environment and Climate Change, aims to reach children and younger sections of the population, who, in addition to easily learning new concepts and adopting them, are also an excellent vector for spreading information for family members.

Within the scope of each LIFE project, we develop training, awareness-raising and experience exchange actions in order to increase the knowledge of the several entities involved in the projects and the general public.

Within the scope of economic operators, we developed several clarification sessions, to provide them with up-to-date knowledge regarding the obligations arising from updates to legislation.

5) What is the importance of increasingly sustainable tourism?

Sustainable tourism satisfies the needs of tourists, without harming the environment and surrounding communities. The idea inherent to sustainable tourism is to safeguard resources and guarantee regional economic development, without compromising the opportunities and future of future generations. Thus, the greater the sustainability of the tourism sector, the greater the benefits for the regions, whether at an environmental, social or economic level.

Only with sustainable tourism, we are able to contribute to maintaining or improving the quality of life of the Azoreans.

6) How is an increasingly sustainable tourism promoted?

I believe that to have sustainable tourism, it is necessary to promote respect for nature conservation; promote measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency in hotels and restaurants; promote electric mobility as much as possible; promote the use of public transport; as well as promoting efficient water consumption. Alongside all this, it is also important to make tourists and tour operators aware of the importance of reducing their ecological footprint. Only then can we have an increasingly sustainable tourism.

7) What role do companies have in nature conservation?

Companies must assume responsibility for ensuring the efficient use of natural resources, increasing efficiency in their operation and promoting a more circular economy, instead of a linear economy, where reduction, reuse and recycling are promoted, reducing their impacts and negative effects on the environment, and involving employees, suppliers, customers and the community in general.

For instance: in the sales sector, giving priority to products that are more durable, of better quality, recyclable or that can be reused, avoiding disposable products and giving priority to products that generate less waste; in the service sector, using ecological products and services; when designing new products or new packaging, recommending their reuse or recycling; with customers, provide after-sales assistance that guides the customer to correctly use the product in the most efficient way and generates less waste; make an efficient consumption of water and energy and give priority to the use of renewable energy sources or make an efficient and adequate management of waste.

8) What can each of us do to help preserve the natural resources of our archipelago?

We can all bet on conscious consumption, avoiding negative impacts on society and the environment, in which consumption is carried out in a sense of citizenship, seeking to acquire environmentally friendly or fair trade products and valuing companies’ environmentally and social responsible practices.

There are several options, clearly more environmentally friendly, that each of us can adopt, and that represent an added value for our environment, which naturally reflects in the improvement of the quality of life of the populations:

– Buying durable, recyclable (or that can be used), and better quality products, avoiding disposable products and giving priority to products that generate less waste, in order to contribute to a less linear and more circular economy.

– Make an efficient water and energy consumption in our homes.

– Prioritize public transport use, electric and/or shared mobility, means of transport with smooth mobility (bicycle) or even walk, whenever possible (helps the environment and contributes to improving our health).

– Make a proper waste separation and forward it to appropriate places.

– Reuse food leftovers and plan purchases according to what we need.

We know that there is a long way to go, and that we all have the right to the environment and quality of life, but also the duty to contribute to it.

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