Almargem: “Simplex Ambiental” is «law against environmental protection disguised as administrative simplification»

«The Environmental Simplex only in appearance is a simple reduction of bureaucracy: in fact, it translates the disrespect for environmental laws and compliance with European directives»

Almargem today contested, in a statement, the “Simplex Ambiental”, which it considers a “law against the protection of the environment disguised as administrative simplification”.

The environmental association recalls that Decree-Law 11/2023 was recently published, the so-called “Simplex Ambiental”, which aims to simplify licensing for the environmental area. However, he considers, «this diploma reduces environmental requirements and even dispenses with various obligations, instead of promoting the much-needed simplification and administrative efficiency».

The diploma, promoted by the Office of the Secretary of State for Digitization and Administrative Modernization, was initially in public consultation between August and September last year on the ConsultaLex portal. Almargem underlines that «the consultation is closed, but no report has been published, ignoring how many participations there were and in what sense they were».

Now, he adds, «this diploma is contradictory in itself, when compared with other economic licenses existing in Portugal, which are more demanding. Even more contradictory is its approval in the European context: the European agenda demands responsible governance from all member states, in line with the Climate Goals, Ecological Pact and European Strategy for Biodiversity 2030».

The simplification of environmental licensing, according to this Decree-Law, «will be done through the elimination of licenses, authorizations and administrative acts, some of them repetitive and unnecessary, but many others essential to guarantee environmental protection».

In this way, defends Almargem, «this protection is not being ensured, as defended by Mr. President of the Republic, who promulgated this diploma. Instead, the new law will allow you to license everything, falsely using terms like “sustainable development”. Therefore, «this alleged “simplification” puts an end to the attempt to manage economic development in line with environmental commitments».

«The rigor of a licensing process disappears when it is replaced, or measured, exclusively by the speed of the administrative decision. Devaluing and canceling environmental assessment procedures, through tacit approval and supposed “easy solutions”, without creating new, more efficient mechanisms and without supervision, will only maintain the bureaucracy that already exists, now increased by the lack of criteria», adds the association Algarve environmentalist.

In Almargem's opinion, the “Simplex Environmental” also “reduces the participation of civil society, removing its rights, since, for some projects and investments, the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment is eliminated”.

«Environmental licenses, being subject to public consultation, were analyzed by civil society, which had a tool to monitor compliance with legislation and the functions of the competent authorities. Projects that dispense with this assessment are thus out of public scrutiny», he denounces.

Almargem points out that Portugal has “serious environmental problems, which would require a posture of prevention and education, with adequate legislation and in line with the best international practices to preserve the environment and quality of life”.

These problems are, in his opinion, “well known: the severe erosion of a large part of the coastline; the construction of developments in vulnerable and environmentally sensitive areas; water scarcity; water resources of low environmental quality (polluted by industry, tourism, intensive agriculture and livestock); the alarming loss of biodiversity; the systematic delays in the creation and organization of ZEC (Special Conservation Areas) and SIC (Sites of Community Interest), among others».

«These disasters have, in fact, given rise to lawsuits against the Portuguese state in the Tribunal das Comunidades», he explains.

In a country where "responsibility is transferred to prosecutors, where there is no supervision, where entities do not respond to complaints made by citizens and where there are vested interests, it will be easy to deplete the territory and its resources, as has actually been done until here, but now in a more accelerated way».

Almargem concludes: «the administrative process is simplified in the name of economic development, but without measuring the effects in the medium and long term. This law will certainly lead to situations of non-return and costly processes in cases where it is necessary to reverse a license”.

For this reason, he also emphasizes, «Simplex Ambiental is only in appearance a simple reduction of bureaucracy: in fact, it reflects the disrespect for environmental laws and compliance with European directives. Instead of moving towards sustainability, we will be on a backward path».


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