The economic crisis is and will be part of the agenda and political communication in the run-up to the elections on 24 February. (…) But another crisis does not appear, and I’d be willing to bet will not appear in the agenda and political communication for the elections: the environmental crisis.”

The comment was made by Sergio Vazzoler in December, highlighting the absence of environmental issues as Italy’s political parties prepare for the forthcoming general elections and proposing a green decalogue summarising all the reasons why political communication should embrace questions relating to the environment and sustainability.

In the page-one editorial in today’s Il Corriere della Sera, Aldo Cazzullo turns the spotlight on the total absence of the environment. This is not just a problem of representation says Cazzullo, but rather of what he calls political initiative: “The environment is missing from the various agendas. Protection of the territory, pollution in our cities, even alternative energies, have been overlooked. Of course, the crisis engulfs everything, making production and growth the top priorities. But on the eve of decisive elections, defence of the environment and the natural beauties of a country as magnificent and delicate as Italy ought to be at the heart of political debate. Instead, they have become the backdrop for doom-laden prophecies, followed by the relief typical of the survivors of a shipwreck.”

For Cazzullo the fundamental question is that the political community has failed to “impose an issue that affects all areas of our daily lives and work, from industrial policies to workplace safety, from health to tourism (a possible driver for recovery, which has received little attention). Whereas it is of enormous interest to voters; when they can be involved, they do so en masse and with determination, even in the sweeping form of referendum votes, which reduce complex questions such as nuclear research and natural resources to the sometimes excessive simplification of a yes or a no. Once every ten years, voters make themselves heard; then the politicians let the dust slowly settle.

In this connection, yesterday’s Il Sole 24 Ore published the proposal from Italy’s Minister for the Environment, Corrado Clini, for a Green Agenda for the next government: eight “environmental levers for the economy, innovation and employment, especially in small and medium businesses”, ranging from the green economy to ‘de-carbonisation’ of the economy, from emissions reduction to a list of clean technologies, by way of sustainable cities, counter-measures against climate change and hydrogeological difficulties, worldwide cooperation on the environment, simplification and transparency for approvals that do not defend the environment and eco-tax.

    1. The conclusions of the States General of the Green Economy, promoted by the Monti Government’s Environment Ministry in cooperation with Edo Ronchi’s Sustainable Development Foundation, and adopted by the representatives of Italy’s most important business and industry associations, indicate the measures and direction to be taken to consolidate results achieved in terms of competitiveness, growth and additional jobs by Italian companies who have chosen a “green” growth policy.

 

    1. The National plan for the “decarbonisation” of the Italian economy and reduction of CO2 emissions, presented to the Interministerial Economic Planning Committee (CIPE) in May 2012 and sent by the Monti Government to the European Commission as part of the 2012 National Reform Plan, is the framework for policies and measures to ensure compliance by 2020 with the European “climate-energy” package, consistent with the medium/long-term guidelines to bring Italy into line with the strategy for the decarbonisation and competitiveness of the European economy. The plan is the platform for the measures to implement the National Energy Strategy and enact the European directives regulating the emissions market, energy efficiency and energy tax, to promote low-carbon clean transport and mobility, to support the development of clean chemicals and second- and third-generation biofuels.

 

    1. The list of “green” technologies and systems: incentives for sustainable growth and “Green Procurement” in government agencies The creation of a list of technologies, systems and products that help reduce carbon intensity in the economy as envisaged by the Plan for decarbonisation. The list covers all sectors (energy, chemicals, transport, waste, agriculture) and involves application of the carbon management and carbon foot-printing system for processes and products on the basis of voluntary agreements with business. The list is the tool to regulate priority access for business organisations and private players:  a) to the 2014-2020 structural funds;  b) to the benefits provided by the “Kyoto Rotation Fund” set up at the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, which should be refinanced for the period 2014-2020;   c) to a 55{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622} reduction in VAT or tax credits (on a zero balance for public finance in the economic investment cycle) for the purchase or use of the technologies and systems in the list in the period 2014-2020.  The list should also form the framework for public-sector procurement (Green Procurement).

 

    1. Smart Cities: the gradual penetration of generation systems distributed with renewable sources and high electric energy-heat-cold efficiency in urban areas, together with the development of “intelligent networks”. The package of incentives for renewable sources and energy efficiency is having a dual positive effect on the reduction of energy consumption and costs and on promotion of a national supply chain able to compete on the international markets, developed (USA) and emerging (Brazil, China and India in particular). This process has to be supported as a key factor for growth and to overcome the constraints and costs of the traditional electricity system, with a view to strengthening Italy’s role in the European competition for smart cities.

 

    1. The national plan for adaptation to climate change and protection of the territory, presented to the CIPE, is the tool to prevent the risks and damage to which Italy is increasingly exposed because of its growing vulnerability to extreme events. The plan also complies with Italy’s commitment in Europe. The plan provides for full enactment in Italy of the European directives concerning flooding, in part through the creation of the authorities for the eight hydrographic basins envisaged in a regulation of 2006, but always postponed. The plan also envisages investments of € 2.5 billion/year, including € 1 billion of public resources and € 1.5 billion of private funds subsidised with tax credits. The public investments should not be subject to the Stability and Growth Pact, and a request in this sense has already been made to the European Commission.

 

    1. International cooperation on the environment, as part of the undertakings and programs approved by the UN Conference in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, RIO+20. The bilateral and multilateral programs for protection of the global environment introduced in the last ten years have been important drivers promoting Italian green technologies on the emerging markets, with significant returns for Italy in the UN and for Italian business. The undertakings of RIO+20 attribute an even more important role to international environmental cooperation, through the creation of the Green Climate Fund. In this context, it is of strategic importance that a leading role be maintained, valorising existing programs and planning incentives – such as tax credits – for companies that export technologies and systems included in the Green List.

 

    1. Simplification and transparency to eliminate the bottleneck of environmental approvals that do not protect the environment. The measures already adopted and those currently put on hold due to the interruption of the legislature, to set up technical procedures based on European best practice and non-discretionary approval times, are a necessary “infrastructure” to free up resources and promote sustainable investments for growth: from remediation of contaminated sites to the environmental re-qualification of industrial facilities (not just ILVA), infrastructure projects, projects for new production companies.

 

    1. Introduction of eco-tax, as envisaged by the parliamentary bill for delegation of fiscal authority, to gradually shift taxation from professional income to use of natural resources (water and soil) and energy resources (carbon tax) is an effective tool to move the economy in a more efficient, competitive direction, as repeatedly stressed by the EU and the OECD. It is a key measure for Italy’s sustainable growth.

 

Clini’s document is also intended as a platform for debate among private individuals, business organisations, politicians, journalists, players in the green economy through the forum Agenda Verde.