A real chance for Italy’s 21st century green renaissance

December 18, 2020

Yes, 2020 was tough. For Italy, the epicentre of the pandemic in Europe, the impact on people’s lives was unimaginable and its economy was left shaken. The pandemic-induced recession is the most serious in contemporary Italian history, with the first semester GDP down 12% on the same period in 2019.

Nevertheless, approaching the end of 2020 there are some bright spots of note.

First, following a landmark ruling against greenwashing – filed by Legambiente, Movimento per la Difesa del Cittadino and T&E – Italy’s Competition and Market Authority slapped oil giant ENI with a €5 million fine for greenwashing palm oil diesel. Subsequently, ENI declared a palm oil phase-out starting in 2023. Now, the Senate has approved an end to palm oil subsidies from 2023. Fingers crossed for the Chamber of Deputies to confirm this big step forward for the planet, our tropical forests and biodiversity.

Second, lockdown measures gave Italian citizens a taste of cleaner air in big cities like Milan and Rome. They are now demanding protection against air pollution together with more public space for walking, cycling and public transport – something that new mayoral candidates should consider when drafting their programme for municipal elections in 2021. The good work by our Italian members on the ground brought small but highly significant victories for urban transport such as the government’s decision to adopt a policy of ‘good mobility’, which will boost the role of e-bikes, and legalisation on the street code of electric scooters (monopattini elettrici).

Third, on 1 October 2020 the rebate that the owners of EURO 3 diesel trucks receive on their toll payments came to an end. The end of the rebate for EURO 4 should follow on 1 January 2021. This is an initial step forward towards the phase-out of all fossil fuels subsidies promised by the environment ministry. Despite resistance from the logistic lobby, with e-commerce sales at an all-time high, now more than ever is the time to implement policies that accelerate the penetration of zero emission vehicles into freight.

Fourth, thanks to new CO2 standards that came into force, along with additional purchase incentives for zero and low-emissions cars (agreed by the government following a strong advocacy push from T&E and Italian environmental NGOs), the electric market share in Italy increased more than fourfold from under 1% in 2019 to 7% in November. We wait impatiently for December’s figures and are ready to advocate for the next crucial step: the deployment of a smart and inclusive charging infrastructure network, equally distributed from the northern Alps right to the very end of the boot.

And then comes the cherry on the cake: Italy is the biggest beneficiary of the Next Generation EU Fund. A “present” of €209 billion is set to land in the Italian government’s coffers. If smartly deployed, it can enable Italy to emerge from the crisis healthier and greener than before. This once-in-a-century opportunity must be used in the right way. Together with our member Kyoto Club, T&E proposed a green recovery plan for the Italian transport sector.

Now let’s hope that Babbo Natale brings our decision makers a good dose of wisdom, courage and forward thinking to help them use those resources for a truly green and just Italian recovery. We cannot afford to waste this opportunity: it is time for Italy’s 21st century green renaissance.

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