Spain’s left-wing coalition government decided a few days ago to set aside 5,000 km2 of the country’s territorial waters to install floating wind farms, thus aspiring to become the European spearhead for this technology and the electricity it produces.
Meanwhile, Italy’s avowedly right-wing government has very different aspirations, dreaming of turning the country into a major gas depot and then distributing it throughout Europe – and, for this purpose, it has decided that the waters surrounding Italy will be drilled some more to extract the few cubic meters of gas that are left, then crossed by the new long pipelines that will be built; and, to cap it all, traversed by ships loaded with frozen gas to supply those giant vessels moored in the ports of Piombino and Ravenna that are being used as regasifiers.
Two governments and two radically opposed visions, which leads one to ask: which of the two governments has made the better decision? In other words, which of the two projects best guarantees a beneficial future for their respective peoples in terms of jobs, rights and climate justice?
From this point of view, the answer should be all too obvious, and Europe should look at Italy’s decisions as a dangerous turning back of the clock, rewarding Spain’s choices (and Portugal’s, because Lisbon is doing the same things) and penalizing the Italian ones for being completely foreign to the objective of ecological transition. Above all, it would be useful to compare how the European population felt about these two different perspectives, if one were to actually get them involved; as of now, they know little about the ecological and energy transition, bombarded as they are with eco-friendly-sounding messaging from energy companies committed to maintaining the use of fossil sources – see, for instance, Eni’s “Plenitude” subsidiary.
But if we look closely, the Spanish and Portuguese commitments seem to be lone voices crying out in the desert, as the European project of ecological transition has run aground. There are many consistent signals that justify such pessimism. The decision a few days ago to postpone the proposed 2035 ban on internal combustion vehicles to some later date speaks volumes in this sense. Everyone knew that Italy was aiming for this outcome, for the same reasons that it aspires to be the European gas hub, and that it would rally to its cause the most backward countries in terms of technology and innovation in the EU, such as the former Soviet countries.
However, it was a complete surprise that this backward and conservative group was joined by Germany, whose government includes the Greens, as well as the SPD. This signal sounds like it could be the final death knell of the European commitment to the NextGenerationEU project. The Meloni government will try to reuse the same playbook when the European Commission tries to pass the directive on the energy upgrading of the housing stock, which would call on member states to bring it up at least into the very modest E class.
Instead, the Commission will be weary of stirring the conflict between different interpretations of what the ecological transition means, leaving each state to interpret it as it pleases. Everyone for themselves, with the natural result that the climate goals might be missed both for 2030 and 2050. Another very inauspicious sign that the European dream is falling apart, now destabilized by a war that is fueling the worst nationalisms everywhere.
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