Reportage. The Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development released its 2017 report, showing that the need for a carbon tax.

Report highlights Italy’s environmental emergency

On the day when it was discovered that three large companies were benefiting from the environment by using garbage to produce raw materials, the 2017 report from ASviS, the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development, confirms that in our country “the situation is deteriorating significantly” in regards to “protecting, restoring and promoting a sustainable use of the ecosystem.”

This is the 15th of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the U.N. Agenda 2030, promoted in Italy by ASviS, a network that brings together 176 institutions, foundations, associations, trade unions and businesses. On Thursday morning, ASviS presented its 2017 report, explained by its spokesman, former Minister Enrico Giovannini, and introduced by President Pierluigi Stefanini, president of Unipol financial group.

In a general framework that “confirms the unsatisfactory position of our country in relation to other OECD countries” (in 30th position since “no SDG appears in line with the objectives”) the chapters on environmental issues are among the most negative, especially from the energy point of view.

In order to demonstrate how Renzi and Gentiloni adopted the strategy in words only, Enrico Giovannini brought up a figure. “A few months ago, the government published the first catalog of environmentally positive and negative subsidies: The state spends €16 billion a year on environment-damaging incentives, compared to €15 billion invested on environmentally friendly ones,” he said. “In short, we give more contributions to businesses that destroy our environment than to those that help.”

Actually, on the issue of landfills, this year Italy was deferred to the European Court for failure to comply with a 1999 directive, which stipulated that by 2009, the landfills active in 2001 should have been closed or adapted to the new European standards. “To date,” ASviS reported, “44 landfills have not been updated yet.”

Pollution strongly affects the aquifers, putting more distance to the goal of “guaranteeing the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation facilities.” The water shortage is “an evident national emergency.” And this summer, two-thirds of the regions have declared emergencies because the dispersion of water entering the distribution grid went up: In 2015, it was 38.2 percent, more than two points more than in 2012.

There are critical political delays on two fundamental tools. The first is the adoption of the National Energy Strategy (acronym in Italian Sen), “still in the consultation process.” For ASviS, “without the expansion of renewable sources at least at a three times higher rate than in the last years.” In Asvis’ opinion, the current “draft” of the National Energy Strategy “is not adequate to the objectives of the Treaty of Paris and is built on a too short timeframe.” The second instrument is the National Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change (acronym in Italian PNAcc), also very behind in its schedule.

To improve the situation, Asvis proposes first of all an “urgent eco-tax reform” focused on a “carbon tax” and an “Emission trade scheme (ETS) for the financing of low carbon technologies (those with reduced carbon dioxide emissions) and for the promotion of employment and competitiveness.” The application of carbon tax is first and foremost proposed in the “heating and transport” sectors, while reducing the tax burden on labor at the same time. “Drastic interventions” are also required in the “building sector.”

“We urgently need a deep cultural change,” underlines Giovannini, saying that “the complexity and urgency of the necessary actions requires that the Presidency of the Council takes the coordination of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, transforming Cipe [the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Economic Programs] into the “Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development,” and that “political forces include these goals in their electoral programs.”

Giovannini explains: “this transformation would allow us to start the green conversion of the economy, increase jobs, and reduce pollution.” In short, “change can be achieved” but only with “integrated policies, no longer sectorial ones.”

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