Commentary. For Italy to reach net zero emissions by 2050, goods and people must travel over long distances mostly by rail or sea, to hubs from which they can move locally using light, electric vehicles.

The bridge over the Strait would sabotage the European Green Deal

The always-heated debate surrounding the Messina Bridge covers a wide range of critical issues, from seismic risk to impact on the marine environment, from hydrogeological risk to Mafia infiltration, and so on. Nothing is said, however, about another kind of impact: its effect on the European Green Deal, which commits us to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

What does the Green Deal have to do with the bridge? It has everything to do with it, because among the actions planned to cut CO2 emissions, the Green Deal explicitly includes a decisive shift in freight traffic from road to rail and maritime transport. To reduce emissions, we need to use fewer and fewer trucks and more and more trains and ships.

But there is more on the issue of transportation. There is also the Italian Plan for Ecological Transition, approved on March 8, 2022 by the Interministerial Committee for Ecological Transition. This plan states that for Italy to reach net zero emissions by 2050, this requires, among other things, that the vehicle fleet be reduced by 60 percent. That is, there will have to be far fewer cars on the road. In short, the transportation system by 2050, less than 30 years from now, will have to be characterized by the movement of goods and people over long distances accomplished predominantly by rail or sea, to hubs from which goods and people will move locally using light, electric vehicles. But it goes even further: one of the main pillars on which the European Green Deal is based is the circular economy. And what is the circular economy based on, in turn?

Contrary to what interested parties are trying to make us believe, it is not based on recycling, but on minimizing the amount of waste produced – waste which, of course, should be recycled as much as possible. In fact, the circular economy is based on the principle that a product should be designed and manufactured to be as durable, repairable, reusable, refurbishable and – finally – recyclable as possible.

This means that, since products have to last longer, less of them will need to be produced (hence the reduction in the amount of waste), and therefore less will need to be transported from the producer to the consumer. As a result, the number of trucks crossing the Strait will decrease, and the amount of goods transported on trains will also decrease, partly because sea transport, which is more natural for islands in any case, will become prevalent. The number of cars across the Strait will also greatly decrease, because tourists will no longer arrive by car from the north, but by train, and they will rent their cars locally. All this will have to happen if we are to comply with the European Green Deal.

Let’s try to add it all up: in 30 years, if we won’t be living in a dystopian world prey to floods, droughts, food shortages, hordes of migrants and wars, we will instead be – we dearly hope – living in a more sustainable and fairer country, in which far fewer goods and cars will circulate, with great benefits to health and quality of life.

One must ask this question, then: many years ago, when the bridge project was drawn up, the economic accounts on the profitability of the investment were made on the basis of increased traffic of trucks, cars and freight trains that would pay substantial tolls, thanks to which the cost of the works would be economically justified. Are those projections still valid if traffic is going to decline dramatically?

Furthermore, as has already been asked in this newspaper: has the amount of emissions embedded in the cyclopean concrete works comprising the bridge and upstream and downstream infrastructure been taken into account, given that concrete and steel are among the materials with the highest impact on climate change? And has it been shown how these extra emissions will be offset?

Clearly the government believes that freight and passenger traffic will increase, otherwise they would be knowingly starting the construction of a project that is not only unnecessary but also economically disastrous.

So, there are two possibilities: either our government has forgotten the fact that we are part of the European Union, or the bridge over the Strait is a deliberate act of sabotage of the European Green Deal, based on the prediction that it will not be implemented in Italy and that is why the bridge is needed; and if it is not implemented in Italy, it will also be undermined at the European level, given the importance our country has.

The hypothesis that this is an act of sabotage is reinforced by a whole series of decisions in this direction by the Meloni government and/or the parties that support it. Acts of sabotage of the Green Deal have included the European Parliament vote against the new directive on the energy efficiency of buildings, the stance against the ban on internal combustion engine cars by 2035, the effort to block the packaging regulation – all key steps which must be taken to be able to achieve zero emissions by 2050.

But the strongest message confirming this scenario comes from the decision to make Italy the European gas hub, because the large investments needed can only be justified if the Green Deal fails. In fact, if the Green Deal succeeds, gas consumption in Europe will dwindle more and more towards zero in the not-too-distant 2050, and our shiny new hub will be left empty and rusting away.

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