Italy

Ethics and Justice in Climate Change Policies – Report on Italy

Second Round

Alessandra Solazzo, Massimiliano Montini
University of Siena, Italy

This report responds to the research questions of the Project on Deepening National Responses to Climate Change on The Basis of Ethics and Justice, a joint project of the University of Auckland, School of Architecture and Planning and Widener University, School of Law, Environmental Law Center.

 

1. Identify the most recent national commitment on reducing ghg emissions (INDCs) made by the country and the date on which it was made.

 

Italy, as a Member State of the European Union (EU), shares the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) with the other Member States. On 6th March 2015 the EU and its Member States communicated their commitment to “a binding target of an at least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990, to be fulfilled jointly, as set out in the conclusions by the European Council of October 2014”. Such conclusions refer that “all Member States will participate in this effort, balancing considerations of fairness and solidarity”, but no specific target has been defined for each country yet. Only a working document of the European Commission sets a projected reduction for Italy of 30% by 2030 versus the reference year of 2005. The mentioned commitment has not been translated into a binding legal obligation yet.

 

From the time being, Italy is bound to the target set by the EU ‘2020 climate and energy package’, adopted in 2009, that has produced some specific legal obligations at the national level. As for the greenhouse gas emissions, the package foresees a 20% reduction in the EU by 2020 as compared to 1990 levels. In order to reach this and the other objectives of the package, Decision 406/2009/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 laid down the minimum contribution of each Member State. Italy has a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions target of 13% by 2020 with respect to 2005 emissions. This target has been implemented in Italy by Law n. 96/2010 of the 4th June 2010.

 

2. Given that any national ghg emissions reduction target is implicitly a position on an atmospheric ghg concentration that will avoid dangerous climate change, to what extent has the nation expressly identified an atmospheric ghg level target goal or a warming limit that its INDC is designed to achieve and is it possible to quantitatively examine how the ghg emission target links quantitatively to an atmospheric ghg concentration or carbon budget?

 

 

As far as Italy is concerned, being part of the European Union, it takes as a benchmark the IPCC’s 2 °C limit, in the framework of the implementation of the relevant EU’s Decisions and Directives. In such a context, the reference scenario so far is determined by Decision 406/2009/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, referred to above, regarding the efforts of Member States to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to meet Europe’s ghg emissions reduction commitments up to 2020. Decision 406/2009/EC explicitly states that:

 

[T]he overall global annual mean surface temperature increase should not exceed 2 C above pre-industrial levels, which implies that global greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced to at least 50% below 1990 levels by 2050. The [European Union]’s greenhouse gas emissions covered by this Decision should continue to decrease beyond 2020 as part of the [EU]’s efforts to contribute to this global emissions reduction goal.

 

More recently, during the G7 Summit that took place in Germany on the 7th and 8th of June 2015, Italy and the other Nations of the group, confirmed their commitment “to follow a low-carbon and resilient development pathway in line with the global goal to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C.”

 

3. Given that any national ghg emissions reduction target is implicitly a position on what ethics, justice and equity requires of it, to what extent has the nation expressly identified the justice or equity basis that it has considered in determining a ghg emissions reduction target percentage level?

 

In Italy, climate ethics issues have recently become more popular than in the past. The main reasons that have allowed this important change in Italy were the publications of the Encyclical letter of Pope Francis with the title “Care for Our Common Home” and the Milan Expo 2015. Before this turning point, the debate on the relationship between climate change and ethics was not explicit and was only embedded in some studies of specific associations and research centres. Quite on the contrary, references to climate ethics can now be increasingly found in statements of different representatives of the society, from ministers to private companies and NGOs, most of the times in terms of responsibility towards poorer countries and towards future generations.
The Encyclical letter was released by Pope Francis on the 24th of May 2015 with the title “Care for Our Common Home”. In many parts of the Encyclical letter Pope Francis refers inter alia to: i) climate change and how it impacts particularly on the poor and vulnerable; ii) the need for a change in the attitude towards climate change and the relatioship of humans with nature; iii) the ethical dimension of the environmental issues. To this respect, for instance, Prof. Ottmar Edenhofer, commenting the Encyclical letter, has recently stated that “The encyclical highlights climate change, poverty and inequality as the key ethical challenges of the 21st century”. The Encyclical letter and the debate it has raised have played a central role in the recent evolution of the Italian policy on climate change. In Italy, the Encyclical letter may indeed represent a strong stimulus for each of the actors involved in climate change to pay much more attention to the ethical dimension of climate change.

 

As for the Expo 2015 “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, this global event took place in Milan (Italy) from the 1st of May to the 31st of October 2015. It aimed at educating the public, sharing innovation, promoting progress and fostering cooperation. The theme of climate change and ethics was central in some of the presentations, conferences and statements that have taken place in this occasion.

 

The growing attention to climate change and ethics have been concretised at the institutional level at the Conference organized by the Italian government on climate change and environmental protection (Rome 22nd of June 2015). This was the first national gathering which put together the main experts in these fields: from national and local governments, to NGOs, from the Italian Prime Minister to the French Minister for the Environment, from scientists to the Catholic Church, as well as from workers unions and the bigger oil company in the country. Many participants, most importantly the Italian Prime Minister, have referred to the Encyclical letter and the value of ethics in climate change or environmental issues in general.

 

Even though the awareness on climate ethics has been growing very much during the last year, the Italian ghg emission reduction target percentage level is still bound to international and EU commitments and it is not determined on the basis of independent and autonomous considerations emerged at national level, which also involve ethical considerations.

 

4. To what extent, if any, has the national debate about the nation’s INDC considered or acknowledged that the nation not only has economic interests in setting its ghg target but also ethical obligations to those who are most vulnerable to climate change?

 

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, speaking at the Conference on the state of climate change and environmental protection (Rome, 22nd of June 2015, as mentioned in question n. 3), stated that Europe has to think about issues which are beyond economics and finance. However, at the same time, as the Italian economic situation is still unstable, in the decree called “Sblocca Italia” (“Unlocking Italy”) the focus is still mainly on the economic interests of the country. In fact, the Decreto Legge, 12/09/2014 No. 133 does not question fossil fuels as the main source of energy for the country, putting environmental issues much behind economic interests.

 

Nonetheless, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has disbursed around 32 million EUR in bilateral cooperation with developing countries for climate change related activities. Italian cooperation is mostly focused on the Mediterranean area, which is very vulnerable to climate change and, in particular, on the less developed countries in that area, such as Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon and Yemen. In doing so, Italy, in fact, uses a specific fund for MENA countries made available by the World Bank in the field of adaptation to climate change.

 

5. To what extent have NGOs or other major participants engaged in climate change policy formation at the national level examined the national INDC from an ethics, justice, or equity perspective?

 

Legambiente is one of the biggest Italian NGOs engaged in climate change policy formation at the national level, together with the Italian branches of WWF and Greenpeace. These NGOs, with many others associations, have addressed Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi during the recent semester of Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU, asking for the setting of a higher and fairer percentage of ghg emissions reduction: 55% instead of the EU 2020 INDC of 40%. They pointed out that the EU has the responsibility to strengthen its commitment, in order to play a role of leadership and being able also to push other countries, such as China or the United States of America, to set higher targets.

 

6. To what extent has the national media covered issues concerning the national INDC with respect to ethical, justice, and equity issues?

 

The same reasons which have played a role in the slowly evolving development of a debate on climate change and ethics in Italy (see question No. 3) are the same factors which have recently led media to take this topic into an increasing consideration. We are referring in particular to the media coverage and reaction to the Encyclical letter of Pope Francis and the Milan Expo 2015.

 

7. Before any nation may adopt an INDC or climate policy it often has to satisfy national economic interests. Yet many nations fail to disclose the national economic interests that have actually affected the lack of aggressiveness of the national INDC when commitments are made under the UNFCCC. Given this, what is known about the actual basis for the aggressiveness of the national INDC?

 

As we have already stated in answering question 1, there is not a defined objective set at the national level yet for 2030, and the INDC for Italy has always been set so far within the European context. As a consequence, the level of aggressiveness of the country in determining the INDC is very hard to point out. For instance, with regard to the energy sector, the state of the Italian economic crisis has led to the adoption of the Decree called “Sblocca Italia” (“Unlocking Italy” – already mentioned above in question No. 4), where the lack of aggressiveness in determining the position of the country in relation to fossil fuels (which is strictly linked to its ghg emissions reduction) is evident. Such a Decree is very much oriented to solve economic problems first and does not aim at altering the dependence of the country from fossil fuels and leaves quite a wide space to oil exploration and drilling works.

 

8. What formal mechanisms are available in the nation for citizens, NGOs and other interested organizations to question/contest the nation’s ethical position on climate change?

 

In Italy, there are no formal mechanisms available for citizens, NGOs and other interested organizations to specifically question/contest the nation’s ethical position on climate change. Nonetheless, the Conference on climate change and environmental protection, held in Rome on the 22nd of June 2015 and mentioned above (question No. 3), showed a growing interest of the Government towards NGOs and other interested organizations’ points of view and proposals.

Moreover, a formal participatory mechanism has been made available for citizens and organizations to question/contest the nation’s position on the climate change adaptation strategy. In fact, before its approval, the draft of the Decreto Direttoriale Prot. 86/CLE of the 16th of June 2015, which contains adopted the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, was made available to the public for a feedback. Many NGOs, other interested organizations and individual citizens have submitted their opinions on the draft. This was a good example of successful participation, despite the fact that none of the participants specifically referred to ethical issues in its submission.

9. Are you aware of any regional, state, provincial, or local governments in your country that has acknowledged ethical responsibility for climate change? If so, what have they said?

 

A reference in this sense can be found, at the European level, in the “Mayors Adapt – the Covenant of Mayors”, that is an initiative launched in 2014 by the European Commission to endorse and support the voluntary efforts deployed by local authorities in tackling climate change and implement sustainable energy policies, along the lines of the EU’s climate adaptation policy. At present, the Covenant involves 125 European cities, 54 of which are Italian ones.

 

As we have already stated in answering question 1, there is not a defined objective set at the national level yet for 2030, and the INDC for Italy has always been set so far within the European context. As a consequence, the level of aggressiveness of the country in determining the INDC is very hard to point out. For instance, with regard to the energy sector, the state of the Italian economic crisis has led to the adoption of the Decree called “Sblocca Italia” (“Unlocking Italy” – already mentioned above in question No. 4), where the lack of aggressiveness in determining the position of the country in relation to fossil fuels (which is strictly linked to its ghg emissions reduction) is evident. Such a Decree is very much oriented to solve economic problems first and does not aim at altering the dependence of the country from fossil fuels and leaves quite a wide space to oil exploration and drilling works.

 

10. Has your national government taken any position on or otherwise encouraged individuals, businesses, organizations, subnational governments, or other entities that they have an ethical duty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

 

In Italy the national government has not encouraged individuals, businesses, organizations, subnational governments, or other entities to have an ethical duty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the government has engaged in an effort to spread a more responsible use of products. This can be seen as a way to promote more responsible behaviours . In this sense, the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea has led an intensive programme on the environmental footprint of goods/services (carbon footprint and water footprint) to experiment on a large scale and optimize different evaluation systems of environmental performance, taking into account the differences of each economic sector, in order to harmonize and make them reproducible.

 

11. What recommendations would you make to get the nation or civil society in the country to take ethics and justice issues seriously in climate change policy formulation?

 

With regard to climate change ‘ethics’, we should underline that the academia has a moral responsibility to promote a crucial shift towards taking ethics and justice issues more seriously in climate change policy formulation. In fact, sharing the academic knowledge about climate ethics within schools and universities might result in the development of a next generation of policy makers and stakeholders who have a broader and more detailed knowledge about these issues.

 

Education is also important to create a society which really cares about politics and that has the will, the courage and the opportunity to get involved in the decision-making process in an effective way. As noted earlier, in Italy there are already some mechanisms in place for the involvement of civil society in the public decision-making process, but sometimes these mechanisms simply consist in “formal procedures”, which do not have a strong impact on final decisions. On the contrary, the development of a better participatory system would allow citizens, associations and organizations to effectively have the chance to make the difference in the management of the resources of “our common home”.

 

12. For developed nations, identify the most recent national commitment, if any, the nation has made on funding adaptation or losses and damages in vulnerable countries?

 

Italy participates in the UN Green Climate Fund, which aims at supporting adaptation in developing countries. More in particular, Italy is one of the ten top major donors, having pledged to contribute to the Fund with 250 million Euros for the next five years. Considering the amount of the pledge, this ranks Italy at the seventh position among other UN countries. Nonetheless, considering the entity of the per capita funding, Italy is almost in the last positions among the richest UN countries.

13. For developed nations, did your nation acknowledge any ethical or justice based responsibility for making a commitment on funding adaptation in vulnerable countries?

 

No ethical or justice based responsibility for making a commitment on funding adaptation in most vulnerable countries can be detected in Italy. However, this should not be a surprise if one considers the results of a recent Special Eurobarometer Survey (Survey No. 421 of 2015), according to which in Italy only 5% of the interviewees considers the climate change challenge as a priority of action for the future of developing countries.

 

14. Have NGOs or the media in your nations identified or discussed the potential obligations of high-emitting nations to fund adaptation or losses and damages in poor vulnerable nations?

 

No specific identification or discussion in this sense has been detected at Italian level. However, it should be mentioned that, during the preparatory meetings to the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (Addis Ababa, July 2015), a strong call for renewed and stronger financial commitments for development at international level came from CONCORD Italia, the Italian network of the European NGO confederation for relief and development. Despite this, unfortunately, such a plea was not translated into concrete proposals as regards both deadlines and targets.

 

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