Italy presents ambitious plans for the environment and criticises failure to act on global warming.
The Italian environment minister has proposed ambitious new targets in his report on the state of the environment but warned of increasing flood risks from global warming.
Environment Minister Willer Bordon has presented the report, which both sums up progress made over the previous three years and sets future targets to the president and parliament. “The situation is improving, but not in an auspicious manner,” Bordon said, adding that over the last three years great efforts had been made to improve the environment and increase sustainability. Bordon promised to incorporate environmental considerations into all aspects of Italian policy, make plans to introduce an eco tax and involve the general public more in the formation of new ministry plans.
One area that was given great prominence in Bordon’s speech was global warming. Referring to recent UN information that global temperatures could increase by up to 5.8°C (see related story), he said that Italy was at risk of seas rising by as much as 25-30 centimetres by 2050. “There will be a risk of flooding to thousands of square kilometres of coast and low-lying areas,” he said. He also blamed heat waves and the recurrence of infectious diseases on global warming, stressing that, in 1998, 35,000 Italians died as a result of these factors.
Bordon was not afraid to apportion blame for the failure to agree on criteria for arriving at what he believes to be essential, the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol (see related story). “Ratifying the Protocol on the part of the European Union will determine a strong negotiating position in meetings with the USA and Japan, not only for the pressure it can exercise on global public opinion, but above all for the risk of American and Japanese industry finding itself caught out in respect of standards of efficiency and environmental compatibility offered by European industry’s technology and products.”
The report is sub-divided into nine areas of action:
- Climate change: Greenhouse gas emissions have risen 5.4% since 1990, but since 1998 there 100,000 billion lire (£33 billion) plan underfoot to reduce CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by 2010. However, Italy’s legal commitment under the Kyoto climate protocol is to reduce CO2 emissions by 6.5% on 1990 levels by 2008-2012. The plan includes: increasing the efficiency of fossil fuel power plants; reducing energy consumption in the transport section (see related story); increasing renewable energy useage; reducing the energy consumption of industry, agriculture and other areas; and increasing forest cover to absorb CO2.
- New energy sources: An objective to double renewable energy production by 2010, bringing it to 6% of power used. By 2002, all energy companies must generate 2% of their power from renewable sources, which Bordon says, has particularly stimulated the growth of wind: the first stage of a 2,000 billion lire (£660 million) plan to have 150MW of solar power.
- Ground and subsoil: Action to combat growing desertification in the country, with responsibility for matters affecting erosion to be taken by the environment
ministry. There will be immediate investment in anti-erosion programmes in areas where 350,000 people are living at risk.
- Protected areas: Recognising that 68% of animal species are on the ‘Red List’ of threatened species (see related story), and 50% of species are in decline, Bordon there is to be a major increase in habitat
protection, with 267 areas to be protected under the Natura 2000 EU scheme. New legislation will also combat the impacts of illegal tourist developments.
- Water: There is a recognition that existing legislation has not eliminated the prevalence of poor and sub-standard water quality, which accounts for 37% of supply, whereas good or high quality water only accounts for 26% of supply. Eutrophication is not declining and salinisation is increasing but the percentage of sea water not suitable for bathing has decreased from 6.1% in 1998 to 5.6% in 1999, the last date for which figures are available. Twelve percent of the population suffers from water shortages, rising to 18% in the drier south. A 13,000 billion lira (£4.3 billion) water plan, consisting of almost 1,500 water purification and distribution projects is already underway.
- Maritime transport: There will be a major financial and legislative effort to equip coastal and port authorities to reduce the risks of dangerous substances from maritime transport.
- Waste: Waste generation increased by 4% from 1995 to 1998, but for the first time urban waste decreased – by 2.4% from 1998-9. For the first time, in 2000, more than four million tonnes of waste was recycled, which was above target, and waste disposal in landfill sites fell for the first time. However, a big difference between north and south remained for waste separation. In the north, around 30% of waste collected was separated, whereas in the south the total is around 5%. A new system of waste management by industry aims to stamp out the problem of illegal dumping and corruption in waste disposal (see related story).
- Urban areas: The last three years have witnesses a 5% decline in public
transport and 25% rise in private transport passenger kilometres, therefore the government is investing in a far-reaching transport plan (see above). Sulphur dioxide limits in air are regularly breached in many cities but there has been a fall in carbon monoxide violations.
- New risks to health: Measures are being taken to control electrosmog and a special commission on GMOs will soon issue a report.