31 May 2024, 15:00
Rudi Bressa

Dispatch from Italy

Photo: CLEW/Wettengel.

As the European elections approach and the political parties in Italy engage in divisive campaigns over European policies and the management of various international contexts, the country is preparing to host the summit of G7 countries in mid-June. Major agreements already reached at ministerial level focus on the energy transition, specifically the phase-out of coal by 2035. Italy presents two sides of the same coin: while it shows openness to energy and climate policies on the international stage, domestically, the Green Deal and energy and climate transition policies are consistently neglected.

***Our weekly Dispatches provide an overview of the most relevant recent and upcoming developments for the shift to climate neutrality in selected European countries, from policy and diplomacy to society and industry.

For a bird's-eye view of the country's climate-friendly transition, read the respective 'Guide to'.***

EU election focus

  • According to the latest findings by Pagella Politica, which analysed all polls conducted between 1 and 23 May, the party of prime minister Giorgia Meloni, Fratelli d’Italia (far-right party and member of European Conservatives and Reformists Group), would obtain 27 percent in next week's EU election. In second place is the social democratic Partito Democratico with 20.7 percent, followed by the Movimento Cinque Stelle (pro-Europe party) with 15.7 percent. Next are the centre-right Forza Italia with 8.9 percent and the right-wing populist Lega with 8.6 percent. Further behind is the Alleanza Verdi Sinistra (green party) at 4.3 percent, and Azione at 4 percent (centre-right coalition), which risk not surpassing the electoral threshold.
  • Much of the election campaign of the governing coalition was based on sharp criticism of the Green Deal, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, and the electrification of transport. Meloni said she wanted to "change Europe," while transport minister Matteo Salvini said that "Saying no to petrol and diesel is a big nonsense."
  • Climate, nature protection and energy are deeply dividing the country’s political parties. Fratelli d'Italia asks for "more pragmatism and less ideology," advocating for its strong points like "nuclear power and biofuels." Azione calls for "plans based on numbers," while parties such as Partito Democratico, Movimento Cinque Stelle and Alleanza Verdi Sinistra lament Europe's setbacks on the Green Deal and the Nature Restoration Law, calling for a greater push towards renewables.
  • In a sign of EU-wide cooperation of far-right parties, Meloni was invited to an event organised by Spain’s far-right Vox party in Madrid on 20 May, together with French far-right National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen. Meloni tried to rally voters and defended Italy’s policy of reaching agreements with third countries to curb illegal immigration.
  • The corruption investigation that led to the house arrest of Liguria region president Giovanni Toti, who is supported by the right, just a few weeks before the European elections could shift many votes, according to reports from Repubblica.

Italy's G7 summit approaches

  • Italy is getting ready to host the G7 leaders' summit in the luxury resort of Borgo Egnazia in the southeastern Puglia region on 13-15 June. Cooperation with Africa on climate and energy issues and migration has been a key focus of the Italian G7 presidency this year.
  • The G7 climate, energy and environment ministers met in April. According to their joint declaration, they agreed to gradually eliminate coal-fired power plants by 2035 or within a timeframe "consistent with" keeping the 1.5°C global temperature increase target within reach. Countries also said they would present new national plans for emission reductions (NDCs) nine to 12 months before the UN climate change conference COP30, which will be held in Brazil at the end of 2025. They also agreed to significantly increase investments in electricity transmission and distribution networks by 2030, and they aim to reduce global methane emissions from fossil fuels by 75 percent. The Italian Climate Network, an organisation dedicated to education, outreach and advocacy on climate issues, criticised the declaration for adding little to the energy and climate decisions already made at COP28. The association also criticised the limited progress on climate finance, which would be central to the upcoming COP29 in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan.
  • During a parallel event held in Turin, Italy's environment and energy security minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin reaffirmed the interest in exploring new nuclear energy sources as a complementary component of the energy mix, providing the necessary continuity that renewables alone may not deliver. He announced the ministry's endorsement of the European Industrial Alliance for SMRs, small modular reactors. The minister emphasised that the unregulated adoption of photovoltaic panels and wind turbines across the country is not feasible, citing the importance of preserving the landscape.

Stories to watch in the weeks ahead

  • On 28 May, the European Union decided to refer Italy to the EU Court of Justice for failing to properly implement the European Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning. This directive was supposed to have been transposed into national law in recent months with the provision of areas designated for offshore wind farms; however, as of today, this has not yet been done.
  • Italy, like all EU member states, is mandated to submit the final version of the updated National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) to the European Commission by 30 June. It serves as the primary tool for defining measures to achieve the 2030 emission reduction targets. Environment minister Fratin has said that "the NECP update, slated for submission to the European Commission by June 2024, will also incorporate scenario analyses outlining a potential proportion of energy generated from nuclear sources between 2030 and 2050."

The latest from Italy – last month in recap

  • The government has issued the regulations for the National Energy Income Fund aimed at supporting the installation of domestic photovoltaic systems for residential units occupied by economically disadvantaged families. The objective of the fund is to install a minimum of 31,000 small-scale photovoltaic systems between 2024 and 2025, benefitting financially vulnerable families.
  • The government also passed the Agriculture Decree, which includes an amendment prohibiting the installation of solar panels on agricultural land unless the panels are elevated to allow agricultural activities to continue. Additionally, installations will be permitted in quarries and near highways. This move has elicited strong criticism from the photovoltaic sector, which views it as an "ideological stance." According to Elettricità Futura, the main association of Italy’s electricity sector, the announcement by the government would jeopardise the renewable energy targets for 2030. By March 2024, Italy had connected 1,688,348 photovoltaic systems, with a total capacity of 32 GW.
  • Italy saw a 7.7 percent reduction in CO2 emissions and a surge in renewable energy production in 2023, says the Tahe report by the Rome Business School.
  • In recent weeks, at least 31 environmental and other organisations have called on the government to change its position on the EU Nature Restoration Law. Italy came out against the law along with Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and Hungary.

Rudi’s picks – highlights from upcoming events and top reads

  • If you want to delve deeper into the party programmes regarding climate and energy, WWF Italy has launched an "observatory" to compare ideas, proposals and programmes. They have also created a scoreboard in collaboration with other organisations, such as CAN Europe, EEB, BirdLife and Transport & Environment. This scoreboard is based on an in-depth analysis of European Parliament votes over the last five years on 30 legislative measures concerning climate, nature and pollution. You can find further information here.
  • The Big Oil Reality Check report, recently published by Oil Change International, reveals key findings showing that eight oil and gas companies, including Italy’s Eni, will consume 30 percent of what they say is the remaining carbon budget to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. Of the eight companies analysed, six, including Eni, explicitly aim to increase oil and gas production.
  • I suggest reading this interesting investigation supported by Journalismfund Europe, if you haven't already, which shows how conspiracy theories have shifted from the Covid emergency to the climate crisis. It also examines how these theories could influence the European elections.
  • On 4 June, as reported by DeSmog, a large protest against the EU's agricultural policy is scheduled to take place in Brussels. The protest is organised by the think tank MCC (Mathias Corvinus Collegium), which is closely linked to Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán's government.
  • Ahead of the EU elections and the G7 summit hosted by Italy in June 2024, ECCO - an independent Italian, non-profit climate change think tank - and ASviS (Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development) held a conference to discuss the next steps to deliver the scale of investment Europe and the world need to tackle climate change. Here you can find the video.
  • In August, my dossier on Italy’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan will be published in Le Scienze (the Italian version of Scientific American). It offers a comprehensive exploration and discussion with some of the country's most prominent researchers.
All texts created by the Clean Energy Wire are available under a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)” . They can be copied, shared and made publicly accessible by users so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.
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