“Italy finally has a platform that offers not just encouragement, but operative instruments to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN’s 2030 Agenda.”
Pier Carlo Padoan, Minister of Economics and Finance, welcomed with enthusiasm the publication of the ASviS 2017 report, presented on 28 September in Rome at the Chamber of Deputies. The event also enabled the drafting of a balance of activities organized this year by the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development, an organization that our Group has been involved with since its foundation. The most prominent initiative, not only on a national level, was the Festival of Sustainable Development, involving over 200 events all over Italy and the active participation of 175 organizations and over 300 experts. The second edition will focus on further expansion, aiming to hold 500 events between 22 May and 7 June 2018.
For the first time, the report included 28 composite indicators elaborated by ASviS, these indicators demonstrate that Italy has made good progress concerning 9 of the goals (Hunger and Nutrition, Health and Wellbeing, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Resilient Infrastructure, Sustainable Consumption Models, Reducing Greenhouse Gas to fight Climate Change, Protecting the Seas and Universal Justice), while the situation has worsened slightly concerning four more (Poverty, Water Management, Inequality and Terrestrial Ecosystems); the situation has remained stable concerning the other four (Energy, Employment, Sustainable Cities and International Cooperation).
A picture that shows both light and shade, according to ASviS President Pierluigi Stefanini. The country is, in fact, capable of achieving the sustainable development goals fixed for 2020 and 2030, as long as it radically changes its development model. In the EU Italy is only ahead of the Czech Republic, Spain and Greece, while among the OECD countries it lies in 30th place. Without incisive policies in the energy and ecology transition, without significant investment in innovation and human capital (including measures to reduce inequality), without the regeneration of endangered ecosystems, the quality of life in cities and the improvement of infrastructure, the country risks remaining on the margins of the sustainable revolution.
The momentum of renewables
Among the most worrying data is the number of families living in absolute poverty (1.6 million in 2016, for a total of 4.7 million individuals), a figure that could, however, be reduced by half with the entrance into force in 2018 of the “inclusion income” welfare payments. Furthermore, the water situation is extremely critical: in addition to the problems caused by climate change, in Italy every day 50 cubic metres of water are lost for every kilometre of the distribution network. The modernization of the infrastructure must be accelerated in the coming years as is occurring now in the energy sector, where the contribution from renewables to final consumption has passed from 7.9% to 17.6% in 2016: a result that has enabled the achievement five years ahead of schedule of Italy’s goal of 17% as part of the European 2020 Strategy. With the adoption of the National Energy Strategy (on 12 September the public consultation will be concluded), the expansion of renewable sources could triple compared with the progress of recent years. In the education sector the contribution to achieving the sustainable development goals has obtained a boost from the grant of 840 million euro for the programme “For schools 2014-2020”, but also by the presentation in July of the first “National Plan for sustainable development in education”, a programme that transforms the goals of the 2030 Agenda into solid action with the aim of making the sector of education among the best in Europe (today Italy is at the average European level of 10 years ago).
A sustainable future also involves schools
In this field of action Enel has joined forces with the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR), and ASviS: Enel has provided the first prizes of the National Award “Let’s achieve the 17 goals. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, held in March for educational institutions of every order and level. For the category of infant schools, the Corradini school in Rome won an invitation to participate in a creative play workshop organized by Enel, on the topics of the Agenda 2030. For primary schools, the Collecini-Giovanni XXIII school in Caserta won a trip to the Enel photovoltaic plant in Serre Persano (Salerno) on 19th October.
Accompanying the winners, were a further 400 pupils from the Battipaglia Comprehensive School in Salerno as part of Enel Green Power’s initiative “Centrali aperte” [Open power stations], a format developed to explain how renewable energy is produced and to showcase the excellent examples of this in the territory. The plant owned by the joint venture EF Solare Italia, in fact, has for some years held the record as the largest photovoltaic plant in Europe: today it produces up to 9 million kWh per year, which are added to a further 30 million produced by two photovoltaic plants in Borgo San Lazzaro and Spineto, connected to its network. For the youngsters of the School in Caserta a special itinerary was created: in addition to the tour of the plant and the explanation from the guide, there was also a special 30-minute educational workshop with nature photographer Fabiano Ventura. Together they examined the issue of climate change, its consequences and the solutions that can be found in daily life, analysing these three themes in a special lecture.
Finally, the first prizes for middle schools and secondary schools went to the Teresa Franchini school in Santarcangelo di Romagna in Rimini and the Rossano school in Cosenza: both won a visit, from 28 September to 1 October, to the island of Ventotene, the cradle of the European dream and “Enel’s green island” for innovation and sustainability. Here the youngsters, guests of Enel and the project “VentoteneEuropa”, followed an educational pathway on the themes of the 2030 Agenda, including a visit to Enel’s hybrid system, which was inaugurated in May 2016. The system involves energy storage and integrated motors to provide energy to the island and has significantly improved the quality of the service to the island’s inhabitants and also reduced polluting emissions. During the stay there were also themed presentations curated by Enel about innovation and sustainability projects and a speech from a representative of the startup Treedom, an example for the students of how an idea can be transformed into a successful business. Treedom, which is involved in planting trees all over the world, planted two trees on the island of Ventotene, one for each of the winning schools.
A change of direction
The route ahead is clear. To be successful in the challenge to overcome the economic development model that ran aground in 2007/2008, it is necessary to have a long-term vision that leads to changes in our own lifestyle habits. The ASviS report 2017, presented by its spokesperson Enrico Giovannini, has compiled a series of practical indications to encourage a rapid change of direction. First of all, it will be necessary to complete the procedure of approving new legislation (e.g. concerning the use of land and water management) and strategies (the circular economy, energy, the fight against climate change) that are crucial for Italy, thus providing detail also in quantitative terms to the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, making its governance operative with the transformation of CIPE in the Inter-ministerial Committee for Sustainable Development. Urgent measures should be adopted to accelerate the progress towards achieving the 22 targets for 2020 and guidelines should be produced for the public administrations to help them adopt the environmental and organizational standards necessary for achieving the sustainability goals. One useful instrument in this case would be the national urban agenda for sustainable development, the features of which have already been outlined by ASviS and Urban@it.
From sustainable mobility to the recuperation of decommissioned plants, from upgrading digitalization to policies of inclusion, all spheres in which Enel has been active for some time. Looking to the future, Enel is ready to offer a decisive contribution to Italy’s recovery.