There is growing awareness among organisations, companies and the general population that a commitment to sustainability is vital for Italy’s future. And yet, despite the progress made over the past few years, Italy still has not adopted a valid pathway towards sustainable development. This is the picture that has emerged from the ASviS Report 2019, which analyses the progress Italy is making towards achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). The study was presented on October 4 by AsviS, the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development, at Rome’s Parco Della Musica in the presence of Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
“It’s important to emphasise the growing commitment in Italy’s civil society, companies and financial sector,” said ASviS spokesperson Enrico Giovannini, presenting the results of the report. “Sustainable development is becoming a paradigm for transforming risks into opportunities. Italian society, partly thanks to the commitment shown by young people, is now much more aware of the problems we are facing, and is demanding urgent measures.” In recent years ASviS, which brings together over 220 organisations from the economic and social sectors, including the Enel Foundation, has contributed to these results through important awareness-raising initiatives, beginning with the Sustainable Development Festival, involving over 1,000 events held across Italy.
“We’re very encouraged by the results of our activities on an EU and national level,” said Giovannini, recalling that the new European Commission seeks to focus on the SDGs to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent and a global leader in the circular economy. “(European Commission) President-elect Ursula von der Leyen has accepted some of our proposals, including one giving each commissioner direct responsibility for achieving the SDGs within their sphere of responsibility.” In this context, said Giovannini, “Italy must play its part – that’s why we are urgently seeking an annual sustainable development law, integrated policies and concrete action, starting from the next Budget.”
The ASviS report shows, in fact, how Italy is making only tortuous progress towards achieving the SDGs. It is improving in nine areas (including “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure,” “Sustainable Cities and Communities” and “Responsible Consumption and Production”), is stable in two areas (“Quality Education” and “Climate Action”) and is slipping backwards in six (including “No Poverty,” “Zero Hunger,” “Life Below Water” and “Life on Land”). “Even where the trend is positive we’re still some way from achieving the goals and the gap between our performance and that of other EU countries threatens to widen,” warned Giovannini, underlining the “The dramatic worsening in conditions in Goal 15 (“Life on Land”), where we’re paying the price for the absence of a law on land consumption – we’ve used up more than all the EU countries.”
Looking to the future, ASviS president Pierluigi Stefanini takes a positive view of the fact that the government has “introduced sustainability onto the political agenda and that the planned initiatives include some proposals put forward by ASviS,” beginning with the inclusion of the sustainable development principal in the Constitution. These announcements “must be followed by concrete action,” a sentiment shared by Speaker of the House (the Italian Parliament’s Lower Chamber) Roberto Fico, who believes that “We must acknowledge once and for all the unsustainability and inequality of the current development model – the progress made so far isn’t enough.” Economy and Finances Minister Roberto Gualtieri also believes that “We need to speed things up in Italy and throughout the EU.” The Minister has announced a raft of measures including a reshaping of Industry 4.0 with incentives encouraging the circular economy, issuing “green bonds specifically designed to support interventions promoting sustainability,” an “Interministerial Committee for Combating Climate Change that will come under the purview of the CIPE (the Interministerial Committee for Economic Planning).”
The presentation came to an end with a speech from Brussels by the EU’s Commissioner designate for Economic and Financial Affairs Paolo Gentiloni. The European Commission, he explained, intends to “invest over a thousand billion euro in environmental initiatives.” One of the top-priority objectives will be a revision of “energy taxation. We need a system that incentivises compatible practices and behaviours and makes the use of polluting fossil fuels less attractive.” The EU executive, Gentiloni concluded, aims to “integrate the SDGs into the European Semester, when the Commission and the Economic Commissioner assess the commitment displayed by the various member countries. The aim is to make them fundamental parameters for the budgetary policies of the 27 members, encouraging a type of economic growth that is increasingly sustainable on a social and environmental level, too.”