There can be no sustainability without the right culture
Two goals to lead the way for the other 15. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 7 and 13 of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were the focus of the meeting organised on 6 June at the MAXXI Museum (National Museum of XXI Century Arts) in Rome.
As Enrico Giovannini, spokesperson for ASviS (the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development), noted in his welcome speech, addressing climate change (SDG 13) and ensuring access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy for all (SDG 7) are themes that best introduce public opinion to the concept of sustainability and encourage people to take action. These themes were the focus of the event organized in Rome entitled “Renewable energy for all and the fight against climate change: two integrated stimuli for the sustainability of economic and social development.” An invitation to “imagine a different world” and a call to action for people to change their lifestyles.
A new role for Italy with Enel
Progress towards the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals took a step forwards on 6 June, with the establishment of an Inter-Parliamentary Group for Sustainable Development in the Italian Chamber of Deputies. This is one of the points that Enel and Italy are working on in order to meet the aims of the 2030 Agenda.
Gianni Silvestrini, Kyoto Club Scientific Director, sees Enel’s development model as a reference point for the Italian business world because it is able to reach the sustainability targets rapidly. The European Commission intends to stipulate that by 2030 60% of energy must come from renewable sources: an ambitious undertaking and one that will accelerate the transition process in Italy. The National Energy Strategy also requires utility companies to make extra efforts to meet a quota of 2 million solar plants by 2030, up from the present 750,000.
Enrico Giovannini believes that the search for the perfect solution is often used as an alibi to avoid making an immediate commitment to achieving the targets outlined in the 2030 Agenda: as the number of businesses adopting responsible development models grows, it will be less possible for others to stand on the sidelines of the transition.
“There are still some businesses in Italy that have not yet understood that sustainability also offers financial salvation: it is the only way for our world to continue to exist, and today’s consumer is supremely aware of this fact. Non-sustainable production will eventually push customers away, leading to an isolation on the market that will culminate with bankruptcy”
– Enrico Giovannini, ASviS spokesperson
Renewables are ready
Participating on the panel “Quale energia?” (Which Energy?), Giovanni Tula, Head of Sustainability and Innovation at Enel Green Power, explained that the conditions are already in place today to achieve SDG 7 (affordable clean energy for all), one of the four goals to which Enel has made a formal commitment. Today, renewable energy is a mature technology, competitive on the market and more easily accessible worldwide. According to the latest Bloomberg New Energy Finance report, 178 GW of new capacity was installed in 2017 worldwide, with a total investment equal to 330 billion dollars. Over the last 7 years, the overall installed capacity has doubled, while estimates suggest that by 2020 the present 2,300 MW will increase to 5,000 MW.
“This is not only about caring for the environment, it is also about being competitive. Renewables are compatible with the environment, inclusive and affordable, and they create employment and shared value for many communities”
– Giovanni Tula, Head of Sustainability and Innovation, Enel Green Power
The Enel Group was one of the first to understand this concept and to work towards becoming leaders in renewable production at a global level. Our projects for the development of new renewable plants demonstrate that it has become much simpler to roll out this technology: construction of the Diamond Vista wind farm in the United States began in February and will be completed by December, with an installed capacity of 300 MW, entering into service within a rapid timeframe that would have been unthinkable several years ago.
The technology exists and when projects like these are accompanied by an uptake in the culture of sustainability, neither politics nor bureaucracy present any obstacles, not even in developing countries. Renewable energy can be developed everywhere, also through the smallest of micro plants, opening up great opportunities even in the most remote areas of Africa or Asia. Enel’s Barefoot College project, which teaches women how to assemble photovoltaic panels, is a successful example that also contributes to SDG 5, Gender Equality.
On the crest of the changes introduced by digitalisation and with new possibilities opening up in the field of renewables, the energy sector was one of the first fields to recognise the need to reorganise production and distribution. Luca Barberis, Sustainable Development Director for Gestore Servizi Energetici (GSE, the Italian Energy Services Manager), described how his division was created specifically to manage the establishment of a much more dynamic system. Grid infrastructures today need to communicate rapidly between one other, in an integrated way, as renewables can be generated everywhere, but may not always be available due to intermittence and the non-programmable nature of some renewable sources.
Sustainability is a pipe dream without the right culture
Pippo Ranci, President of Wame&Expo2015, believes it is necessary to develop tools to measure progress in providing access to mobility and energy outside of Italy and Europe. If these processes are not supported by a growing culture of sustainability, the risk is that the targets of the 2030 Agenda, in particular SDG 7, will not be achieved in time in those areas where there are no great concentrations of production. Maria Grazia Midulla, Head of Climate and Energy for WWF, recalled the need for Italy to step up its commitment to achieving SDG 13: as the latest COP23 Conference in Bonn demonstrated, the international community is extremely far behind in adopting efficient tools to combat climate change. Even a 1.5 degree rise in temperature (not even the 2 degrees foreseen in the Paris Accords) would have devastating effects on a country with an ecosystem as complex as Italy’s. Toni Federico, Coordinator of the Scientific Committee of the Foundation for Sustainable Development, believes that not even the complete elimination of fossil fuel emissions by 2050 will be enough to rebalance the climate, so unless a way to absorb the emissions already present in the atmosphere is found, the Earth will continue to heat up.
Many solutions, and much criticism, emerged during the Rome meeting. The progress made must not, however, lead to excessive optimism, but equally it should not be underestimated. When it comes to taking stock of the international progress towards sustainability and the ASviS Festival, there is still time.