|▲ H.E. Ambassador of Italy, Marco della Seta|
The Embassy of Korea that Future Eco interviewed this issue is Italy. The Beautiful country that is facing the Mediterranean Sea, Italy. What is the environmental challenge here? Future Eco asked the Ambassador of Italy to Korea, Marco della Seta.
As you know, Korean people have been suffering from recent fine dust. What about Italy?
In Italy air particulate and air fine dust also represent a pollution issue. Small particulate matter or “PM10” particles are present in emissions from energy, heating, transport, industry and agriculture. It is believed that such particles may cause severe diseases, such as asthma, cardiovascular problems and lung cancer.
As a European Union Member State, Italy applies the “EU law on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe” (Directive 2008/50/EC) that requires Member States to limit the exposure of citizens to these particles. The legislation sets limit values for exposure covering both an annual concentration cap value (40 μg/m3) and a daily concentration cap value (50 μg/m3). Such limits must not be exceeded more than 35 times in a year.
What policy has Italy launched to improve air quality and what is its effect?
Italy’s policy to improve air quality includes the implementation of Framework Directive 1996/62/EC on air quality, as it was endorsed by Law Decree 351/1999, and the fulfillment of international multilateral commitments.
The main objectives pursued by the EU Directive are: a) reduction of pollutant emissions in the atmosphere; b) maintenance of values within critical loads and levels set by international protocols; c) keeping pollutant concentrations within such limits as to exclude severe and chronic pathologies; d) ensuring a constant improvement of air quality over the years so as to prevent damages to the artistic heritage, natural ecosystems and crops.
Among medium-term priority actions, the EU Directive puts its priority on the integration of policies as well as on the improvement of tools for data audit, control and analysis. Four categories of actions need to be undertaken under this Directive: a) actions to improve the knowledge of phenomena and to monitor their changes; b) actions to reduce emissions from electric power generation (alternative sources) and industrial pollutants; c) actions setting emission limits or bans on certain pollutants; d) actions aiming at drastically cutting the transportation share, especially urban traffic share, so as to prevent the worsening of air quality through mobility rationalisation, as well as the adoption of lower polluting transport modes and zero or low emission vehicles, engines and fuels.
At governmental level, Italy is undertaking the following steps: a) adoption of a decree on the certification of domestic heat generators (mini-boilers) aimed at spreading increasingly efficient and clean technologies; b) implementation of EU Directive 2015/2193/EC which contains new emission limit values for industrial biomass plants with a view to limiting their impact on the environment; c) implementation of Legislative Decree 152/2006 which sets generic limits on chromium emissions from industrial plants at national level, including in cases not covered by EU law; d) dedicated funding of specific measures aimed at encouraging local public transportation and alternative mobility to private transport, sustainable home-school and home-work mobility, as well as the extension of eco-bonuses (tax deductions for energy saving).
What are the other environmental issues in Italy?
Other environmental challenges in Italy include: a cut to atmospheric polluting emissions and the maintenance of pollutants’ threshold so as to avoid damages to human health, ecosystems and cultural heritage; prevention of acoustic pollution and the exposure of citizens to its effects; prevention of exposure to electromagnetic fields where human health and environment are treated; sustainable use of natural resources; boosting employment, enterprises and activities oriented towards sustainability; improving citizens’ participation to decision-making processes and promoting environmental-friendly governance skills within local authorities.
Several Italian cities are also working on urban environment quality enhancement throughout a series of measures, such as: containment of environmentally high-impact mobility; metropolitan traffic control and alternatives to private mobility; development of mobility-replacing telematic services; development of an urban infrastructure which encourages the mobility of cycles and pedestrians; e)reduction of hydrogeological and technological hazards.
What is the current status of Italy in relation to renewable energy?
As a Member of the European Union, Italy respects its objectives in terms of cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as promotion of renewable energy sources and enhancement of energy efficiency.
The EU “Energy and Climate Package 2020” envisages a 20% cut of greenhouse gas emissions compared to their 1990 levels, an increase of 20% of the share of renewable sources in the final energy consumption, and an increase by 20% of energy efficiency. In the long run, the 2030 climate and energy goals are even more ambitious: 40% cut of 1990-level greenhouse emissions; 27% increase of the share of renewable sources in energy consumption; 27% increase in energy efficiency.
Italy has reached the first two objectives well ahead of 2020. The production of energy from renewable sources has indeed tripled between 2004 and 2013. The objective of reaching a share of 17% of renewable sources in energy consumption by 2020 has been reached in 2015 and subsequently overpassed. Now, Italy is elaborating its National Energy Strategy 2030 with an ambitious goal of increasing the renewables share by 20%. As to energy efficiency, Italy has promoted a national building strategy based on energy efficiency such as the adoption of ecobonuses for both private and public housing.
Italy possesses today one of the most advanced energy networks. It exploits geotermic energy for industrial reasons since 1904, and is one of the major geotermic electric energy producers in the world. Italy has also joined the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) since its founding in 2009, and took on its chairmanship this year. Within the Agency we aim at encouraging a transition to clean energy as means of guaranteeing a universal access to energy, promoting sustainable development and fighting the climate change.
Italy, which boasts of outstanding architecture, has a great interest in sustainable architecture. What are the top priorities in sustainable architecture in Italy and what are the government policy directions?
Territorial diversity is a unique peculiarity of our country. The Italian composite territorial system is characterized by a small number of big metropolitan areas and a vast amount of medium, small and very small urban settlements. Because of its long tradition of urbanization, most of Italy’s small and medium sized centres have integrated themselves in a sustainable way. Only recently, due to its fast industrialization and urbanization around big cities, sustainable architecture has become an issue. Balance between overgrown big cities and second and third tier centres has emerged as a major challenge.
Territorial rebalancing has thus become one of the main Italy’s objectives stemming from the four general priorities set by the European Commission within the “Community Framework for co-operation to promote sustainable urban development” (COM 605/1998). At national level, Italy has pursued a balanced urban and country planning taking into account geographical peculiarities, curbing the exploitation of natural areas and soils, and promoting and optimised management of physical resources and qualitative standards for urban settlements. Such planning should solve conflicting relationships among different towns, urban areas, as well as rural and natural areas according to polycentric principles, functional integration, environmental sustainability and cooperation.
At a governmental level, Italy has encouraged the development of a sustainable urban architecture through projects in the following areas: a) sustainable mobility; b) environmental sustainability in touristic, historical and coastal towns; c) natural reclamation projects and promotion of ecological networks in urban and suburban areas; d) speeding-up and backing-up actions for acoustic re-mediation; e) integrated upgrading in unauthorized building areas; e) promotion of eco-compatible construction, as well as bio-engineering and bio-construction techniques resulting in energy and material savings, appropriate sanitary standards, and qualitative improvement of buildings.
Italy is also active in the protection of the Mediterranean Sea. Please explain it to our readers in detail.
Italy has designated more than 5% of its coastal waters as marine protected areas and has adopted a nationwide goal to set aside 10% of coastal waters for protection. It has designated up to date 23 marine protected areas using innovative zoning techniques. The biggest share of such areas represent “ecosystem” sites, where protection is guaranteed to all resources within the marine protected area.
Italy has a long history of protecting continental resources such as national parks, and only recently has started designating marine areas. Italy’s system of marine protected areas has its foundation in Law 979/1982 that sets up to 50 marine protected areas in Italy’s coastal waters. The original authority to designate and manage marine protected areas was the Ministry of Marine and Mercantile Affairs. It was later transferred to the newly-created Ministry of Environment and Territorial Protection following the adoption of a dedicated law in 1986.
Nowadays, the Italian central government, through the Nature Protection Service within the Ministry of Environment and Territorial Protection, has the authority over marine protected areas. Once an Italian marine protected area is designated, the government delegates the management authority to a local entity or a consortium of entities. In some cases, a city is the only managing entity. In other cases, a consortium of one or two cities and a provincial government, such as a county, are formed, with one party taking the lead. Several of the sites are wholly managed by a national environmental organization. Universities often participate in managing consortia. Nearly all of the marine protected areas are also part of terrestrial national, regional or provincial parks, and at least two of the marine protected areas are managed by the land park’s management entity.
In Korea, environmental issues are not yet a major issue of politics. What about Italy?
Despite recent progress, Italy still faces environmental challenges, such as climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, urban air quality, waste management, ground water pollution, groundwater over-exploitation, and hydro-geological instability.
Italian environmental policies largely fall under EU environmental regulation due to its membership in the EU. In order to help mitigate climate change, Italy has adopted the European emissions trading system. We have also promoted energy-saving measures, renewable energy, and low-environmental-impact fuel in the transportation sector. A National Adaptation Strategy is now under scrutiny of our lawmakers.
There is a considerable diversity among Italian regions when it comes to waste management. In 2010, Italy implemented Directive 2008/98/EC in order to promote upstream waste reduction and the separate collection of different waste streams. This will help develop the waste management industry and create new jobs in the waste management sector.
The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC) is another important and innovative regulatory tool since it is the first binding instrument that considers the marine environment as a precious resource to be protected and possibly restored. Italy has already begun to implement the Directive in its seas. We have drafted an initial assessment of the state of the marine environment, based on existing data and information. We have also created a definition of “good marine environmental status” on the basis of eleven qualitative indicators of the marine environment, including data on specific environmental issues such as biodiversity and pollution.
Italy is now designing a monitoring programme for the continuous evaluation of the state of marine waters. We have also enacted a soil-protection law, which ensures the protection and recovery of soil and sub-soil, the maintenance of soil-based water-functions and ground waters, and the restoration of soil polluted by hazardous substances.
Likewise, Italy is looking to incorporating green initiatives in its economic policies. This “Green Growth” agenda encompasses: a) economic policy and the environment; b) the tax system; c) environment-related expenditure and investment; d) environment-related markets and employment expanding; e) environmental technologies and eco-innovation promotion.
Finally, Italy is particularly affected by hydro-geological instability, due to its geological and geomorphological features, the impact of weather and climate factors, and the widespread, uncontrolled presence of human activities. Land use policy continues to be especially important to us.
Recently, earthquakes occurred frequently in Italy. I think there is a great concern about the destruction of cultural heritage in Italy. What measures are being taken against the earthquake?
At governmental level, actions taken by my country to manage earthquakes and their connected risks are: a) introduction of tax deductions for anti-seismic restructuring (Sisma-bonus); b) completion of civil protection delegation reform; c) strengthening of the task force for seismic events; d) setting up of criteria for the new seismic classification of the national territory; e) updating of the technical standards for construction and the role of seismic classification for design purposes.
Moreover, as far as the issue of cultural heritage is concerned, the Ministry of Cultural Heritage has worked extensively on the concepts of risk, territorial danger and individual vulnerability. A map showing the risks connected to seismic episodes and similar problems has been drawn for the Italian territory. This led to a constantly updated risk map of our national cultural heritage.
What country do Italians think of Korea? What are the similarities between Korea and Italy?
Comparing different countries always implies a generalization. Having said this, and despite the geographical distance between the two States, it is true that there are similarities between Italy and Korea. Both Italians and Koreans are proud, and rightly so, of their rich cultural heritage, which dates back to hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. In our more recent history, in the 20th century, both countries have managed to bounce back after devastating wars, and experience economic booms, despite the lack of primary energy resources. Our approach to business is somehow similar: we are ingenuous, enterprising, pragmatic. And indeed, trade and industrial partnerships between Italy and Korea have notably expanded over the past few years.
Italian people know more and more about Korea. We massively use Made in Korea products, from electronic devices to cars. Two million visitors admired the Korean pavilion at the Milan Universal Exposition in 2015. K-pop is getting more popular among Italian teenagers. People-to-people exchanges have dramatically increased: almost 800.000 Koreans visited Italy in 2015. There is a rising trend also in the number of Italians coming to Korea, which doubled over the last five years with a record of 64.000 visits in 2016. This contributes to a better mutual knowledge and understanding, as well as to a positive cultural, political and economic influence on each other.
In the field of environment, what do you think about Korea and Italy as partners?
In the field of science and technology, Korea and Italy are already good partners. In Korea we have organized bilateral symposia covering environment-related topics such as “Landscape monitoring and landslides”, “Management of radioactive wastes”, “Membrane technologies”, and this year we are going to hold an event focused on “Sustainable fishery and climate changes”.
Besides, I am convinced that there are promising opportunities for business cooperation in the field of renewable energy, where Italy has already invested a lot, while Korea is determined to catch up. Think about the solar energy: Italian companies are leaders in the design and production of solar panels, while Korea’s battery technology is extremely advanced. These two strengths could be combined and bring mutual benefits.
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