Italy and climate change: the watchword is “integration”

Italy and climate change: the watchword is “integration”
Italy and climate change: the watchword is “integration”

Glasgow will be the COP (UN conference on climate change) of the five-year period since the conclusion of the Paris Accords, and a key part of the understanding was that the states would fix progressively more ambitious climate objectives over a five-year cycle. The United Nations is urging all nations to come forward since the sum of the voluntary commitments of the states announced in the aftermath of Paris are not sufficient to avert the collapse of the ecosystem.

We must prevent the costs of climate change from being unequally distributed

On this horizon, the states hold three distinct orders of interests. First of all that universal and shared a prevent a future which the Davos Forum, among others, defines as “cataclysmic”. In apparent contrast to this global imperative, however, there is an attempt by each to moderate their commitments to avoid that the sustainable transition imposes costs unfairly distributed, and for some so high as to shock entire sectors. Finally, each state carries a range of geopolitical interests, a reflection of its geographical position and regional location.

In the apparent irreconcilability between these three different levels of the stakes, the climate negotiation has given the impression of a dysfunctional quarrel over who has to plug the leak as the ship sinks. But – although perhaps not in time for Glasgow – the appearance that doing the right thing for the Earth requires accepting sacrifices, fighting over not being alone in making them, is fading and the idea that sustainable transition is fading. translates into competitive losses that are harmful to each nation. Economic science now links sustainability to the only chance to start a new global expansion cycle, so much so that the EU defines its recent Green Deal as a development program, supported by finance which sees a factor of competitiveness, solidity and duration of the investment. The numbers speak for themselves: ESG investments (Environment, Society, Governance) account for about a quarter of all asset managed and are located in excess of US $ 25 trillion, in the hands of operators representing US $ 70 trillion and which are rapidly converting their entire portfolios in this direction.

The Italian potential in the ecological transition

In this perspective, Italy has an interest in riding the new abundance of public and private funds for the transition, and reflect this interest as a virtuous position in the COP. The new trend offers a specific and privileged opportunity to Italy, given its territorial characteristics. It is said that Italy has few natural resources: it would be true from a classical perspective; but in view of a growing demand focused on quality rather than quantity – sustainable – it appears that we have the highest concentration in the world of the resources most in demand by the market. We participated in the race for large production and at the lowest possible prices, while denying a territory that is in fact suited to restricted quality production; and not just for consumer goods. However, it is necessary – a legitimate point in every negotiation forum – to protect our company during the transformation: the most suitable for sustainability because it is small or medium, rooted in the concrete territory which is the only real dimension on which to conceive a sustainability project; but which is also the most exposed – precisely because of its size – in that delicate moment in which its way of doing changes, it invests to innovate, it bears costs that look to the future.

The Mediterranean will be among the areas most affected by climate change

Finally, it is imperative for Italy to become aware of the regional geopolitical stakes: on the Euro-Mediterranean dimension, the overheated climate is a prelude to crisis fatal, which can however be resolved in harmony with the Italian interest in accelerating the sustainable transition, because the integration of everyone in the virtuous path defuses threats while amplifying our benefits. It is therefore necessary that, even in the negotiations, Italy assumes the benefits, risks and responsibilities of its special position: a bridge between Europe and the southern shore of the Mediterranean, with Africa as the horizon.

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In inertia, or worse in competition exacerbated by dwindling resources, on this chessboard the risk would be maximum. While the waters of our sea are the ones that warm up most rapidly (source: Copernicus European Marine Service State of the Ocean Report of 2016 and 2018) in the world, the region as a whole ranks second in rate of warming progression. In the Mediterranean, the average temperature compared to the pre-industrial era has in fact increased by 1.5 degrees e warming is proceeding 20% ​​faster than the global average, with the danger of increases up to 2.2 degrees in 2040, and 3.8 degrees in 2100, catastrophic for a population that has grown exponentially in the meantime. The destabilizing consequences would be numerous. For example, it is expected that the level of our sea could increase by 20 cm by 2050, which may seem few but would salinize the Nile delta, upsetting the livelihoods of millions of people; or an increase in the population in water scarcity up to 250 million people, and the fact that a warmer sea is a long-term driver for a warmer atmosphere means that the problem will be with us for a long time and it will worsen even in the most idyllic and virtuous scenarios of contrasting greenhouse gas emissions.

In the Mediterranean, warming is proceeding 20% ​​faster than the global average

But that’s not enough. The Euro-Mediterranean area represents the sum of an anthroposphere and a unitary, interconnected, interdependent regional ecosphere: fragile because it is ready to experience regional crises that grow on local fragility that have always been there but are now growing. Deep asymmetries in the distribution of income and resources mean that even the part of the Mediterranean region capable of resisting various pressures is increasingly endangered by the gap with the other poorer parts. There lack of balanced integration, added to demographic dynamics that are gradually diverging between North and South, makes it difficult to prevent large-scale destabilizing dynamics: too many pockets of weakness where the spark can be triggered.

Integrate and interconnect economies

Italy is in the center of all this, bridge and junction point between two banks: the first victim therefore of wrong choices, but also the first to profit from constructive policies. Which? Science and economics suggest to her, highlighting that no one, not even the richest in the Euro-Mediterranean area, alone has the means to cope with changes of such vastness and speed. The EU itself, in order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, needs the solar potential of the southern shore and the wind power of the Balkans. Just as – passing a controversial negotiating chapter on “technology transfer” seen as a gift from the rich to the poor – we must understand that the southern Mediterranean holds six thousand years of technology in the management of arid territories which will soon be the southern EU countries. If we become aware of it, we must launch ourselves into integrating economies and interconnecting them, push the EU and deploy neighborhood funds, bring businesses to meet, seek synergies. It is necessary for the climate, but it also ends up resolving the regional asymmetries that have always generated conflicts and would create even more with the climate in crisis. In the great negotiations that await us in Glasgow, if we understand it, everything changes.

* Grammenos Mastrojeni, Deputy Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean.

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