Recent social isolation and travel restriction measures imposed by countries including China and Italy have led to a significant decline in air pollution. Lockdown measures affecting 35 million people in China began in January.
On March 21, the European Court of Justice ruled that Italy has failed to bring 44 of its 102 landfills into compliance. The court noted that Italy's erratic treatment of its landfills, such as adopting a site-conditioning plan to authorize continued operations only to decide later to close the landfill, exacerbated the problem because it was impossible to unambiguously define whether landfills were to be closed or to continue to operate. For the full story, see https://www.courthousenews.com/eu-calls-out-italy-on-failure-to-redress….
On January 24, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy for failing to protect its citizens from a polluting steel plant in the southern city of Taranto that has been blamed for hundred of cancer-related deaths. The court ruled that the country must pay 161 people who live near the plant 5,000 euros each in damages. The Ilva plant is Europe's largest steel plant and was put under special administration in 2015 after magistrates directed it to be cleaned up or shut down.
On January 9, Italy's industry ministry announced plans to halt the issuance of roughly 36 oil and gas exploration permits, including three permits already issued in the Ionian Sea. The proposal is part of the country's long-term plans to cut its carbon footprint, which include phasing out coal power production by 2025 and phasing out fossil fuels by 2050. The ministry has said the proposal will be discussed in parliament in the coming days. For the full story, see https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-italy-drilling/italy-to-block-oil-and….
Last week, in a series of moves related to air quality, the European Commission proposed measures to help member states combat air pollution. The Commission also referred France, Germany, and the United Kingdom to the EU Court of Justice for failure to respect limit values for nitrogen dioxide and for failing to take appropriate measures to keep exceedance periods as short as possible. In addition, it referred Hungary, Italy, and Romania to the Court of Justice over persistently high levels of particulate matter.
Italy has set a goal to phase out coal power plant production by 2025 as it seeks to reduce its carbon footprint. Italy's plan is to have green energy sources account for 28 percent of overall energy consumption by 2030. Italy is also aiming to introduce more electric and hybrid vehicles. However, natural gas will continue to have a key role in the country’s energy future as the government will promote new gas import pipelines to diversify supply.
A heat wave nicknamed "Lucifer" has engulfed southern and eastern Europe with temperatures as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The worst affected areas were Italy and the Balkans. European weather hub Meteoalarm issued its highest grade "red" warnings for 10 countries. Wine growers in Italy have started gathering the grape harvest weeks earlier than usual due to the extreme heat. Italian authorities have issued weather risk warnings for 26 cities, including tourist hubs Venice and Rome, where many of the fountains have been turned off due to a lengthy drought.
Last week, subsidies for renewable energy lost favor in both the Netherlands and Italy. Despite an announcement two weeks ago by the Dutch government on increasing subsidies for renewable energy projects (including solar, wind, and geothermal), the Ministry of Economic Affairs published an “Energy Agenda” last week saying renewable energy subsidies would be phased out as renewables become more economically competitive. However, the government intends to work with power companies to make it easier for individuals to invest in renewables.
At a conference in Berlin on November 20, $9.3 billion in pledges to the U.N. Green Climate Fund from donor nations were announced, bringing the fund closer to the U.N.'s informal target of $10 billion. The fund is intended to help developing nations invest in low emission development strategies and adapt to climate change. Pledges to the fund are seen as important to the achievement of a 2015 climate deal in Paris. Some of the funds included in the announcement were pledges that had been made previously, including $1.5 billion from Japan and $3 billion from the United States.
On October 14, 2014, Italy became the first European country to require advanced biofuels in cars and trucks, passing a law that will require all fuel suppliers to include 0.6% advanced biofuels in gasoline and diesel by 2018, rising to 1% by 2022. Advanced biofuels are made from waste materials and are thus seen as less likely to contribute to land being taken out of production for food to in order to produce the feedstocks. This issue has been a major point of concern about traditional [first generation] biofuels, hindering the industry’s growth.