To address “global warming,” everyone is told to believe that the main culprits are the “greenhouse gases” like CO2. World leaders respond by proposing many measures that will transition their nations to a “green” economy by significantly lowering emissions of these gases. European institutions have followed suit with the so-called European Climate Action, a plan designed to make the continent “climate neutral” by 2050.
On July 14, 2021, the European Commission issued a package of environmental proposals called Fit for 55. The date was not a random choice. July 14th marks the beginning of the French Revolution. Indeed, promoters call this new agenda the “French Revolution of Environmentalism.” These regulations accelerate the implementation of the “Green Deal,” which was approved in December 2019.
The new goal is to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases by 55% (hence, the name) to achieve “climate neutrality,” a neologism coined to mean a state in which an entity has zero impact on the environment and climate.
The European Commission intends to impose the Fit for 55 agenda on member countries under severe penalties.
The Italian government officially received Fit for 55 after it was issued. In December 2021, it produced a Report outlining the points that would be studied and implemented.1 However, Italians did not react with the enthusiasm European environmentalists desired—quite the contrary.
While those of the far-left grumbled that the package was not radical enough, the majority of Italian public opinion received the European agenda with cold indifference. “That strange Italian coldness” was the title of an article featured in a well-known online magazine, showing how no major media gave importance to the European green package: “This cold reluctance and criticisms of the proposal make little sense.”2
Indeed, no sooner had Fit for 55 been approved than Roberto Cingolani, then Minister for the Environment during Mario Draghi’s Government, sharply criticized it as “an operation destined to reduce the competitiveness of every company, and thus have a negative impact on Italians.”3
Similar criticisms came from Confindustria, the powerful Federation of Italian Industrialists, which later produced a report showing the negative impact the green agenda would have on the Italian economy. It said, “The proposals [of Fit for 55] are destined to produce a profound structural impact on the European and Italian economic-productive system, radically changing how energy is produced and consumed.”4
Despite the cold reception, the government paid enough lip service to the Fit for 55 agenda to qualify for European funds tied to the project. However, it has largely not followed the Commission in its green folly. For example, in March 2023, the European Union decided to forbid the sale of diesel cars by 2035. Italy refrained from voting.
Some leftist politicians do promote environmental measures but with little support from public opinion. Green issues simply do not resonate in Italy. As time passes, Italians are beginning to realize that Fit for 55 would be better named Fit for Madness. They particularly criticize its hastiness. Such major changes would have to be much better studied and implemented over a much extended period. Society could then absorb their impact. People are starting to react, albeit in a subdued way.
Italy is experiencing something that might be called a “return to reality.” The phenomenon might be likened to a person waking up from drunkenness, who must grope again with real life. Thus, after years of environmentalist inebriation, many Italians are realizing that the transition to green energy is not a panacea. At least not in the modes and times it is being proposed.
For example, city mayors now realize that even if they had a magic wand that would make all public transportation electric, the impact on citizen mobility would not be so positive. As one study puts it: “The air quality would improve but not the travel times, as the new electric vehicles would move more slowly than the horse-drawn carriages of the late nineteenth century.”5
Car owners are also waking up, realizing that electric vehicles are far from convenient. After a sales peak in 2021, the number of electric cars sold in Italy has steadily dropped. The goal of forbidding any internal combustion engine by 2035 now appears to be an outlandish utopia. More and more proposals in academia and government seek to push the time dateline forward. The most optimistic projections show that, by the year 2050, more than 67% of Italian cars will still be endothermic. In the South, the percentage would exceed 80%.
Another “return to reality” moment is the failure of bicycle transportation. Over the past twenty years, Italian cities have competed to see who could build the most and best bicycle lanes. For some time, a massive promotion caused a real bicycle fever. Now, however, reality is kicking in.
Take the example of Milan. Successive leftist administrations built 180 miles of urban bicycle lanes, reconfiguring the city’s traffic patterns. In Italy, the car has a rightist connotation, while the bicycle is considered leftist.
Socialist Mayor Giuseppe Sala boasted that Milan led everyone in bicycle transportation resources. Everything seemed to be going well until accidents began to occur, and bicycles were stolen or burglarized. In addition, pedestrians complained about the added traffic and shop owners likewise protested. Over the last three months, five people died in bicycle-related accidents. Nationwide, the tally is even grimmer: 144 deaths. Today, bicycle use in Milan has dropped 30%. The proposal to turn the city center into an exclusively pedestrian/bicycle zone is becoming like a midsummer night dream.
Another example of a reality check is the taxi drivers’ growing opposition to electric cars. “Disappointed taxi drivers flee from electric cars,” says a blog dedicated to the energy transition in Italy. The article explains that electric vehicles have countless problems. For example, the lack of recharge stations is causing many drivers to return to internal combustion vehicles.6 While the problem may not lead to a taxi driver revolt, issues like this could make it impossible for any government to impose the unpopular green agenda.
Instead of placing all the bets on electric motors, an increasing number of studies propose a diversified approach that includes, for example, natural gas. Italy produces little oil but has huge gas reserves, especially under the Adriatic Sea. For strictly political reasons, 792 of the 1,298 gas wells are “active but non-productive.” If Italy would simply reopen these wells, it could produce 30 billion cubic meters of gas annually instead of the 3.3 billion produced today.7 The country could drastically cut imports and thus not depend on other countries for its supplies.
Using natural gas instead of coal or oil would reduce emissions by more than 50%. Gas can be used to generate electricity, heat houses and move cars. Natural gas processing plants are very versatile. They can be activated or turned off easily. Thus, the environmental laws that ban gas research and production on national territory are increasingly seen as absurd and counterproductive.
Another option is resuming the production of nuclear energy. In 1987, Italians passed a highly emotional referendum on nuclear power held in the wake of the Chornobyl disaster. The initiative forbade the construction of nuclear plants if the city did not grant a zoning permit.
The left readily (and deceitfully) presented this ban as a prohibition of all nuclear energy. As an energy crisis looms, many Italians now realize the blunder of the vote. Many people, including Minister Matteo Salvini, propose the construction of state-of-the-art nuclear plants. And people agree. Indeed, Italy now imports energy from France and Spain, part of which is produced by nuclear plants. Why not produce it in Italy?
Italians increasingly worry that the environmentalist agenda is like a noose strangling them. “The energy transition will not be a free lunch,” warns a study by the Istituto per gli Studi della Diplomazia Internazionale (Institute for the Study of International Diplomacy). “There will be very high costs. (…) Let us remember that, in 2018, the decision to raise the cost of gasoline in France by 10 cents unleashed the revolt of the ‘gilets jaunes (yellow jackets).’”8
France’s yellow jacket revolt was a robust and sustained protest movement. There will probably not be a gilets jaunes reaction in Italy. It will instead be a tamer resistance. Italians do not easily take on the streets, at least not for long periods of time. They often resist by inertia, which weighs down the processes of these agendas. Indeed, Italians will simply find ways to circumvent the norms coming from Brussels. This will especially happen in the South, where the underground economy is larger than the official one.
It seems this tame resistance is yielding its fruits. A recently published study by the Alleanza Italiana per lo Sviluppo Sostenibile (Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development) states, “Our country shows serious delays and risks not respecting the commitments undertaken at an international level. According to former minister Enrico Giovannini, ‘we’re not even trying.’ An urgent reaction and a rapid change of pace are needed.”9
As things go in Italy, this “urgent reaction and rapid change” may take some time, if ever…
Reprinted with permission from Nasz Dziennik.
Photo Credit: © salparadis – stock.adobe.com
- Camera dei Deputati, “Pacchetto ‘Pronti per il 55%’ (FIT for 55%): la revisione della normativa in materia di clima”, Dossier n° 58, 17 dicembre 2021.
- Pietro Paganini e Raffaello Morelli, “Quella strana freddezza italica sul Fit for 55”, Formiche, 27-07-2021.
- Confindustria, “Fit for 55: Presentazione dello Studio ‘Scenari e valutazioni di impatto economico degli obiettivi FF55 per l’Italia’”, 21 March 2023.
- “’Fit for 55’, il nuovo pacchetto climatico dell’UE e le sfide per l’Italia”, ISPI, 20 July 2021.
- “Il taxista deluso torna indietro dall’elettrico,” Vialettrico, 24 October 2023.
- “Sì a riattivazione estrazione gas in Adriatico,” Cronaca Bianca, Regione Emilia-Romagna, Assemblea Legislativa, 6 April 2022.
- “’Fit for 55,’ il nuovo pacchetto climatico dell’UE e le sfide per l’Italia.” ISPI, 20 July 2021.
- Alleanza italiana per lo sviluppo sostenibile, “Italia e gli Obiettivi di Sviluppo Sostenibile,” October 2023.