Italian government launches climate pact

State, industry, NGOs, sign joint declaration, pledge to cut impacts of energy use

Major Italian industry groups, environmental NGOs and the Italian government have agreed a joint declaration, or "pact," under which all signatories have agree to take steps to reduce the environmental impacts of energy use. Agreed at a major energy/environment conference in Rome yesterday, the pact was immediately criticised by Italian environmental groups as ineffective.

The pact was drafted by the Italian national commission for economy and labour (CNEL), with inputs from over 30 stakeholders including industrial associations, consumer groups and environmental NGOs. It lists a range of general objectives to be attained by signatories.

These include reducing emissions of carbon dioxide; improving electrical sector efficiency; diversifying energy sources; reducing energy consumption, especially in urban areas and transport; doubling production of renewable energy; reducing energy consumption and emissions in primary and secondary industry; and increasing the ability of the environment to absorb carbon dioxide.

The pact is intended to act as a framework for implementation organised principally through a series of voluntary agreements. Signatories undertake to promote one or more voluntary agreements, in particular to improve or replace inefficient heating and other equipment in the industry and domestic sectors.

One element of the pact is a commitment to keep Italian coal use stable at current levels. The clause has been sharply criticised by environmental groups. "This is a gift to ENEL," (Italy's main electricity producer) said Grazia Francescato of the World Wide Fund for Nature Italy.

NGOs also say the pact is flawed because it sets no specific targets or deadlines. Greenpeace refused to sign it for this reason. Claudio Falasca of the CNEL tacitly accepted the criticisms when he introduced the final version of the pact. He described it as "a general agreement, an expression of the good intentions of the parties signing it". It was not meant to be a solution to all problems, Mr Falasca continued, but rather "the first step on the long road to sustainable development".

Mr Umberto Rosa of Confindustria, Italy's main industrial association, welcomed the cooperative spirit behind the declaration and called for environmental policies that take into account the need for industry to remain competitive. He urged the government to simplify both environmental and energy legislation, and called for state incentives to be introduced to encourage firms to implement the pact's objectives.

The government has pledged to make public funds available to support the pact, including revenues from a new tax on CO2 emissions (ENDS Daily 30 September). The CNEL will be responsible for implementation and will make an annual report. A general meeting of all the parties involved will be held in 2003 to evaluate progress.

Follow Up:
CNEA, tel: +39 06 36 27 27 06; WWF Italy, tel: +39 06 844 971; Confindustria, tel: +39 06 59031.

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