The concept of environmental sustainability, which recently became part of our common vocabulary, refers to the biophysical conditions of the Earth and the use of its resources. These resources are exhaustible and that cannot be exploited forever. Let’s see together what environmental sustainability is and what its objectives are.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
The first two laws of thermodynamics state that existing energy cannot be destroyed but can only be transformed, and when it occurs there is a loss of quantity of energy available for the future. Sustainability, therefore, aims to ensure respect and the correct use of the resources available today in the world.
But what are the characteristics of sustainability and its distinctive elements? Economy, equality and environment. There is talk of environmental sustainability when these three elements work at the same time. In other words, protecting the environment promotes equality and preserves economic growth.
Environmental sustainability objectives
The first objective of environmental sustainability is to preserve the planet’s resources by:
The problems of environmental sustainability
The concept of environmental sustainability is not yet universally shared, since it is accompanied by various controversies and scepticisms. They are linked to the fact that for many, sustainability is seen as a threat to their independence and freedoms. Furthermore, the regulations imposed by the United Nations are considered too invasive and climate change sceptics still deny its existence.
AN ECO-FRIENDLY WORLD
Eco-friendly, green-living and eco-sustainable are words that are increasingly used and perhaps misused in some contexts, from advertising to trade in products on the market. But what does eco-friendly really mean? Being eco-friendly means being aware of a phenomenon that can save the planet, transforming it into a better place for the present and the future. The aforementioned terms are therefore synonymous and want to express “friendship” and closeness to the planet. Everything that is eco-friendly is not harmful to the environment. An eco-friendly lifestyle also takes care of animals, plants and the entire ecosystem. Being earth-friendly, friends of the Earth, it is possible if we remember that we are guests of a world that belongs to everyone and therefore we must respect and protect it for future generations.
We have evidence of what is happening every day: the death of fishes in their own habitat, the gradual disappearance of crops and the death of people due to the lack of food in developing countries.
The land and glaciers narrow, flora and fauna change and something must be done immediately. Even the latest technology and products damage the environment, forcing many people to change their way of life, starting from the search for ecological products.
Here are some of the simplest eco-friendly activities you can carry out right away:
Today the consumer wants to get informed, which is why companies have started to invest in eco-friendly and in the development of ecological products, to create new eco-sustainable and eco-friendly businesses. However, not all eco-friendly products are really safe for the environment. Checking labels or looking for information and reviews on the internet helps to distinguish between truly eco-sustainable products and products that are harmful to the environment.
CIRCULAR ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
In an increasingly green world, the state of health of the planet requires that citizens take the path of energy sustainability and the reduction of the impact of our life on the environment. From this scenario arises the so-called environmental economy.
The economy of the environment deals with environmental problems and studies the effects of economic growth on the functions of the environment. It takes into account the consumer, market efficiency and the price mechanism.
The economy of the environment is different from the ecological economy. The latter interprets the economy as a sub-system and focuses on the maintenance of natural capital.
Environmental economists deal with topics such as the level of pollution acceptable by a system and the related economic policy instruments, the analysis of environmental legislation and international agreements for the protection of environmental resources and the evaluation of extra-market goods.
The environmental economy, also called circular economy, is a model of production and consumption that implies sharing, lending, reuse, repair, reconditioning and recycling of products, in order to extend their life and reduce the production of waste. The unusable products are then transformed and reintroduced into the economic cycle to generate further value in another form.
The transition to a circular economy, where everything that is consumed is not thrown away but recycled, also brings these advantages:
With the circular economy, consumers will have more durable products that will improve their quality of life.
ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY AND MARINE LITTER
The Memorandum of Understanding signed by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, Eni and Fincantieri, aims at environmental sustainability and the circular economy for the adoption of technological solutions for the marine litter problem, i.e. plastic waste that compromises the marine ecosystem and coastline.
The goal is to identify technologies for the collection of waste thrown overboard and reuse them to generate products for mobility and industrial applications.
The provision of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti aims to promote new business models with the contribution of their economic and financial skills and relations with institutions. Fincantieri will make the choice of naval vessels, will study the logistics for the collection, selection and treatment of waste at sea and will handle the disposal of non-negotiable products.
As required by the 2019-2021 Industrial Plan, we want to create a growth model oriented towards sustainability and the circular economy, capable of generating a positive socio-economic and environmental impact. To create value, in fact, it is necessary to combine growth and financial strength with social and environmental sustainability.
Europe has also taken steps to develop a more sustainable financial system. The new consultation will lead to the first delegated act to establish the technical evaluation criteria for economic activities which will contribute to the European environmental objectives. Some Member States have called for the inclusion of nuclear energy in “green” investments.
To obtain the green badge, an economic activity must guarantee a contribution to at least one of the six environmental objectives envisaged by the taxonomy:
The first delegated act of the EU Commission will deal with mitigating climate change and in 2021 a second delegated act will focus on the other four environmental objectives set by the taxonomy regulation.
ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY IN ITALY
The Country Report for Italy 2020 addresses the Italian situation regarding structural reforms, prevention and correction of macroeconomic imbalances in the context of environmental sustainability of the European Green New Deal.
Italy has recorded so far good results in sustainable development, with an 18% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. But despite the fact that companies have taken more measures to deal with environmental problems, an important investment in the circular economy has not yet occurred in families.
The Italian government’s support for the green economy is making progress and the new initiatives promoted at national level regarding energy and the climate demonstrate a real interest in supporting the green transition. The new measures are designed to encourage businesses to invest green with a specific fund and through public guarantees. The green economy is also encouraged by decarbonisation, the reduction of emissions, energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. To succeed in this mission, synergy between sectors and policies is needed.
Italian companies and the circular economy
Italian companies are becoming greener. More than 60% of manufacturing companies have adopted environmental protection measures, but only a small percentage of these internalise environmental costs. However, there is an increase in business investment in environmental protection thanks to SMEs. Large companies, on the other hand, are falling.
Eco-investments contribute to the export performance: recently more than 51% of companies investing in eco-innovation have in fact increased exports.
In Italy, moreover, the green transition would also positively affect the social level, with the increase in eco-industries and green jobs, especially in the energy, waste and water sectors. The sector with the greatest growth is organic agriculture.
With the growth of the workforce in the various sectors, it will be essential to invest in the skills necessary to encourage the retraining of workers. The promotion of energy efficiency will also improve access to energy at reduced prices.
The ecological choices in Italy
Italy is the fourth largest EU greenhouse gas producer and the energy industry is primarily responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. The main sources of emissions in Italy are coal-fired plants and the production of iron and steel. The goal is to reduce the use of coal in two priority areas of intervention, Taranto and the Sulcis Iglesiente in Sardinia.
In addition to human health, air pollution in Italy also affects vegetation and water. For this reason, the decarbonisation of transport is essential to quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Rail freight transport can also be an international solution. Ports can also play a key role. Instead, for the development of sustainable urban mobility, the recent measures on corporate vehicles have been established through the decree law “Climate” of 2019, the national strategic plan for sustainable mobility.
Compared to the recycling of urban waste, however, there are clear improvements, despite the non-compliant landfills and inadequate waste management in Campania in the recent past.
As far as waste water treatment and water distribution efficiency are concerned, we are still lagging behind. A low percentage of the population is connected at least to the secondary waste water treatment network and many agglomerations were found not to comply with the European provisions for the collection and / or treatment of urban waste water. Moreover, there is a deterioration in the efficiency of the drinking water distribution network.
Climate adaptation and risk prevention
Italy is the second most affected country in the EU by hydrogeological catastrophes, extreme weather phenomena, drought and forest fires. These disasters in recent years have resulted in economic losses of around 65 billion euros and over 20 thousand victims. Only 5% of the losses were insured, so the state and the victims had to absorb the losses by themselves.
The EU Commission and environmental associations urge the Italian government for a global strategy and a national climate adaptation plan to reduce the risk of disasters. Investments in this sense can reduce hydrogeological and seismic risks.