Deforestation in Italy: new regulation and new problems

On the first of December 2017, the Council of Ministers approved the so called Testo Unico Forestale, a Consolidated Act aimed to regulate the forest management  in Italy.

So far, an organic regulation of the sector was missing. The act aims to fill the gap and provide new instruments for the promotion of the Italian forest heritage. The core of the normative – according to the Minister of Agricultural Food and Forestry Policies Maurizio Martina – is to stimulate an active management of the forest, an essential resource both for the protection against hydrological instability and to fight the depopulation of rural areas.

“Moving away from a museum vision of the forest – claims the minister – we aim to a sustainable management, able to safeguard the requirement of the environment and the job opportunities for the communities who live inside the area”.

However, despite the enthusiasm  of the minister and other members of the Government, there are still adverse opinions, who define the act as an “attack to the Italian forest”. Let’s check a bit deeper the reasons of the criticisms.

No proper zoning of the woodland

There is not any clear distinction between areas that have to be conserved and areas for the production of wood. That’s a clear back step even with respect to the legislation of the 1923 (legge Serpieri). According to that law, you cannot eliminate some particular areas, defined as “untouchable”, because of ecological, touristic and cultural reasons. The new legislation does not set any similar disposition and that’s the reason why professor Paolo Maddalena defined the decree unconstitutional and conflicting with some funding principles of our democratic and constitutional system (remember that the 9th article of the Italian Constitution states that the Republic “safeguards natural landscape and the historical and artistic heritage of the Nation”).

Moreover, both areas where the forest is spontaneously growing again and areas where intervention of artificial reforestation are going on are not into the definition of forest and, consequently, may be freely eliminated. Those represent 40% of the current Italian woodland area and we have also to remember that the reforestation process required a lot of public resources: loosing those areas would represent a huge loss in terms of both public money and environmental resources.

The possibility of compensation

Another problem relates to the idea of compensation. According to the decree, you can eliminate or transform a forest area if you are able to compensate. You can do it through reforestation activities, which include a large variety of projects and services (e.g. a new road), independently of their different and uncertain effects. But, even worse, you can economically compensate the loss, whether allowed from the Region, simply paying an amount of money that will be collected into a forest fund.

The management of forest inventories

There is also a lot of uncertainty about who is going to manage forest inventories. In the past it was a task of the State Forestry Corps but now the Corp has merged with the police force and there’s no clarity about who is going to be charged with the management in the future. The decree covers this issue only superficially and no dispositions ensure any scientific methodology, accuracy and truthfulness.

Which is the “real” main objective of the policy?

Finally, there is also a sort of discrepancy related to the main objective of the policy. The writers of the decree wanted to promote an active management of the forest and enhance of the production of wood material. The availability of wood may be a good news for the sector of woodworking in Italy. The problem is that there is not any production structure on the territory. That means that the real objective of the decree is to provide the electricity producers with biomass! In fact, in the past, they have been authorized and established without considering the availability of raw material.

These are only few points among the many issues raised after the approval of the decree. Although a comprehensive legislation over the topic had been necessary for a very long time the result is not so satisfactory as expected. There are many problems in the text of the law and the norm is superficial and not specific enough in many points. Let’s wait and see how things will evolve in the close future.

 

Better Finance, Better World: how to make the Sustainable Development Goals more “investable” for commercial players

Today, January 24th, the Business and Sustainable Development Commission presented a  consultation version of the paper Better Finance, Better World at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The commission has set up a taskforce to consider how to deploy blended finance more effectively and how to encourage growth in the sector. That would make the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations more “investable” for commercial players.

What is blended finance?

Blended finance is  the strategic use of development finance and philanthropic funds to mobilize private capital flows to emerging and frontier markets, resulting in positive results for both investors and communities. Blended finance offers the possibility to scale up commercial financing for developing countries and to channel such financing toward investments with development impact.

In the last 5 years, the blended finance market doubled in size but is still much fragmented. In the next 3-4 years it could double again. Investments are supposed to increase and become more innovative, bespoken and less fragmented (each one with $1-10 billion of capital). Moreover, private actors’ awareness about the positive effects of blended finance is necessary to increase its potential. Benefits will come in terms of portfolio diversification and lower credit losses.

The role of financial institutions

Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) are institutions created by a group of countries, while Development Financial Institutions (DFIs) include microfinance institutions, community development financial institution and revolving loan funds. They both play a central role in scaling up the blended finance market, providing financing and professional advising for the purpose of development.

At the moment, for every dollar, they mobilise less than $1 of private capital. This mobilisation ratio would need to more than double over the next decade in order to get the financing target. Increasing these ratios will likely shift portfolios more toward infrastructure investment and toward more stable middle-income countries. But it could also free up additional development capital for frontier, low-income countries and high additionality projects.

Potential of blended finance for developing countries

In fact, capital will not be a constraint for developing countries anymore. Instead, performance differentiation over the next decade is more likely between those developing countries that get policy and institutional mechanisms right, versus those that are slower to adapt. Developing countries that prioritise sound policies and institutional capacity can build stable project pipelines, particularly using blended finance institutions which can link these policies to sectoral strategies, investment plans and sustainability standards.

Blended finance may reveal itself as a major opportunity for the world to increase its rate of growth, deliver the Sustainable Development Goals and strengthen long-term returns for savers.

The entire paper is available at the following link and open to consultation. The Commission will welcome every feedback and input on developing the action plan until 16 March 2018 and publish the final version of the paper at the April meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

We Are Still In! – United States is much more than Trump

As probably many of you already know, Donald Trump announced this summer he will pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement. Only two countries were not part of the agreement: Syria and Nicaragua,  for very different reasons. But now they are in as well and United States results as the only country that is not willing to cooperate with the rest of the world for the climate problem.

US, as the world’s largest economy and second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China, were playing a leadership role within the agreement. Now they are losing not only the opportunity to guide the international debate about climate change, but also their credibility and reputation.

Nevertheless, under the UN’s legal processes the withdrawal cannot be really effectively until 2020. The prospective date for US withdrawal falls on the day after the presidential election that year. Until then, the US remains a participant in the accord.

Despite an important and globally significant political move, the Trump’s decision does not change the situation so radically – neither for United States nor for the global coalition. The Paris Agreement does not set any internationally binding targets for the CO2 emissions reduction. Each country has voluntarily defined its national committment (26-28% emissions reduction within 2025, with respect to the emissions level in 2005 for the United States) and there are no fines to be paid in case of failure.

Moreover, United States is also still taking part in the discussions for the implementation of the global and national committments. In fact, president Trump sent a delegation to Bonn that tried to continue to shape the rules of the Agreement. Unfortunately, the people registered by the government for the official delegation were only 48 (nothing compared to the 161 people from Canada).

But someone else was present to honor the deal…

Another import effect of the US withdrawal was an unparalleled wave of support for the treaty from many US states, cities and businesses which have pledged to honor the Paris deal. Even if the United States is the only developed country not setting up a pavilion at the COP23 summit, a rival group of US governors, mayors and business leaders, called the We Are Still In coalition, were present with the “US Climate Action Centre” pavilion, the largest one of the summit. It was led by California Governor Jerry Brown and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Over one hundred prominent leaders from US states and local governments, private sector and academia were present at the pavilion, representing over half of all Americans and around $6.2 trillion of the US economy (still the biggest economy at the summit, not considering China).

The We Are Still In network, in coordination with other 30 organizations, hosted 44 events and played an active role in defining the “non-federal” climate action in order to meet the U.S. emission reduction targets under the Paris Agreement. You can find all the details about the composition, the aim and the pledge assumed by the coalition on its official page (https://www.wearestillin.com/). What I care to highlight here is the power of the subnational cooperation in a country where the national government has proved to be completely unconcerned about the climate problem. We Are Still In is a perfect example of the potential of both sub-national governments and private agents, such as firms, organizations and citizens, in tackling global problems and voluntarily committing themselves to cooperate in fighting climate change.

BALANGAY LEGAZPI is the Best Climate Practise 2017

On November 8th, in conjunction with the first week of COP23 and within the context of the “ICCG Climate Week”, ICCG organises a webinar dedicated to the Best Climate Practice Award, to showcase the most innovative and compelling projects that have participated in the 2017 edition of the contest and to explore the landscape and challenges of climate resilience and disaster risk reduction strategies.

After the online voting polls closed in July and the assessment of a jury composed of high-profile experts analysing the 19 shortlisted projects in the run, on the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Reduction, ICCG announced that the project “Balangay Legazpi” is the winner of the contest.

Legazpi City (capital of the province of Albay in the Philippines) is known for its adaptation and disaster risk reduction strategies, being highly vulnerable to natural hazards such as typhoon, earthquake, landslide, volcanic eruption, floods and tsunami. In order to sustain the disaster-risk reduction and management (DRRM) initiatives and to bridge the information gap between vulnerable communities and disaster-preparedness information providers, Balangay is a disaster-preparedness mobile and web application that provides communities information before and during the disaster. It is a public resource that provides to citizens disaster-related information, preparing families for earthquakes, floods and typhoons.

The main feature of the project is its user-centred approach. Before starting the project, potential users have been asked about what they dislike and why they use/don’t use similar technology-based initiatives. Official accounts are given to partner institutions and youth, engaged through local youth hobbyists who are tapped as volunteers to assist and create the promotional materials. Moreover, the local government issued accounts to barangays (smallest administrative divisions in the Philippines) to let them post announcements and information about their barangay activities.

The collaboration between local government units, academy, private sector, civil society organizations (CSOs), non-government organizations (NGOs) and affected communities strongly strengthens disaster education and bridges general information gap.

The role of youth (around 40 percent of the total population) is also enhanced by the structure of the application: they result both as the creators of information and materials and as end-users of the system, acting as information leaders in the family. A strong sense of ownership is developed, resulting in stronger engagement and higher and sustained user-base.

Statistics of the web and mobile application are very promising: 230 average daily visits from May 2016 to the first quarter of 2017 and 300 application downloads (exceeding the initial target of 199). In October 2016 it played a very important role during the Tropical Storm Karen, providing users rainfall advisory and updates. The project is also expected to growth in the future, with a projected increase of 10 to 15 percent per month in 2018.

More information about this project and many other good practises from all over the world are available on the Best Climate Practices platform, where the best ground-breaking climate-friendly practices are presented: just take a look at the official web site http://www.bestclimatepractices.org/.

Climategate: Why we need more media support

Today the power of the media is so strong than ever before. Thanks to social networks, podcasts and off-line streaming services we are constantly hit by news from everywhere.

We can not deny the fact that the media have the power to shape people’s opinions about a certain fact. Moreover, the media coverage around an event decrease or increase the sense of priority we give to that particular event.

Now, we all know that climate change or global warming are on the top of the world’s priority, or at least they should be. But, how do media act with respect to these issues? Are the media giving enough importance to the environmental problems of our planet? Are they doing enough efforts to align people’s idea to what the entire scientific community so strongly is shouting?

The answer presented is not satisfying at all!

Last year, 2015, the biggest media, such as ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox aired approximately 146 minutes of climate change coverage on their evening and Sunday news shows. Compared with 2014, there has been a 5% drop in coverage. This, despite the fact that 2015 has been a big year full of significant actions for climate change; Paris Summit, Pope Francis’ speak are just few examples.

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Okey, we can understand that maybe speaking about climate change does not increase TV audience, and that there are also other topics that must be covered. News media are a business and they must follow more attractive news; right?!

However, there is another huge problem here.

In 2015 Sunday Shows hosted more programs with climate science denial than in 2014. In 2014, the Sunday shows aired four segments that included climate science denial. In 2015, that number increased to six segments. Climate denial surfaced in 50 percent of the climate-related segments on NBC’s Meet the Press(three out of six segments), 17 percent of the climate-related segments on CBS’ Face the Nation (one out of six segments), and 14 percent of the climate-related segments on Fox News Sunday (two out of 14 segments). ABC’s This Week did not feature any climate science denial, but the program only addressed climate change in two segments all year.  [Media Matters, 1/28/15]

 

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Well, we live in a democratic world and people have the right to deny a fact even if is a scientific fact! Still, is unacceptable from a TV channel, watched by millions, to give more space and time to who deny these facts! In this way they are sowing doubts in people mind about climate change, when the scientific community at all agree that there is nothing to doubt at all.

The fight against climate change has always had its biggest opponents in climate change deniers, and they have not been  defeated yet. Not to forget, is very likely that United States may have as next president a climate change denier too! What is more scary?

 

Luckily, if mainstream media tend to be cautious and prefer not to take a strong commitment in the climate change battle, there are good news. Many big voices out there have spoken out loud in favour of the climate change battle, from politicians to singers, from writers to actors, there is an increasing number of people even not involved in governments that have taken action. And is to them we have to give the merit that more people are environmental concerned.

If the media do not want to raise public awareness about climate change, it is time for us to do that. Speak to your  neighbours, share a video or an article on your Facebook timeline, anything can be useful, because if you can just reach one person today, he/she is going to make a huge difference in this fight.

Demain… a movie for the Earth!

On the 6th of this month be free, a new documentary is coming out, and is about the environment. Demain (Tomorrow, in english) is a non fiction movie directed by Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent.

We don’t want to give too much spoilers, but you should know that the movie takes place in 10 different countries around the world: India, France, Denmark are just some to name.

The movie, as the two french directors write in the official website, aims at “Showing solutions, telling a feel-good story… this may be the best way to solve the ecological, economical and social crises that our countries are going through.”

Indeed, during the movie you will see people who are re-inventing agriculture, energy, economy, democracy and education.

Here is the official trailer:

 

So next week go and buy your cinema ticket, and let Steamgreen know your impressions about it!

Let’s Steamgreen!

 

Brexit and the Environment

On the 23rd, in two days, Great Britain is going to express its lawful opinion about whether remaining or leaving the European Union. Actually it is not the first time: in 1975 the 67% of the subjects chose to stay in the EEC. Hence, the main reasons standing behind the “Leave” party (mostly formed of UKIP and conservatives, among them Boris Johnson) is that in 40 years the EU changed a lot, in particular overwhelmingly dictating  home policies: therefore determining economic, social and environmental disadvantages.
On the other side there is the “Remain” Party (among whom the prime minister, David Cameron), who put up a poor campaign, however arguing that EU stopped the race to the bottom in the standards of living not only in Great Britain and EU, but also in third countries.

Brexit
@nextquotidiano.it

The Future

Whatever is going to happen this is going to be shaping the future, analysts say.
If the British call a halt, negotiations would begin. Nobody is able to know now the conditions, because the referendum is strictly about the eventuality of Brexit, and not about its future scenarios:  for instance, is GB going  to stick to the EEA, anyhow?
This Grey zone is estimated to last at least two years. And still, if GB would want to be a EU commercial partner, then it would have nonetheless  to respect a big part of its standards.

If the British are staying in,  one of the hypothesis would be that then EU would become stronger and less subject to the historical English grumbles.

Brexit and the Environment
Brexit and the Environment – @euractiv.com

 The Environment

But how would Brexit affect the British and European environment?

Let’s pretend it is a reality: GB is not part of the EU anymore.
Firstly, as already said, GB would have still to watch after most of the existing regulations because of continuing commercial partnerships within the EU and of course because most of EU legislations are in the British code by now. The reign could be able to abrupt most of them, if it is its will, but still it will take time.
Furthermore GB would not receive its grants stemming from CAP or Horizon 2020.
And then? Some of leavers argue that environmental legislations are too strict and they cut off power from potential successful businesses.  So, will the tendency  be the one to return to the unattractive reputation  of being “The dirty man of Europe”?
Because that was how Great Britain was known back in the 70s and 80s,  having the highest sulphur dioxide emissions in the EU and their seas were akin to open sewers (Rose, 1990).
Then, how would the power in international negotiation change from UK perspective?
The issue here is that in the field of environmental protection and development, cooperation is fundamental as these problems are transnational and cross-boundary  in nature.
As a result, two things are likely to occur: GB loses its power of saying, while EU could follow in this sad spiralling down, losing its status as Leader or, conversely, EU strengthening its position  because having less oppositions in its formation.

Putting the pink glasses on,  GB  could catch the opportunity to break free from an excessive burden. For sure it will not receive any subsidies, but they will not even have to hand out any to nobody else.  In this scenario the British could basically  do whatever in their will to strengthen the national  and successful Environmental Stewardship (  an agri-environmental scheme aiming to foster biodiversity with sustainable agri-practices) and move on with its world-leading research in the field.
As  John Hillary put it ( an exponent of  War on Want,  a charity who fights against the root causes of poverty and human rights violation, as part of the worldwide movement for global justice)  EU is not –or not anymore – a bunch of neoliberals with green and clean agendas- we are actually dealing with  a “lobbied and competitive Europe”, which for instance approves TTIP and downgrades, as soon as possible, the Paris Agreements’ achievements with the recently happening of the Fuel Quality  Directive.

Conclusions

What will happen…. nobody knows that. Most probably the theories illustrated are just random rambling speeches. However it is a very scary scenario because it is an impounded path.
Lets at least hope this path will be green.