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A decade marked by two summits—the first held in Rio (Earth Summit, 1992) and the second in Johannesburg (Sustainable development, 2002)—has helped outline a new philosophy of economic growth in which development must not neglect social equilibrium and environmental protection.

There are three principal international environment-related conventions that periodically unite Member States for the purposes of examining the progress being made and to elaborate future policies: the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). 

The UNFCCC became effective on 21 March 1994 and concerns measures for adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change. The Kyoto Protocol is the Convention’s implementation instrument and it went into effect in February 2005, envisaging the reduction of emissions within the 2008-2012 time span, as well as the possibility of using flexible mechanisms in order to fulfil that obligation (CDM, JI and ETS).Negotiations are currently underway to establish the future of that Protocol (post-2012). The 14th Conference of the Parties to the Convention was held from 1-12 December 2008 in Poznan, Poland. Among the results of that conference was the completion of negotiations to make the adaptation fund fully operative, approval of the 2009 programme of the two Working Groups on Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG LCA) and on Further Commitments of Annex I Countries under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG KP), and the decision to draft a true negotiation text by the end of June 2009. The decisions taken can be consulted on the Convention website:

The UNCCD became effective in 1997 and establishes guidelines for identification and implementation of national, sub-regional and regional programmes to combat desertification. Italy is among its major economic contributors. 

The CBD is a convention safeguarding biodiversity and aims at the conservation of ecosystems, the sustainable exploitation of existing species and subspecies of flora and fauna and the equitable distribution of the gains resulting from the exploitation of genetic resources, and is considered the most complete and comprehensive thus far in that it applies to all the Earth’s living organisms.

As for sustainable development in general, the UN is the forum in which the international community elaborates its new development policies (General Assembly, ECOSOC/Commission for Sustainable Development).September of 2000 the UN General Assembly approved the eight “Millennium Goals”, which are perhaps the largest collective commitment ever undertaken by the international community in pursuance of a well-defined and verifiable set of goals within a precise time period. High-ranking among these is environmental sustainability, which, in turn, comprises integration of the principles of sustainable development within the policies and programmes of the governments of the various nations and inversion of the current trend of resource impoverishment.

This growing awareness, fuelled by recent studies such as the Stern Report on the negative economic consequences of non-sustainable development and the 4th report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have led to the negotiation, especially in the context of the UN, of numerous multilateral instruments to discipline the various thematic areas.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed in 1987 and continues to successfully promote the elimination of those substances.

Of major importance at regional level is the Convention on the Protection of the Alps in force since 1995, which fosters sustainable development across the Alps, and whose Secretary General is Italy’s Marco Onida.

The EU has always been a leader in the sector of combating climate change. The 2007 Spring European Council established unilateral greenhouse gas reduction goals, regardless of whether an agreement is reached on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, of 20% within 2020, with a possible increase to 30% if an international agreement on emissions reductions is reached with the major emissions producers. The European Council finally approved an energy-environment package in December 2008.

Furthermore, upon the impetus of the Italian duty Presidency in 2003 the EU launched an initiative aimed at promoting integration of environment concerns among the External Relations by means of an informal network known as the “Green Diplomacy Network”, made up of diplomats responsible for environmental issues in European capitals.

The Network has concentrated on themes such as climate change, biodiversity, desertification and renewable energy, and organised initiatives in third countries promoting Europe’s negotiating position in the various international conferences. This could currently be defined as an example of “European diplomacy”.

The Italian foreign ministry participates with the Ministry of the Environment in defining the Italian negotiating position in environmental conferences, ensures coordination in preparatory meetings both at multilateral level and in bilateral meetings with other countries, and handles relations with the international organisations involved. Finally, it contributes, along with the other ministries concerned, to the absorption into Italian legislation of the regulations established at international level in conjunction with other States. The foreign ministry joins the Ministries of the Environment and of Economic Development in promoting the flexible mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol and proposes skilled candidates for positions in international bodies concerned with the environment.

Italy’s emissions reductions: not just an obligation

In order to satisfy the obligations undertaken by signing the Kyoto and its absorption into European legislation, over the 5-year period 2008-2012 Italy will have to acquire a noteworthy amount of carbon credits through CDM and JI mechanisms. Indeed, Italy will have to emit a total of 6.5% less CO2 as compared with 1990 levels.
This obligation could represent an opportunity to the “country system” as a whole. Beneficiaries would include those businesses operating in the sector of renewable energy sources and that have the technology and know-how to improve energy efficiency and the environmental impact of industry and transport.
CDM mechanisms offer the following advantages to industrialised countries and their industries:

  • exploration and expansion into the markets of emerging countries, entering into sectors such as clean energy, technological innovation, industrial upgrade and energy efficiency;
  • lowering of the secondary costs of emissions reductions;
  • increased profit on investments considering the income from the sale of the carbon credits generated;
  • highly improved corporate image as a result of the company’s environmental commitment.

Amendment of Legislative decree 216/06

The Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have set up an institutional platform by which to facilitate and direct CDM/JI projects through legislative decree no. 51/2008, which amends DL 216/06, approved by the Council of Ministers on 27 February 2008, which enhances the use of flexibility mechanisms.

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