The state of the Italian Green Economy

Report on the State of the Green Economy 2022: good circular economy and organic agriculture, bad in terms of emissions and soil consumption; photovoltaic and wind power grow but not enough. Ronchi: “The green economy is now an ongoing change”

In Italy, the green economy has achieved important results and made in Italy increasingly focuses on ecological quality. Alongside the goals, however, some critical issues remain. Electricity from photovoltaic and wind power is growing, but due to the sharp decline in hydroelectricity, the share of renewables in final energy consumption has decreased, as has the share of renewables in electricity consumption. The circular economy continues to perform well, like organic farming; electric car registrations increase, sharing mobility resumes. Land consumption, on the other hand, seems unstoppable: in 2021 it reached the maximum of the last 10 years.

This is what emerges from the Report on State of the Green Economy presented at the opening of the States General of the Green Economy 2022the green summit dedicated this year to “The new challenge of the ecological transition for Italian companies”, promoted by the National Council of the Green Economy in collaboration with the Ministry of Ecological Transition and the patronage of the European Commission, which takes place at the Fiera di Rimini, as part of Ecomondo-Key Energy.

“The green economy – says Edo Ronchi, president of the Foundation for Sustainable Development – is now an ongoing change. In Italy it has good development potential: many companies have embarked on a path towards the green transition not only out of necessity but as an opportunity development also on international markets. The increase in energy costs, the scarcity of raw materials, can act as an accelerator in the green direction “.

Nine themes examined in the report: climate, green city, renewables, energy saving, circular economy, natural capital, land and water consumption, agriculture, mobility.

Let’s start with the climate. In 2021 greenhouse gas emissions in Italy, with the economic recovery, returned to growth by 6.8%, canceling most of the 2020 decrease due to the pandemic: an increase higher than the European one which was 6%. Italy still lacks a climate law and 2022 was a year that saw the climate crisis hit Italy hard.

The cities they should play a leading role in the path towards climate neutrality, which is now an obligation for European countries. Very few, however, have set this goal and therefore adopted measures to achieve it, both with a greater commitment to strong growth in renewable sources, and with measures to decarbonise local transport. Few cities have also adopted plans for adaptation measures to climate change.

Renewable chapter: they grow too little and slowly. In 2021, the consumption of energy from renewable sources grew by 3% on the previous year. As energy consumption increased, the share of renewables in final energy consumption decreased: from 20.4% in 2020 to 18.9% in 2021. In 2021, the production of electricity from renewable sources was the same as in 2020 , because the growth of wind and photovoltaics was just enough to offset the decline in hydro and geothermal. Thus, given the increase in electricity consumption, the share of renewable sources fell from 42% in 2020 to 36% in 2021, the data for the first half of 2022 are even worse. With the authorizations issued for new wind and solar plants, there is an improvement in the plants installed by the end of 2021 and, even more, next year with 4-5 GW. But despite this, Italy would not be able to respect the trajectory of the new European target by 2030.

Expensive bill, but we still consume too much. Final energy consumption increased in 2021, not only reabsorbing the decline that occurred during the pandemic, but reaching the highest level since 2012: 114.8 million toe. The increase in energy consumption has affected almost all sectors: more consistently transport, but also services, industry, agriculture and residential buildings. The 110% Superbonus served to relaunch some production sectors, but very little to reduce energy consumption: compared to a total investment of over 16 billion and almost 100,000 funded interventions, less than 200,000 toe were saved.

On the front ofcircular economy, on the other hand, the good performances are confirmed. The indicators confirm Italy’s good position in the circularity of European economies: in 2020 it leads the ranking of resource productivity with 3.5 euros of GDP per kg of resources consumed (+ 60% of the European average). In 2021, recycling kept pace with good performance, helping to contain the demand for virgin raw materials and the difficulties of supply and high prices. Steel production in Italy in 2021 grew by 20% compared to the previous year, with 78% coming from the recycling of ferrous scrap. Packaging released for consumption rose from 13.1 million tons in 2020 to 14.3 in 2021 and those sent for recycling increased by 10.5%; In 2022, with the economic slowdown and the recycling activities of some supply chains, they are entering a phase of difficulty in placing recycled materials.

Natural capital: late in the face of a critical situation. In 2021, the conservation status of species and habitats document a predominantly critical situation, without significant improvements compared to 2020: 54% of terrestrial flora and 53% of fauna are in an inadequate or bad state of conservation and 89 % of protected habitats are in inadequate or bad conditions. Territory protection stands at 21.4% (EU average 26.4%), compared to the European target of 30% by 2030.

Consumption of land and water resources, two weaknesses. 2021 recorded the highest land consumption in the last ten years: about 19 hectares more on average per day, equivalent to 69.1 square kilometers more, with 7.13% of artificial land cover, remains well below. above the European average (4.2%). Due to the climate crisis, heat waves and long periods of drought, the correct use, conservation and protection of water resources are of increasing importance. Waste is still unsustainable: of the approximately 10 billion cubic meters per year introduced into the aqueducts for drinking purposes, 4 billion are lost during transport in the networks.

Agriculture: in 2021 the area under organic cultivation in Italy grew by 4.4% compared to 2020, bringing it to 17.4% of the total cultivated: a good level even if still far from the European target of 25% by 2030.

The Italian car market changes. The ecological and climatic transition affects the car market which sees in Italy a fleet of 675 cars for every 1,000 inhabitants and a strong industrial presence in the production (largely by now in components) of traditional cars. But the 2021 data shows that something is changing: in 2021 468,000 fewer cars were registered than those sold in 2019, diesel cars sold were 29% less than the previous year and petrol cars 16%; in 2021 136,000 electric cars (+ 127%) and 423,000 hybrid cars (+ 91%) were registered, while sharing mobility resumed growth.