Environmental Justice in Italy
Environmental Justice and Climate Change: towards Paris 2015 - International Meeting in Rome
By Francesca Rosignoli, 2015-09-16
On 10th September 2015 the italian Sustainable Development Foundation has organized an international meeting on Environmental Justice and Climate Change at the Augustinian Patristic Institute in Rome.
International experts and key actors of the international negotiations such as Edo Ronchi (President, Sustainable Development Foundation), Nicholas Stern (President, Grantham Research Institute), Ismail Elgizouli (Acting Chair, IPCC), Jeffrey Sachs (Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University), Enrico Giovannini (Co-chair "Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development" - United Nations), P. Augusto Chendi (Under secretary, Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers) have shared their views on Environmental Justice issues and Climate Change, in response to the Catholic Church's position on environmental challenges expressed through Pope Francis's encyclical "Laudato Si'".

On the eve of the COP21 Summit in Paris, Gian Luca Galletti, current italian Minister of the Environment, introduced the meeting, underlying the greatest urgency to find an agreement able to take into consideration the different historical responsabilities among the countries especially in terms of emission.

First, Edo Ronchi, who as italian Minister of the Environment (in charge from 1996 to 2000) signed for Italy the Kyoto Protocol in 1998, has exposed all the key points of the debate by claiming how the environmental justice paradigm can enrich the climate change challenges; the importance to modify the current economic system, involving companies as key actors of this change; the need of a bottom-up strategy and a civil society involvement; the crucial role of China, Usa and EU for the next international negotiations in Paris; the fact that a global agreement to stop the building of new carbon plants, to eliminate subsidies to fossil fuels, introducing a significant carbon tax and financing renewable energies is absolutely necessary.

Secondly, the most part of the participants has expressed many expectations from the COP21, claiming long term investments, decarbonization of the global economy, collaboration between developed and developing countries, urging all nations to sign ambitious targets to reach an agreement where global warming is held below 2 degrees celsius. As key driving argument, some of them have stressed the high risks that we are taking in terms of food security, poverty and climate refugees increase, floods and desertification of the southern Europe as well. Such risks and expected damages, indeed, are going to disproportionately burden more exposed and vulnerable (and less responsible) developing countries.

Compared to the enourmous costs of climate inaction (Nicholas Stern), according to Ismail El Gizouli just 0.06% of GDP could avoid or at least reduce all the aforementioned effects.

Furthermore, the most remarkable contribution from an environmental justice perspective was surely José María Vera Villacián's focus on involved communities. Thanks to a bottom-up approach, he started to recall some ordinary people's stories related to environmental disasters already happened, pointing out how such terrible consequences will impact the most vulnerable and exposed communities such as women, peasants and more generally developing countries. These are the main topics he discussed: the strong relationship between climate change and inequalities, which causes and increases global poverty; the need of urgent investments, new contributors, additional support to the more poor and vulnerable countries; the importance of mitigation achievable through an immediate emission reduction; short-term plans and actions of the governments involved instead of waiting for the next elections. The reason of these priorities, as he said during the meeting, is to prevent the attitude of the countries "that pretend to be too poor to welcome refugees and to reduce their emissions".

Surprisingly, none of the speakers has mentioned any worries about the announced energy policy (Sblocca Italia) of Italian government, that legitimates/justifies, for example, the intensive exploitation of national reserves of hydrocarbons/fossil fuels (especially through maritime oil extraction). However, it must be noted that a grassroot movement against such environmental policy is growing up in Italy (see Energia per l'Italia's appeal by the scientifical community and a referendum's proposal).

By contrast, the majority of the participants wanted just to emphasize the great influence and leadership of Pope Francis that certainly encourages us, but it can not replace any political actions.

Further information on the meeting are available here.
Discussion panel
Keynote speaker
Image: © Rosignoli