08/03/2013 - Italy has taken a range of initiatives to improve the management of its natural resources and reduce energy intensity. Despite this progress, the says the country still faces numerous environmental challenges.
Through stronger environmental legislation and policies as well as a framework for managing traditional pollutants, Italy has reduced air and river pollution, better managed waste and enhanced protection of biodiversity.
Trends in air emissions and municipal waste treatement
However, the country is still home to more than 15 of the 30 European cities with the worst air pollution. Unlike many other OECD countries, municipal waste generation in Italy has increased more rapidly than GDP. The water infrastructure is ageing and many groundwater aquifers are polluted and over-used, and some 15 000 dump-sites (many of them illegal) are contaminating land.
To meet these challenges, the Review recommends that Italy strengthen the coherence and enforcement of its environmental governance and policies, ensuring that all strategies are linked to country-wide economic and social objectives. At present, there are gaps and inconsistencies between national and regional authorities, leading to disparities in the way the north and the south of the country deal with, and enforce, water and waste management, climate change and environmental compliance. For example, though the south has more conservation areas, it also has less municipal waste treated in landfills and southern rivers are more polluted with phosphorus and nitrates than those in the north.
Overall, the Review recommends that Italy develop a green growth strategy that benefits both the environment and the economy. The government has increased fuel taxes (making them amongst the highest in Europe), strengthened incentives to use energy efficiently, and liberalised energy, transport and environmental services. Further measures such as reducing the tax rebate on diesel for trucks and a carbon tax would reduce CO2 emissions, free-up government resources for public transport systems, and allow growth-friendly reductions to labour and business tax.
For more information, journalists can contact: Krzysztof Michalak in the OECD Environment directorate, telephone: + 33 (0) 1 45.24.96.00. To read more, access the of the OECD Environmental Performance Review of Italy.