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Ecological transition and innovation, what opportunities in Italy?

A few days before the presentation in Brussels of the EU Green Deal Industrial Plan, (1) the CNEL (National Council of Economy and Labour) organized a conference in Rome on 'Ecological transition, a development opportunity for Italy'.

Below is a summary of the speeches – with the precious contributions of the Enrico Fermi Research Centre, the Institute of Economics of the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies and the Inequalities and Diversity Forum – which can be heard on the Youtube channel by CNEL.

1) Ecological transition and innovation in Italy

I ricercators Angela Nardelli and Aurelio Patelli of the E. Fermi Research Center, at the CNEL conference on 25 January 2022, highlighted how Italy is one of the top five EU member countries for patent registration green.

The innovation in Italy, also in the southern regions, it is focused on the production of non-fossil energy (31%), transport (19%), construction (15%) and waste management (7%. The latter in line with the European average).

2) Skills and occupation

Green technologies, according to Andrea Roventini of the Institute of Economics of the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, they have the potential to create 7 million jobs globally by 2030 with higher than average wages. At the same time, many more obsolete jobs will be lost.

Is critical therefore that politics takes care of guiding the transition, training and relocating the workforce. Policies and following the best practices they must be implemented to facilitate the transition, taking into account inequalities because some areas and regions will be more affected than others.

3) Inequalities and brakes on development

The data show the correlation between inequalities, development and green technology. The Enrico Fermi Research Center – through an empirical algorithm based on Economy Fitness & Complexity (2) – the most diversified countries in terms of exported products are also the most competitive. And this correlation is also true for green technologies. (2)

The greater the inequalities in income, the lower the competitiveness in the sector green, due to uncertainties about the ability to develop new skills and green technologies associated with higher costs. These differences can only be overcome with more investment in people-oriented education green capabilities.

3) Left-Behind Places

Polluting economic activities in turn have negative effects on economic development. As Maria Enrica Virgillito of the Sant'Anna Institute explains, 'sacrifice zones' also exist in Italian cities.

Left-Behind Places they are areas where economic activities produce high CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions. Three effects on the labor market are observed in these areas: loss of employment, low wages and outflows of inhabitants.

4) What solutions?

Possible solutions are indicated by Andrea Roventini of the Sant'Anna Institute, who explains how traditional economic tools such as the free market or cost/benefit analysis cannot help in the green transition. Conversely, public regulations and industrial policies are needed to assist the development of technologies and the market.

The reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases is linked to decarbonisation. We must avoid exploiting new deposits of fossil fuels, 'electrify' the economy and invest in renewable energies until reaching a coverage of 90% in 2025. The cost of solar and wind energy has collapsed, in the last 10 years, up to become cheaper than other sources. The more renewable sources are used, the cheaper they become.

5) Industrial policies

industrial policies should encourage the return of manufacturing sectors delocalized in recent decades, even those with high emissions. And guide the ecological transition of the supply chains.

Italian politics, continues Roventini, today 'collects dividends [from large publicly controlled companies and leaders in new green technologies] and does not give the minimum of strategic direction to companies'. (3)

Consider the benefits that could be had in terms of economic development, employment, wage level and energy self-sufficiency, the big question is 'why in Italy there is a total absence of debate on the ecological transition?'.

Alessandra Mei

Cover design from the project 'Geothermal Masterplan' (Fraunhofer Institute for Energy Systems and Geothermal Energy, D)

Footnotes to the story

(1) Dario Dongo. EU Green Deal Industrial Plan. The necessary ecological transition. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.2.23

(2) Economic Fitness & Complexity is an empirical algorithm based on two indices, the complexity of each exported product and the Economic fitness which measures the industrial competitiveness of countries on the basis of specific production capacity. Diversified countries are more competitive and patent more complex classes of technology

(3) The examples cited:

  • Is in the, leader in Europe in the production of solar panels and integrated power plants combining wind, solar and battery energy and the production of green hydrogen (in Portugal),
  • Terna, which is laying high-intensity submarine cables to bring energy from Southern Italy to Northern Italy and Europe,
  • Saipem, which builds floating wind farms offshore

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Graduated in Law from the University of Bologna, she attended the Master in Food Law at the same University. You participate in the WIISE srl benefit team by dedicating yourself to European and international research and innovation projects.

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