Newsletter n. 82

16/04/2021

1.EXPERIENCES: The Italian Penal Code on environmental crimes – Law 68 of 22 May 2015

2.NEWS FROM THE SIP FORUM:

3.NEWS ON THE SOIL AND EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS:

4.WE ARE NOT ALONE!

The Italian Penal Code on environmental crimes – Law 68 of 22 May 2015

It has been reported in the media that France has joined the “club” of countries condemned for not having acted to halt climate change. The list is growing longer: the Netherlands, Pakistan, Colombia, Ireland … France has been convicted in the Paris administrative court of “ecological harm” because of its inaction on the climate. The case was launched in 2018 by four NGOs with the backing of a petition that had gathered 2.3 million signatures. Recognition of this responsibility opens the way to future legal challenges to oblige states to take action on the climate.

We wondered whether Italy could be similarly sanctioned, so we searched Italian legislation to find out. Law 68 of the Penal Code of 22 May 2015 – which came into force 29/05/2015 – contains Measures on environmental crimes. It deals with pollution, environmental disasters, movement of radioactive material, failure to carry out land reclamation, obstruction of checks, as well as aggravating circumstances in relation to the mafia.

Can we as Italian citizens consider ourselves to be protected, and thus reassured? The law is there, but who is applying it and how? Are cases being brought in response to daily reports of environmental disasters or pollution? If the State is not acting to ensure that the law is obeyed, does it become equally responsible? Again, if the State fails to act in order to protect the environment, can it be prosecuted?

This is the text of the first article of the law:

Art. 1

 1. The following is inserted into the penal code after title VI of the second volume:

 «Title VI-b. Crimes against the environment.

  Art. 452-b. (Environmental pollution). Punishments of two to six years’ imprisonment and fines of between 10,000 and 100,000 euros will be imposed on anyone who deliberately causes significant and measurable damage or deterioration to either of the following:

   1) the water, air, or substantial or significant areas of the soil or subsoil;

   2) the biodiversity of the flora or fauna of an ecosystem, including farmland.

  When the pollution is caused in a natural protected area or one that is subject to protections for its landscape, environment, history, art, architecture or archaeology, or damages protected species of animals or plants, the penalties are increased.

So anyone who causes pollution or damage either pays a fine or goes to prison. However, there is another factor that immediately springs to mind: Italy’s judicial system does not operate at the same pace as that of nature. This means that prosecutions are often irrelevant compared to the damage done. So the “polluter pays” principle should be supplemented by one that says “those who cause damage must repair it “. Prison and fines, even of 100,000 euros, are not in themselves effective in restraining those who make damaging choices for nature, of which – let’s not forget! – human beings are a part. If, on the other hand, an industry, a factory, a farm was obliged to repair the damage done and compensate the local residents, they would think hard before acting against nature’s limits. Cases such as the PFAS pollution of the water table and domestic tap water in the Veneto, the toxic waste dumps of the Terra dei Fuochi in Campania, the familiar environmental scandal of ILVA in Taranto all spring to mind.

We invite our readers to let us know of cases that have been brought and gone through the judicial process and their outcomes, including any penalties imposed.

SIP Forum: My experience as an intern at the European Parliament

My name is Anna Paesano, I have a degree in Environmental and Forestry Agricultural Science with a specialisation in Agricultural and Environmental Biotechnology.

In September 2020, as the world experienced the second wave of the pandemic, I embarked on a fantastic adventure, which started when I got on a plane to Brussels! The SIP Forum had offered me the opportunity to do a four-month internship at the office of the MEP Eleonora Evi (Greens / European Free Alliance).The attraction for me was not just the opportunity to put into practice what I had learned during my studies, but to do this in the service of the European institutions.

I played a dynamic role in the activities of the offices. I observed the work of the European Parliament on the environment, farming, soil, climate change and biodiversity; a highlight was observing the work of the ENVI and PETI committees of which MEP Evi is a member.

Between October 2020 and January 2021 I followed the updates to the CAP, the Green Deal and the related strategies put forward by the European Commission.

I was also able to take part in a stimulating series of conferences on the recognition of the rights of nature organised by MEP Marie Touissant, as well as a number of webinars on carbon farming, the importance of the soil as a carbon sink and the consequences on GHG emissions, the key role of biodiversity, on climate change and its effects on human health.

An exciting moment came at the end of January, when Eleonora Evi’s team and I helped Luca Colapaoli to present – and get accepted – the Petition on soil consumption in the San Donato Milanese area (n. 0148/2020 presented on behalf of GreenSando). It was very interesting to see the EP’s commitment to defending the soil in opposition to the local authorities.

These were the main themes of my internship.

Unfortunately, thanks to the pandemic, the offices of the EP were closed to everyone two weeks after I arrived in Brussels. This meant I was unable to carry out interviews on the theme of the soil with MEPs, which was the main activity on which my internship should have been based. Nonetheless, thanks to remote working I was able to leave with a positive experience from all points of view: training, working and living.

My current plan is to dedicate myself to science, especially soil and earth science, which is closely connected with environmental policy, which is the most important tool for defending the soil and the environment.

I consider myself fortunate to have been able to experience working in a team that is very alert to environmental matters (despite political differences!), and to have been able to count on the support of Mario Catizzone and the Gruppo Suolo Europa.

Thank you to everyone who put their trust in me!

Anna Paesano: anna-paesano@libero.it

Do no significant harm

The Regulation establishing the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) provides that no measure included in a Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) should lead to significant harm to environmental objectives within the meaning of Article 17 of the Taxonomy Regulation. According to the RRF Regulation, the assessment of the RRPs should ensure that each and every measure (i.e. each reform and each investment) within the plan complies with the ‘do no significant harm’ principle.

What constitutes ‘significant harm’ for the six environmental objectives covered by the Taxonomy Regulation?

  1. An activity is considered to do significant harm to climate change mitigation if it leads to significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions;
  2. An activity is considered to do significant harm to climate change adaptation if it leads to an increased adverse impact of the current climate and the expected future climate, on the activity itself or on people, nature or assets;
  3. An activity is considered to do significant harm to the sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources if it is detrimental to the good status or the good ecological potential of bodies of water, including surface water and groundwater, or to the good environmental status of marine waters;
  4. An activity is considered to do significant harm to the circular economy, including waste prevention and recycling, if it leads to significant inefficiencies in the use of materials or in the direct or indirect use of natural resources, or if it significantly increases the generation, incineration or disposal of waste, or if the long-term disposal of waste may cause significant and long-term environmental harm;
  5. An activity is considered to do significant harm to pollution prevention and control if it leads to a significant increase in emissions of pollutants into air, water or land;
  6. An activity is considered to do significant harm to the protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems if it is significantly detrimental to the good condition and resilience of ecosystems, or detrimental to the conservation status of habitats and species, including those of Union interest.”

Do less to consume less

The phrase “Do less to consume less” was coined by Amory Lovins – the creator of the Rocky Mountain Institute – and it is summed up in the term Negawatt, referring to power saved or not used, in contrast to Megawatt, which is a unit for measuring power used. 30 years have passed since he came up with this phrase, which at the time was regarded as a ‘provocation’.

Today it is abundantly clear that it is a necessity. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us clearly that it is possible to produce and above all consume differently: better, less and closer. Every EU Member State has seen an increase over the past year in consumption of food that is produced locally and cooked at home. Food producers have found new ways to get their products to consumers and ethical purchasing groups have proliferated. We have featured these in some of our newsletters.

But this is not enough, we can do much more. For example, the whole of the advertising sector which exists to attract attention to products – not just food – and which treats the citizen as a mere consumer whose brain is there to be polluted needs radical reform. Reality-based advertising would help us understand, not just consume. We believe that local authorities can impose a sense of responsibility (some do this already), for example by requiring shops to turn off their illuminated signs when they close (reducing energy consumption) or by banning paper-based advertising, thus saving both trees and plants immediately. Such measures would bring savings to both businesses and citizens and would benefit the environment at the same time.

Evaluation support study on the impact of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) on sustainable management of soil

When people want to gain time, they commission studies, research, and analysis. A lot depends on who carries out these activities. Nevertheless, the results can be useful in order to understand if and how to proceed. The report on the Evaluation of the impact of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on the sustainable management of soil acquires particular importance, in this period of discussion of the CAP, both for the CAP itself and for the development of a new European strategy for the soil.

Who was behind this study? The Agriculture DG of the European Commission, directly. Who was it entrusted to? To the Alliance Environment European Economic Interest Group: over 20 people worked on the analysis and editing. The study considers the various regulations of the CAP since 2014 and carried out assessments in farming areas of 10 EU Member States.

In short, the report seems to us to have a solid scientific base and to have chosen the elements for evaluation well. The final result is quite clear: despite their potential, the tools of the CAP have not supported or protected the productivity and fertility of the soil. The report runs to almost 150 pages: here are a few of its typical conclusions.

Only a few of the activities necessary for soil protection are enforced at EU level. Furthermore, key activities, such as controlled traffic, no/reduced/late tillage, diversified crop rotation and compost application, as well as the limitation of plot size are in no cases enforced by the EU regulation; i.e. vulnerable areas in terms of soil quality (or susceptibility to erosion) do not benefit from specific provisions set at EU level.

Looking at the decisions by Member States and managing authorities to implement instruments and measures fostering activities for sustainable soil management, the study found that soil quality was given less importance than other environmental concerns (i.e. biodiversity and water, which benefit from legally binding EU objectives and dedicated institutions or services). This level of priority given to addressing soil quality seems to result mostly from the level of awareness among national and local authorities of the threats to soil and of their possible consequences. The absence of decrease in the growth nitrogen balance since 2010 suggests that the recent implementation of the CAP did not succeed in providing an additional contribution to the effect that previous policies had on reducing the use of fertilisers. The impact of the CAP measures and instruments on soil compaction and salinisation remains very limited, as no instrument clearly addressed those issues.

Looking at storms, droughts, fires and soil sealing as other factors that may impact soil quality, it can be observed that those events may impact very large areas and may thus very significantly impact soil quality in comparison to the impact that can be expected from the CAP. It is also important to note that degraded and bare soils are more affected by storms and droughts than sustainably managed soils, and that the frequency of extreme natural events is expected to increase in the future: this suggests the CAP measures and instruments need to scale up to counterweight, as much as possible, the effects of these events.

The needs to limit erosion, to increase carbon content in mineral soils, to protect grasslands and to ensure the maintenance of their carbon content are explicitly addressed in the CAP framework. However, the rules set at EU level are not very ambitious, and the CAP contribution to mitigate those soil threats thus depend on implementation choices taken at the level of Member States or regions.

Another world is possible!

The World Social Forum 2021 (WSF) was held “in silence” from 23 to 31 January 2021. We say “in silence” because the media largely ignored this online event, which attracted over 9,000 participants and 1300 organizations from 144 countries, discussing over 800 different subjects. It was not just a celebration of the 20-year anniversary of the first Forum held in 2001 in Brazil, but a relaunch of contacts, ideas and activities. It has been reaffirmed that “Another world is possible!” and that it is even more necessary and urgent.

The organizational effort was enormous and demonstrated all the vitality and capacity of civil society. The programme touches on and links different disciplines and sectors and the dialogues were structured around the themes of War and Peace, Economic Justice, Education, Communication and Culture, Feminisms, Society and Diversity, Indigenous and Ancestral Peoples, Democracy, Social Justice and Climate, Ecology and Environment.

January 30th was dedicated to self-managed Assemblies for the creation of a programme of connected actions, ideas, political and cultural expressions of the movements and civil society. These initiatives are part of a common Calendar , which will pave the way for the next WSF to be held in Mexico City in 2022.

More information and recordings of the WSF are available on YouTube.

Let’s end the silence!

The virtual fair within Green Week

Green Week is the European Commission’s annual initiative to draw attention to the importance of the environment. The Week was originally held in Brussels but for some years now, it has been held in different EU States with parallel initiatives organised by the EU Member States themselves. This year it will run from 31 May to 13 June and will per force take place virtually, with meetings run through electronic platforms.  

This year, the 4 per 1000 Initiative aims to use the EU’s Green Week to invite the partners to the virtual “4 per 1000” Fair where they will have the opportunity to present their work at a short event. The “virtual fair stand” has specific rules:

  • A “4 per 1000” partner event should last one hour.
  • Introduction (max 10 min): the organizers briefly introduce themselves and explain their interest in the “4 per 1000” initiative.
  • Presentation (max 30 min): The partners are completely free to design the presentation of their work. This could be a virtual tour in the field or in a lab or a meeting with the public.
  • Question & Answer session.

In addition, if you like, you can hold your presentation more than once on different dates.

More information are available athttps://wiki.afris.org/display/4EGW21?showLanguage=en_EN