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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.

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Comitato Cittadino di San Giorgio a Cremano (Naples)

Francesco Russo, as representative of the Comitato Cittadino di San Giorgio a Cremano, has belonged to SIP at the national level for a long time.

The Committee follows and takes part in initiatives to protect the environment, the soil and land in particular. A very active core group is concerned with training young people. This led to the creation several years ago of the Università Popolare Paesi Vesuviani, headed up by Russo, which is engaged in professional training and offers the knowledge and skills needed to operate in the area of international importing and exporting for businesses offering goods and services, as well as marketing strategies for emerging economies in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. The main focus is imports and exports in the agri-food sector. Many of the teachers are managers from the big shipping companies who share their experience, understanding of practical operations, theoretical and practical knowledge and competencies, leading to employment opportunities in the sectors of marketing, international business and tourism.

Contact details: Università Popolare Paesi Vesuviani
Via E. A. Mario 6
80046 San Giorgio a Cremano (NAPOLI) Email: unisangiorgio@virgilio.it e Saverio.france.russo@gmail.com

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Collaborative tools and environmental conflicts

In previous newsletters we have dealt with the topic of democratic control. An interesting conference was held in Milan on 22 November last year on the subject of “Developing collaboration in environmental and urban conflicts“. We asked one of the speakers, Veronica Dini, who is a lawyer, to tell us why and how we should develop collaborative tools in the area of environmental conflicts. She kindly sent us the following.

“The first reason lies in the fact that, as the news shows, it is impossible not to be concerned with and about the environment: there are too many urgent matters to be dealt with and too many significant challenges to be faced. The second reason is that the management and protection of the environment are related to basic goods and interests that, at the very least, are seen as being mutually opposed; in this area, therefore, conflict is unavoidable and destined to worsen as available resources are exhausted.

Having clarified why this matter is so important, in the legal, social and political debate, we need to take on board the fact that conflict can be prevented and managed through a number of institutions and strategies: by having recourse to judicial authority or by using  collaborative tools. In the former case, to put it extremely briefly, the solution to the problem is delegated to a third party that filters it through the lens of the law and assigns rights and wrongs to the case. Continua a leggere “Collaborative tools and environmental conflicts”

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The Gardens of Pomona

It’s no accident that Adam and Eve are shown in many images as “covering” themselves with fig leaves. The fig is an ancient plant: remains have been found of plants that lived around 23,000 years ago! Furthermore, humans have always prized the fruit of the fig tree. Today it is gaining renewed attention, because every part of the fig tree can be used: leaves, sap, bark, shoots, and of course the fruit, both fresh and dried.

In the municipality of Cisternino (province of Brindisi), in the centre of Valley of Itria (best known as the home of the unique Puglian houses known as “trulli”), can be found the “Gardens of Pomona”. This botanical garden combines the conservation of biodiversity with research and scientific education programmes aimed at schools of every type and level, as well as professionals, amateurs and tourists.  This living genetic bank was born out of the desire and duty to pass on to future generations the precious inheritance selected over millennia by countless generations of farmers. In pursuit of this aim, the existing drystone walls, terraces and water tanks, as well as the buildings, have been restored in keeping with local  building traditions, and the place has been transformed into a park-garden, which is open to the public all year round. Continua a leggere “The Gardens of Pomona”

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Brownfield

A conference organized by the Environment DG of the European Commission was held on 5 April 2019 at the EESC (European Economic and Social Committee): Brownfield redevelopment in the EU.

Brownfields are sites that have been affected by the former uses of the site and the surrounding land; are derelict or underused; have real or perceived contamination problems; are mainly in developed urban areas; require intervention to bring them back to beneficial use. In other words, urban or urbanized abandoned areas with pollution problems according to the rules on land reclamation and remediation.

With this conference, the European Commission aimed to promote brownfield redevelopment as a solution to limit urban sprawl, land take and soil sealing. During the day, inspiring policies, challenges and good practices for brownfield redevelopment were presented by European, regional and local stakeholders and the potential offered by EU funds was explored. Continua a leggere “Brownfield”

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The Normalization of Deviance

One of the greatest risks in modern society is what is called “the normalization of deviance”. The concept comes from statistics, but what it means in practice is that it describes what happens when individuals or groups repeatedly accept a lower standard until that level becomes the norm. To take an example from language: some people on TV started using words that were once considered vulgar (such as ‘balls’, ‘prick’, ‘bugger’, ‘shit’, ‘fuck’ etc.), with the result that today they are commonly used by politicians, commentators, actors, people being interviewed and so on. The sense of moderation has gradually been lost, with the result that decidedly inappropriate uses are increasingly accepted.

When we look at the environment, the problems caused by plastics and oil are obvious to everyone. Having accepted their use in everything that surrounds us, we find ourselves in the opposite critical situation: having gradually accepted their ubiquity, now we are obliged to re-establish limits on their use and consumption. Continua a leggere “The Normalization of Deviance”

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Examples of Environmental Education

This Newsletter has always stressed the importance of environmental education as a powerful tool for improving the living conditions of current and future generations. Millions of young people all over the world have raised their voices to ask for a radical change in atttitude from the political classes who continue to fail to manage the causes and effects of climate change. Does this mean that environmental education has worked?

Perhaps it means the opposite, in that there has not been enough of it, meaning that young people have had to ask the questions and look for the answers themselves.

We should therefore have even greater respect for those who, despite all the limitations imposed by lack of funds and ideological or self-interested opposition, have succeeded in developing effective training. This is the case of the Laboratorio del Riciclo Creativo (Creative Recycling Lab) of Ascoli Piceno who since February have been organizing sessions on Monday afternoons and Saturday mornings where adults and children work together, get to know each other and share their love of nature and the environment. Continua a leggere “Examples of Environmental Education”

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ECTP – The European technological platform for construction, the built environment and energy efficiency

The European technological platform for construction, the built environment and energy efficiency has been in existence since 2004. It has around 150 members from organizations that cover the whole construction sector and participants from small, medium and large businesses, universities, research institutes and professional organizations from 26 EU member states. The main mission of ECTP and its committees is ‘to develop new R&D&I strategies to improve competitiveness, meet societal needs & take up environmental challenges through an Innovative Built Environment. ECTP recognises the need for research to make strategic decisions today and to future proof industry for tomorrow’. The ECTP recognizes the need for research to take strategic decisions today in order to bring about a more sustainable future for the industry of tomorrow.

The platform has become a European point of reference for both public institutions and civil society organizations. It is therefore important to analyse and take on board the strategies and programmes that emerge from their conference, which is held every two years.

The most recent conference, which was held on 13 and 14 November 2018 in Brussels, consisted of nine parallel sessions: i)  Construction Innovation for the Transport Infrastructure of the Future; ii) Materials  and  Sustainability  Innovation  in  Construction; iii) Most Promising Technologies developed by the projects supported by the Energy-efficient Buildings Public-Private Partnership; iv) Building an Age-friendly Europe; v) Positive Energy Districts, combining technologies for a higher quality of life; vi) industrialisation  of  the  Construction  Sector; vii) Digitalisation of the Construction Sector; viii) Promotion of Innovative Business Models for Energy Efficient Renovation; ix) Boosting Innovation with Living Labs.

Strengths

  • Focused analysis on the needs of the construction sector through technological innovation, in response to growing demand from the development of industrial and digital society.
  • Connection with ThinkNature, the EU’s project for research and innovation whose aim is the creation of a platform for the understanding and promotion of nature-based solutions.

Weaknesses

  • Failure to consider the soil.
  • No reference to the UN’s sustainable development goal which aims at a halt to soil consumption by 2030.
  • Lack of participation in dialogue with organizations concerned with soil protection.

 

We invite our readers to send comments, analyses, clarifications, and insights