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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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Taxonomy … who benefits?

We have looked in previous Newsletters at “Taxonomy – Financing a sustainable European Economy”. 

We are returning to the topic because – as could have been predicted – it provokes considerable discussion. The EU’s Taxonomy is a tool to help investors, businesses, creators and promoters of projects to establish an economy based on low carbon emissions, resilient and efficient in resource use.

The European Union is making important political choices to address the climate crisis: taking steps towards a net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) commitment by 2050; and a more realistic target for 2030. The final opportunities to achieve our shared climate goals are fast approaching, and many in the market still underestimate the scale and pace of the transition that is needed. The Taxonomy is the instrument to realise these objectives and it defines what is “green”. It does not say that everything else is bad for the environment, or that it has to be shut out of the transition to a more sustainable economy. In fact, the Taxonomy says the opposite, showing the pathway for economic transition in an inclusive way. In other words, the Taxonomy gives us guidance and confidence in what we need to do.

Continua a leggere “Taxonomy … who benefits?”
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One small step … on our journey!

In July 1969 Apollo 11 took the first men to the moon. The first words spoken on the lunar surface by Neil Armstrong were “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

Of course we are exaggerating for effect when we compare ourselves to the Apollo 11 mission, but we can say that the SIP Forum has also taken a small “step” towards fulfilling its aims for the European dimension of the soil. Our three questions sent to Italian candidates for the European Parliament received 19 replies. We regard them as the “nucleus” of a broader action whose direction is very clear:

  1. firm up the synergy between the 19 candidates who showed openness towards the subject of the soil in Europe and ensure that communication on this matter circulates among them and among others who show a similar awareness;
  2. encourage the creation in other EU member states of similar “political” nuclei that are sensitized to the issue;
  3. enable connections between these nuclei and the development of a common plan;
  4. to push the need for an EU directive for soil protection within the EU’s institutions.

Continua a leggere “One small step … on our journey!”

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The train has left the station

2019 got off to a flying start as regards the question of the soil. The previous Newsletter carried details of the Round Table “We must ally with our soils!”, held at the European Parliament in Brussels on 23 January (a definitive account in English is available on our website). This was a first step that showed dialogue between different actors is possible. Other steps must of course follow to reach a common understanding of the urgent need to protect the soil.

As regards the proposed law in Italy on halting soil consumption, on the afternoon of 5 February the Senate’s Environment and Agriculture committees heard evidence from two experts, D.sa Giacometti and Arch. Picciafuoco. The video is available here  and it makes interesting viewing, especially as regards the points of view and comments of the various senators. The main concerns raised were to do with the limitation of the private right to build. The two experts stressed that property rights are linked to authorizations from the public authorities, essentially through the planning process. It is this that can and must halt the use of soil which in Italy has become an urgent and crucial matter. The claim that soil occupation in Italy is “only” 8 % compared with a European average of 12 % was clarified: calculations of the Italian figure left out a lot of areas that can’t be used, such as the tops of hills and mountains, rivers and coasts, and the figure therefore must be multiplied by 3 at least, leading to a real figure of 24%. This explains why Italy is no longer able to guarantee food security to its population through its own farming.

The proposed law has therefore started on its journey. We will continue to follow it closely.

 

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Why is the Forum’s draft law on the soil so important?

Someone asked us this question and we have to admit it gave us pause. Anyone who takes an interest in the soil knows how important it is for life and for human survival. This is not the case for those whose daily concern has to be their own survival. People can see and feel water, vegetation, the air. The soil is to all intents and purposes invisible because it is either physically distant or covered in infrastructure.

Let’s start with an unpleasant fact: Italy is the European leader in soil consumption. Almost 24% of concreted over soil in Europe is in Italy. This unfortunate record raises some  urgent questions: in Italy we are no longer capable of producing the food we need. Moreover, due to the fact that it has been rendered impermeable, the soil is no longer capable of protecting us by absorbing water. The regular floods of recent years have had very high numbers of victims. In Liguria, landslips, landslides and floods have led to a number of deaths comparable to the disaster of 14th August when a motorway bridge in Genoa collapsed. We only worry about the situation of Italian soils when there is a disaster, a drought or a flood. Afterwards silence descends again, leaving responsibility for action to the lowest level of public authority, the municipalities. What is needed, instead, is a national plan, with adequate expertise and finance. And finally, despite all this, for the time being there are no specific laws in Italy setting limits and conditions that have to be obeyed. Continua a leggere “Why is the Forum’s draft law on the soil so important?”

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Draft Law AC 63 !!!

We didn’t have to wait for the new government in Italy to be sworn in! As soon as the two chambers of Parliament took office, the Draft Law AC 63  of the Italian Chamber of Deputies was officially registered. Its title is “Measures to halt soil consumption and to reuse urbanized Soils”. The text is almost identical to that of the SIP Forum’s Draft Law published at the end of January!

When we spoke to representatives of the 5 Star Movement, as we did to other parties before the elections on 5 March 2018, they showed interest in and support for our proposal. And they followed this up as soon as the Italian Parliament started sitting by adopting the text and presenting it officially on 23 March as a Draft Law in the Chamber of Deputies, stressing that the 5 Star Movement “… is very pleased to accept the initiative of the voluntary sector by putting its name to the draft law put forward by Salviamo il paesaggio”. Then comes our text, with some minor changes that are completely in keeping with the spirit of the original text, bringing it to the immediate attention of all the political parties. Continua a leggere “Draft Law AC 63 !!!”