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The rise of Ecological Governance in Italy

The rise of Ecological Governance in Italy begun in the 80s, when the need to identify new models of sustainable development, to overcome the social turmoil of the 70s, matched a new awareness that an health environment is necessary not only for human health, but also as a primary resource for economic development.

The Environmental Protection becomes not only a concern about health, but also a safeguard mechanism for the development, so, on 1986, the Ministry of Environment was established, with the Law 349 of July the 8th, which defines also the regulation about Environmental Damage and Environmental Impact Assessment.

Six years later, on 1992, the UN Conference of Rio de Janeiro affirms the need to systematically adopt the Environmental Impact Assessment procedure as necessary condition for a sustainable development.

In 1997, the Legislative Decree n° 22 of February the 5th, named “Ronchi Decree”, by the surname of the Minister for Environment in charge, introduces the principle of the Management of the Waste instead of the simple Disposal: waste is no more a scrap but a resource.

In 2006, twenty years after the establishment of the Ministry, the Environmental Law is revised with the Legislative Decree n° 152 of April the 3rd, with an organic regulation of:

  • General principles;
  • Procedures for Strategic Environmental Assessment, for Environmental Impact Assessment and for Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Authorization (called Integrated Environmental Authorization);
  • Protection of the soil, fight against desertification, protection of water from pollution and management of water resources;
  • Waste management and soil remediation;
  • Air protection and reduction of air emissions;
  • Environmental Damage.
Industry areas of excellence in Italy

Between 2009 and 2014, over 2000 submissions for patents were, somehow, related to environmental industry, a number that represents around 9.5% of the total requests submitted in the same period. Among these, over 70% are related to technologies for production of energies from renewable sources, energy efficiency, control systems for pollutions, biofuels, sustainable logistic, thermal insulation for the buildings.

Environmental Issues in Italy

Italy is a peninsula predominantly hilly and mountainous, only 23% of territory is in plain, water resources are not evenly distributed (abundant in the north, scarce in the South), population is mainly concentrated in the plains, with widespread urban settlements (urban sprawl), which implies a considerable consume of arable land, within which industrial clusters, homogeneous for type of industry, have developed.

Air treatment

In Italy, the quality of the air progressively improved, emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and benzene (C6H6) decreased of around 90% in the period 1990 – 2012; the ones of carbon monoxide (CO) of 70%. The reduction of nitrogen oxide (as the sum of nitrogen monoxide NO and nitrogen dioxide NO2) and those of non-methane volatile organic composts (NMVOC) was higher than 50%; that one of PM10 was higher than 30%, while that one of ammonia (NH3) is less performing, but around 14%.

Water treatment

Water is a resource of primary importance, distributed unevenly in the Italian territory, abundant in the north and the scarce in the south. The civil, industrial and agricultural uses require a resource quantity that, especially in summer, might not be available.

Integrated Waste Management

The integrated waste management was introduced in Italy by the Environmental Law of 1997 and then integrated in the second environmental law of 2006.

The Italian law determines the priority criteria, which are in the order:

  • the prevention of waste generation
  • reuse
  • recycling of materials
  • the use for energy purposes
  • disposal into landfills

In Italy, the sorted collection of waste is increasingly common, which is the basis of an efficient system of recovery and recycling, reaching a percentage of 42.3% compared to the total waste collected.

Soil Remediation

In Italy, 52 large industrial areas have been classified as contaminated, for a total of 730,000 hectares, representing 2.4% of the Country and 10.4% of the plain areas (where the population is concentrated).

The contamination of these territories originated in the criminal behavior of the companies, but it is also due to the fact that such contamination is the result of long-term activities that have occurred in decades previous to environmental laws that faced the situation, requiring limits for the first time and identifying the responsibilities.


The energy supply, in Italy, has one of the highest costs in Europe and, thus, in the World.

Urban settlements are very little concentrated in the territory and primarily consist of low quality buildings built in the sixties and seventies, this leads to a very low energy efficiency of the existing buildings and pollution due to vehicular traffic of the population that moves in the home-work trip.

Green Chemistry

Italy is at the forefront of Green Chemistry industry, so as to have created the first integrated biorefineries in the World.

In the context of the chemical from biomass, and in analogy to the concept of refining in the petrochemical industry, the concept of biorefineries has been defined , which is a production system that gets fuel and other fine chemicals from raw materials (biomass), alternatives to fossil fuels.

The Clean Tech in the Italian Manufacturing

Italy is working to develop and use technolgies with less and less environmental footprint, As a result, the ecological impact is decreased by 7.7% in 2008 - 2012:

  • Emissions: - 8,9% per unit of manufactured goods
  • Waste: - 6.8% per unit of manufactured goods
  • Energy consumption: - 20.3% per unit of manufactured goods