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Italy: Comprehensive Legislation on the “Green Economy”

(Feb. 24, 2016) On December 28, 2015, Italy passed historic and wide-ranging legislation for the promotion of the “green economy.” Law No. 221 entered into effect on February 2, 2016.  (Law No. 221 of December 28, 2015, Provisions on the Environment to Promote the Green Economy and to Restrict the Excessive Use of Natural Resources (Law No. 221), GAZETTA UFFICIALE, No. 13 (Jan. 1, 2016), NORMATTIVA  (in Italian).)

General Measures for the Protection of Nature and the Promotion of Sustainable Development

The Law requires the government to approve a National Strategy for Sustainable Development, to be updated at least every three years, and  creates a National Agency for New Technologies, Energy, and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA, in Italian) to provide services to companies and individuals in those areas.  It also establishes the National Strategy for Green Communities. (Id. arts. 3(1), 4(1)(1)-(2), & 72.)

Marine Environment

The new legislation seeks to protect the marine environment by requiring shippers carrying pollutants to obtain appropriate insurance coverage. (Id. art. 1(1).)  The Law also mandates several government ministries to coordinate monitoring and managerial activities to ensure compliance with requirements related to environmental impact assessments in coastal and marine areas, and to minimize marine pollution.  (Id. art. 2(1).)  The Law increases the current budget amount allocated for marine protected areas and creates special reserve funds to sustain those areas. (Id. art. 6(1)-(2).)  In addition, several ministries are tasked with identifying seaports that have suitable sites for gathering and managing waste collected during the management of marine protected areas or from fishing or underwater tourism activities. (Id. art. 27(1).)

Protection of Natural Spaces

Law No. 221 institutes an agency for each hydrographic district of the country (“District Basin Authorities”); these authorities must prepare plans for the district basins, taking into consideration hydrographic elements and the risks involved in their respective areas. (Id. art. 51(2)(1) & (10)(a).)  The Law also is designed to protect the soil by providing for the demolition of buildings built illegally, that is, without the required government permits, in areas subject to high or very high hydro-geological risks or exposed to the risk of landslides.  (Id. art. 52(1).)  The Law appropriates funds and establishes a procedure for the demolition of such constructions.  (Id. art. 52(1).)

Initial producers or holders of waste coming from copper or ferrous and non-ferrous metals may use only authorized companies for the collection, transportation, remediation, or commercialization of such products. (Id. art. 30(1).)   Additional provisions are included in the new legislation dealing with the payment of damages and the obligation to restore sites of national interest that have been subject to environmental degradation. (Id. art. 31(1).)

Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Installations for Energy Production

Under the new legislation, environmental data collected by government entities as well as by private companies must be made available to local government offices and business entities, at their request, in order to support their initiatives in furtherance of green economy activities. (Id. art. 11(1).) To reduce the overall environmental impact of the Italian economy on the production of carbon dioxide and to achieve a full-cycle economy, the new legislation allows the use of certain sugar-derived fuels among those used in biomass plants and biogas as renewable resources for the production of electricity.  (Id. art. 13(1).)

Procedure for the Assessment of Environmental Impact

The Law seeks to consolidate procedures for evaluating the environmental impact of various productive activities and for the granting of permits by government authorities, particularly for activities that would affect the nation-wide network for the transmission of electric energy or the connection of the Italian network with energy networks of other countries. (Id. art. 8(2).)  One type of assessment covered by the Law affects certain thermal power plants and other combustion installations and refining, gasification, and liquefaction plants; these businesses must submit sanitary impact assessment statements before they can begin operations.  (Id. art. 9(1).)  The Law also simplifies environmental impact assessments carried out following marine discharges of material excavated from seabeds.  (Id. art. 8(1).)

Green Public Procurement

To encourage the use of green businesses in government procurement, the Law provides that contractors who register with the Community Eco-Management and Audit System (EMAS, in Italian) will enjoy a reduction in the amount of the guarantees they must post in order to carry out new government contracts and to qualify for the renewal of existing ones. (Id. art. 16(1)(a).)  The same benefit accrues to contractors who obtain the EU Ecolabel (id. art. 16(2)(a)(1)), which is a seal that helps customers “identify products and services that have a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle, from the extraction of raw material through to production, use and disposal.” (EU Ecolabel, European Commission website (last updated Jan. 14, 2016).)  The same benefits are extended to producers who seek to reduce polluting emissions by implementing measures that mitigate climate change and use resources more efficiently, while promoting employment and environmental protection.  (Law No. 221, art. 16(2)(a)(2).)

Some of the provisions address specific types of public energy use, such as measures to make traffic lights more efficient through the replacement of incandescent light bulbs with lower energy consuming bulbs. (Id. art. 20(1).)

Incentives for the Generation of Green Products

The government is tasked with approving specific agreements and contracts establishing programs that create incentives for products derived from recycled materials and for the recovery of waste from the disassembly of complex products. (Id. art. 23(1)-(2).)   The Law also sets up incentives for the production of electricity from installations running on renewable sources other than photovoltaic sources and for the use of certified compostable plastic waste and fertilizers. (Id. arts. 24 (1), 25 (1), & 26(1).)

Measures on Trash Collection

Municipalities on small Italian islands are authorized to charge passengers on boats landing on their shores an additional tax aimed at financing measures for the islands’ collection and disposal of waste. (Id. art. 33(1).)  The new legislation reduces the taxes for the collection of residential non-hazardous, biodegradable waste generated by agricultural, garden, and other domestic activities that are treated by means of aerobic composting.  (Id. art. 37(1)-(2).)  New incentives are also created to encourage the composting of organic waste and the use of recycling systems for packages destined for food use.  (Id. art. 38(1) & 39(1).)  Municipalities are allowed to install special cigarette butt collection containers on streets, in parking lots, and in other busy places.  (Id. art. 40(1).)  Dumping smoking product refuse, paper receipts, tissues, and chewing gum on the ground or in bodies of water, drains, and sewage is prohibited.  (Id. art. 40 (2)-(3).)

The legislation also seeks to increase the differentiated collection of waste and to reduce the amount of non-recyclable waste by creating economic incentives through the reduction of taxes on urban trash if the percent recycled increases. (Id. art. 45(1).)  The Law directs the regions, local entities, and environmental organizations to comply with the implementation of national and local plans seeking to reach the waste reduction goals and to create educational programs on the green economy.  (Id. art. 45(3).)   

Transportation to School or Work

The new legislation allocates fresh funds to a National Experimental Program on Transportation that provides financing for projects that encourage the use of public transportation, shared private transportation, traffic education and safety programs, and the reduction of traffic, traffic pollution, and parking congestion in the vicinity of schools or workplaces. (Id. art. 5(1).) Regulations on procedures to apply for funding from the National Experimental Program will be issued within 60 days from the entry into effect of Law No. 221. (Id. art. 5(2).)

The Law contains stringent measures aimed at significantly reducing the private use of vehicles and the reduction of traffic, including the establishment of a “School Mobility Manager” in each school throughout the country. (Id. art. 5(6).)  The Manager’s task is to organize and coordinate the transport from home to school and back of school staff and students, by improving integration with local transportation services and increasing the use of bicycles, electric cars, and other vehicles that have a low negative impact on the environment. (Id.)

Miscellaneous Provisions

The Law contains provisions to guarantee universal access to water resources (id. 58(1)) and establishes the concept of oil-free zones, defined as areas in which prototype business plans are developed aimed at finding new uses for resources shared in common (waters, pastures, etc.).  (Id. art. 71(4).)

The Law approves provisions for the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). (Id. art. 75; CITES (Mar. 3, 1973, as amended), CITES website.) The Law also seeks to reduce the propagation of boars in areas that are protected and declared vulnerable by the Law, by prohibiting the placement of the animals or their foraging in those areas.  (Law No. 221, art. 7(1)-(3).)  Fenced private lands that have been authorized to keep boars for agricultural or tourism purposes are exempted from these prohibitions. (Id. art. 7(1).)