Italy held its latest general elections on Sunday, which saw Giorgia Meloni and her right-wing bloc obtain a landslide.
Meloni’s meteoric rise from a former small-time youth minister and leader of a celebration that when struggled to scrape 5 per cent has stunned political analysts all over the world. The 45-year-old Rome-born politician will function Italy’s first female prime minister, and can usher within the country’s first far-right government because the Second World War.
Amongst many questions surrounding the policies and proposals of the incoming PM, one is especially salient: how will Meloni handle the climate crisis?
As Italy, and Europe at large, has just battled its harshest summer in living memory, the right-wing leader might be taking the reins at a very crucial time for the country’s future.
What’s Giorgia Meloni’s stance on the environment?
Giorgia Meloni is the leader of Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia), a hard-right, nationalist party which directly descends from the post-fascist Italian Social Movement (Movimento Sociale Italiano).
Her party takes a deeply traditionalist stance on social issues starting from same-sex marriage to abortion, and aligns itself closely to other far-right and right-wing parties within the West, from Spain’s Vox to the US Republicans.
Since conservative forces all over the world have often tended towards climate-sceptic positions, many might be nervous about where Meloni’s environmental views lie.
It’s value noting from the outset that Brothers of Italy does acknowledge the existence of the climate crisis, and goals to enact and update a national plan on adapting to climate change.
The party’s latest manifesto plans to fight droughts and pollution, plant trees, create “green belts” around cities, improve public transport, and impose tariffs on non-EU countries that don’t meet European-wide environmental standards.
Last yr, Giorgia Meloni, who’s head of the European Conservative and Reformists bloc on the EU level, stated that “the conservation of our natural heritage is a fundamental element of the political identity of us conservatives.”
From a celebration descended from a convention that continuously flirts with – and even fully embraces – climate scepticism, things could sound worse. But there remains to be serious cause for concern.
Where does Meloni stand on CO2 emissions, nuclear, and climate justice?
For starters, the Brothers of Italy manifesto is lacking specific targets and policy objectives. In contrast to plans from the centre-leftist Democratic Party, for instance, Meloni’s manifesto doesn’t explicitly commit to or mention specific emission reduction targets by 2030.
Likewise, it doesn’t lay out legal and administrative plans to raised tackle the climate crisis.
Alongside her other coalition colleagues, Meloni supports a move towards nuclear energy, a controversial proposal that is usually unpopular amongst environmentalists, despite having recently been counted as “green energy” by the European Commission.
Meloni’s party is in a coalition with three other forces, which will even be a part of the federal government she is forming. One in every of these is the Northern League (Lega Nord), a populist, anti-immigration force headed by Matteo Salvini.
The League desires to reform the EU Fit for 55 Deal – which goals to chop greenhouse gas emissions by no less than 55 per cent by 2030 – and has often taken a fairly defiant attitude towards Brussels and EU policies.
Meloni’s coalition received the bottom rating out of all political forces running on this election in a ‘Climate Effort Index’ rating by the Italian Climate Network.
The appropriate-wing bloc scored particularly poorly on ‘Equity and Inequality’, which the study defines as “just transition [and] the necessity to observe and address problems of wealth distribution resulting from climate policies.”
How is climate change affecting Italy?
As a southern European country with a predominantly rugged terrain and varied range of climates, Italy is especially prone to the results of world warming.
The country’s coastline and southern regions have a largely Mediterranean climate, with long, dry summers, and wet, mild winters. Here, forest fires pose the best risk, in addition to landslides and coastal erosion.
Within the north, Italy’s fertile Po Valley flatlands – the nation’s industrial heartland and economic engine – are characterised by a damp, more continental weather pattern, with chilly winters and muggy, rainy summers. The high possibility of each droughts and floods on this region can significantly jeopardise agricultural production.
The remainder of the country, starting from the Alps within the north to the skeleton-like Apennine mountain range that spans your entire peninsula, has a mostly cool climate, which frequently sees snow in winter. Avalanches and landslides are common, and continuously endanger lives.
Given such a fancy geographical situation, it comes as no surprise that Italy – particularly its south – has been ranked by ESPON EU in 2021 as one in all Europe’s most climate hazard-exposed regions.
An International Energy Agency (IEA) report stated that Italy’s average annual temperature has been increasing more rapidly than the worldwide average over the past twenty years.
“Countries like Italy are within the Mediterranean area, which itself is especially vulnerable and hard-hit by climate change,” Davide Panzeri, a senior policy advisor and European leader of Italy’s non-profit climate think tank ECCO, tells Euronews.
“If climate motion is delayed or not sufficiently incisive, we’ll see a rise in the chance of droughts, risks to human life and life on land and sea, a less hospitable climate, greater difficulty in growing crops – that are particularly essential for Italy – in addition to a risk of harm to infrastructure, and flash floods,” he adds.
Italy’s summer of drought, forest fire and flash floods
As Panzeri notes, climate change shouldn’t be just an ominous future threat; it’s already menacing the country.
Throughout the summer of 2022 – the most popular ever recorded in Europe – stifling daytime temperatures repeatedly surpassed 40°C and prolonged dry spells wreaked havoc on the environment, triggering devastating wildfires and affecting crop production.
In towns resembling Pisa and Verona, water was eventually rationed to adapt to the drought. The arid summer was followed abruptly by a period of dramatic thunderstorms and rainfall. Within the coastal region of Marche, 12 were killed in flash floods earlier this month.
Such patterns of maximum weather swings will grow to be increasingly commonplace if climate change shouldn’t be tackled, and Italy doesn’t find ways to adapt to the growing challenge.
Climate change will even bring more climate refugees to Italy’s shores
Global heating is not going to only have environmental impacts. It is going to also impinge upon a wide range of other issues, and customarily provoke increasing instability within the country.
“Climate change is a threat multiplier,” Panzeri remarks.
Italy’s geographical position as a peninsula jutting deep into the Mediterranean Sea exposes it to migrant flows from North Africa, that are certain to extend if climate change renders life along the equator increasingly unliveable.
The heightened influx of Middle Eastern and African refugees within the mid-2010s already provoked significant sociopolitical disruption, and led to a substantial rightward shift among the many electorate.
As a rustic with an already fragile political system and infrequently lacklustre economic performance, Italy could struggle under the burden of mounting difficulties that climate change will pose.
Depending on how much average temperatures rise in the approaching a long time, the CMCC Foundation estimates that the price on Italy’s GDP may very well be as much as 8 per cent come 2100, with the country’s agricultural and tourist industries particularly hard-hit.
‘There’s quite a lot of uncertainty’: climate activists on a Meloni-led government
So how do climate analysts like Panzeri feel about Meloni taking office?
“On problems with climate there may be a high level of uncertainty,” he says. “We are able to judge [Meloni’s] programme and it is usually light, without much ambition.”
A part of the large query for Panzeri might be how Meloni decides to rearrange her cabinet, and who will grow to be minister of the environment.
Italians are aware of the unfolding environmental crisis – the European Investment Bank’s Climate Survey found that 92 per cent felt climate change had an impact on their on a regular basis life, the second highest figure in Europe.
As Meloni enters office, all eyes might be on how she is going to handle mounting environmental problems, and Italians will consequently judge her for what she does – or doesn’t do – to deal with the situation.
Panzeri has kept away from casting his judgement on the newly-elected candidate, and doesn’t imagine it is feasible to predict how successful she might be. Nevertheless, he underlined the severity of the situation.
“I feel there may be hope,” he concludes. “But when urgent motion shouldn’t be taken, if targets should not met, the repercussions might be severe.”