Italy Leading Research Study

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Research Study: “Italy’s National Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (NAS),” Italian Ministry for Environment, Land, and Sea (IMELS), Higher Institute for Environmental Research and Protection (ISPRA) and the Euro-Mediterrenean Center on Climate Change (CMCC) 2014

One of Italy’s top research documents on climate change is the National Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (NAS). Although scattered efforts on climate change adaptation are ongoing since 2010, in a few domains such as agriculture and biodiversity, the NAS provides a national vision for all decision-makers in the form of a reference framework that lists several potential adaptation measures in different sectors. The Italian Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea (IMELS) presented the NAS in October of 2014. It was then legally adopted in June 2015.

The process that ultimately produced this document started in 2013 when IMELS partnered with two Italian research centers, the Higher Institute for Environmental Research and Protection (ISPRA) and the Euro-Mediterrenean Center on Climate Change (CMCC). Together they provided the technical and scientific background of present and future climate change impacts in the Italian peninsula with respect to different aspects and sectors. Following consultations with government and non-governmental stakeholders, they produced a list of action items for each sector with the ultimate goal to inform local, regional, and national decision makers and to facilitate the identification of the most appropriate adaptation measures. The four main objectives for the NAS are to:

1. Improve the current knowledge on impacts due to climate change
2. Describe the vulnerability, adaptation options and synergy opportunities for both natural and socio-economic systems
3. Raise awareness and establish a communication platform to promote dialogue among relevant stakeholders
4. Disseminate tools to help decision-makers identify the best adaptation measures


The NAS Study identified potential impacts on Italy from climate change including the following:

  • Potential increase of pressure on water resources, with reduced water availability especially in the summer and southern regions as well as on small islands
  • Potential changes to the hydro-geological equilibrium that will increase the incidence of landslides and flash floods. The geographical area subject to the highest hydrogeological risk is the flatland surrounding the Po river, the Alps, and the Appennini mountain range
  • Potential soil degradation with an increased risk of erosion and desertification especially in the areas of southern Italy
  • Increased risk of wildfires and droughts in forested areas, especially in the Alps and Sicilia and Sardinia islands
  • Increased risk of biodiversity loss, especially in mountainous areas
  • Increased risk of flooding and coastal erosion due to extreme weather events and sea-level rise
  • Potential decrease of agricultural productivity especially for crops like wheat, fruit, olive trees, vines, and corn. In southern regions this trend is likely to be exacerbated by diminished irrigation rates
  • Potential negative health impacts, especially for vulnerable populations, due to an increased rate of diseases as a consequence of heat-related illnesses, air pollution, and floods
  • Potential negative impacts on the Italian economy due mainly to a decrease in hydro-electrical energy production, shrinking of the tourism sector in both winter and summer, productivity reduction in the agricultural sector, and negative impacts on urban and rural infrastructures

For every sector, actions proposed include:

  • non-structural measures which include laying the ground for planning, management, stakeholders collaboration and communication platforms
  • green measures such as relying more heavily on ecosystem services, improving the strength of natural barriers and buffer zones
  • infrastructural measures which refer to structural changes and interventions to make infrastructure more efficient
  • short and long-term measures: the former to be implemented by 2020 and latter to be implemented after 2020
  • cross-sectoral measures to take advantage of synergies.

The NAS is meant first and foremost for regional and local authorities that are entrusted with the implementation of local adaptation action plans. Since its adoption in late 2015 the document has been well received. Some Italian Regions like Sardinia have already assigned the implementation of the NAS to the local Environment Department (Assesorato della difesa dell’ambiente). Other entities have promoted projects to further explore particular issues in a specific geographical area or a specific sector. Examples include the Aquor project that focuses on water conservation and aquifer preservation, and the project PALMO, which looks in depth at adaptation in areas between the Mediterranean sea and the Appennini mountain range. Lastly, since the approval of the NAS, the number of Italian cities who joined the Mayor Adapt European network went from 30 in 2014 to over a 100 in 2016, including some large cities such as Turin and Florence.

Learn More

To read the NAS in Italian see

The European Union has an entire platform dedicated to Climate Adaptation. To see the report for Italy see

To learn more about the Mayor Adapt initiative see


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