EU and Government Funding Are Being Used as Economic Stimulus Absent Any Mention of Climate

EU and Government Funding Are Being Used as Economic Stimulus Absent Any Mention of Climate

A Country Hard Hit by the Virus

Italy is, at the time of writing (4/26/2020), the third most affected country in the world from the Coronavirus (COVID-19). It has 195,351 cases at present, of which 26,384 have died. Only Spain and the United States have more cases than Italy in the world. In Italy, more than 150 doctors have died because of the virus, but contagion numbers seem to be overall decreasing. The number of patients in intensive care has been decreasing for 23 days already. 

The country has been on lockdown since 3/9/2020, restricting the movement of the population except for necessity, work, and health circumstances. On 3/21/2020 Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the shutting down of all non-necessary industries and businesses, with sanctions in place for those who do not obey the orders. On 4/26/2020, Conte announced that on 5/4/2020 the “Phase 2” will start, with some of the shutdown businesses reopening, and some mobility allowed to the citizens (albeit still limited to visiting relatives and doing sports outdoors, all in respect of the safety distance).

Economic Stimulus Programs

As of the morning of 4/10/2020, EU finance ministers agreed to a €540 billion package of measures for the support of “direct and indirect” healthcare, drawn from the European Stability Mechanism, a bailout fund whose credit line is usually conditional upon some provisions, such as an assessment of debt sustainability.  However, there is no conditionality imposed on the healthcare financing that the EU has put in place, for the circumstances are acknowledged to be extraordinary.

The Italian government has approved a legislative decree called Cura Italia (healing Italy), consisting of €25 billion support to the healthcare system, protect jobs, grant liquidity to firms and families, and offer some financial relief to small enterprises and self-employed people. Another legislative decree “liquidity decree”, ensures €100 billion in cash support for workers. The legislative decrees do not contain environmental measures. 

Effects on Air Quality

An unexpected  consequence of Italy’s economic shutdown has been the plummeting of  air pollution, due to the fall in emissions of nitrogen dioxide (NO2)m, a chemical compound generated by burning fossil fuels in industrial production, heating systems and automobiles 

A study conducted by Francesca Dominici at Harvard University revealed that the effects of COVID-19 are more deadly in areas where air pollution is higher. In addition, the Italian Society of Environmental Epidemiology (SIMA) published a  position paper where they suggested a connection between the diffusion of the virus and a high concentration of particulate matter in the air. Although the study does not elaborate on how these results can be incorporated into policy, it can help in organizing the response to the pandemic. Specifically, the sanitary response needs to be even stronger in areas characterized by higher levels of air pollution

Take action message:

To: Stefano Patuanelli, Minister for Economic Development

Italy is undergoing an unprecedented challenge, the most serious threat to its survival since World War II.  We should acknowledge that the virus’s impact can be worsened by high levels of pollution and we need to make sure that Italians are safe, even after the end of the coronavirus emergency. Reducing pollution by cutting emissions is not only good for the environment but can have a direct bearing on people’s lives. We should start realizing that carbon emissions need to be reduced and brought to zero before it is too late. Let us use this virus as an opportunity and use it to structure a different discourse on climate change. 

This post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Italy Country Manager Cecilia Ivardi Ganapini 

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