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Friday August 15, 2008

Investing in nuclear energy and renewable resources

Italian Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo outlines her mandate
By Layla Crisanti

Italian Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo’s plan will involve concrete and immediate interventions to integrate innovative new technologies, research and education. The environmental policy will be able to mix conservation of the natural environment as well as the development of new technologies.
In an Interview with Corriere Canadese/Tandem, the new minister explains the principal objectives of her mandate. The work that awaits her is particularly delicate because it touches on several hot-button issues from the return on nuclear power to the question of garbage disposal. She will also be dealing with a project that, even with the highest safety measures, will introduce nuclear power generation into a region, bringing all the concerns and debates that go with it. She will also be dealing with the innovation technology to increase the renewable energies and the need to build in Italy the tools needed. It is also necessary an accelerated investment in new technology.
Prestigiacomo will also face the problem of the emergency garbage situation in Naples. The government has faced the emergency with some immediate legislative measures, but this has also stressed the need to look at the future resorting to an information campaign to educate people about the differentiate garbage disposal options. But garbage disposal is an issue that will involve the entire national territory.
The new minister also keeps an eye on the needs for a stronger Mezzogiorno and she is considering a national plan of intervention for the environment. She is looking at a project involving private and public funds.

Your government wants to resort to the nuclear energy. What exactly do you mean by that?

“The governments plan to return to nuclear energy will develop under the maximum safety measures and controls with the time necessary considering the complexity of such a program. We want to balance energy production to a point where we have 25% from renewable sources, 25% from the nuclear, and the rest with fossil fuel combustion. It’s not going to be easy, but if we win this challenge, we will see extraordinary positive effects on the environment. In particular, emissions causing global warming will be considerably reduced, the quality of the air in our cities will improve and, of course, families and businesses will see a reduction in their energy bills.”

What does the government plan on doing to promote and distribute renewable energy?

“It requires a relevant increase in investments in these plants that will improve the energy efficiency. We currently purchase solar panels from Germany and wind turbines from Denmark. This makes the cost of renewable energy the most expensive type of energy. We need to instead focus on producing materials and technology for renewable energy here in Italy. It’s part of our government’s plan to take renewable energy form a niche market to the mainstream and develop it as a opportunity for energy and industry. We plan to study and evaluate all the proposals we receive. I think that first of all we should make specific interventions that are convenient even when it comes to economic terms without neglecting additional research and innovations. ”
The emission of Green House gasses is a big environmental problem. How do you plan on reducing them?
“We need to fight this battle on more fronts, namely, social and economic. In a recently released report called “Energy technology Perspectives,” an international agency challenged world governments to drastically change the manner in which they produce energy. In the report, they cite nuclear power, carbon capturing and overall improvements in energy efficiency as having an increased role in the future. What is needed in Italy is a profound increase in renewable energy investments and a switch to natural gas instead of petroleum. Natural gas plants, in fact, produce roughly four times less emissions than coal plants, three times less than oil plants and are more efficient.”

The garbage situation in Naples is a clear and present concern at the moment. What is really going on there now and what is the government doing to deal with the issue? Are the measures that are being taken enough?

“The emergency bill passed by the government will see all the garbage produced by Campania disposed of safely. We are also calling on all the citizens of the region to work together in the process of solving the problem. We are also working on developing information campaigns to manage the disposal of the garbage. With regards to picking up garbage of various types, we see environmental education as playing a vital role. I would also like to point out, as an example, that in Rome, a city not known for its waste management, that they have increased their differential waste pick up. The situation in Campania served as a warning. We must, therefore, work in this direction and at the same time ensure that the local municipallities adopt these management models afor receiving an ever increasing amount of waste. In the emergency law, there were also provisions legislating the increase in the differential pick up of garbage in Campania. The townships that do not meet the minimum requirements of differential garbage pick up will be fined.”

Which projects does the government intend to adopt in respect to promoting land use and environmental education?
What is the impact of the dangerous levels of garbage? What do you believe will be the repercussions?
“Another thing we’ve done in the emergency law we’ve passed is to see to the compensation of the many uneasy citizens forced to live in areas of the city which have been damaged environmentally by the discharge of toxic chemicals which have come to characterize the region. Naturally, the damage to the site will be extensive. In Naples, as in the rest of the region, there are many unresolved problems of management and development. These are problems that need to be solved quickly, even if it’s hard.”

The collection of garbage of any kind is a necessity. Are the methods used today enough? Is the proposed landfill site big enough to handle the needs of the country? How will the government intervene?

“Unfortunately, there are large slow downs in the development of an effective management plan to correctly deal with the direct cycle. Taking into account the powers of regions, the Ministry of Environment has as its priority actions to reduce the amount of hazard waste and to confront the illegal traffic of waste and implement education of businesses and citizens so they can have more responsible attitudes. Furthermore, it is necessary to develop a national plan to decontaminate the polluted sites and redeploy abandoned industrial production areas.”

Does the government foresee investments in the environment?

“We will move in many directions. The ministry of the environment will author many programs and political initiatives for the development of the country. The government wants to promote, through concrete measures, infrastrucural projects in the field of energy, a policy that respects economic development and defends the ecosystem of our country. We will work towards ecologically sustainable political future. We will employ innovative solutions towards management of natural resources and the reduction of emissions. We will begin initiatives to help sustain technological innovation. We will encourage local people to re-think their cities. We will validate our environmental landmarks (our parks, our marine reserves and our protected areas). Also, in conjunction with our other ministries, we will develop a national plan of actions on environment policy using public and private money with reference mainly to the areas in the south that are improving their tourism base and do not have environmental infrastructures.”
“The territorial promotion, which I was mentioning earlier, is connected to environmental education. Only through better understanding of the environment can one better understand the place they live – like an ecosystem – and properly value it. Our ministry will invest heavily in environmental education. Education and information is important if one expects to change incorrect actions. Working with municipalities to change bad environmental behavior will require a better working relationship with local police organizations to properly communicate the principle of personal responsibility about the proper management of waste, taking in mind the duties of municipalities that make separate collections of different types of waste

of different types of waste.”