In some areas, such as Italy, the promotion of a culture aimed at sustainability and prevention of natural and climatic risk finds the perfect terrain. In fact, on a global level, Italy is only behind China, Japan and the countries of Central and South America in terms of environmental risk.
published by City Life Magazine – N. 30 – September 2017
by Lorenzo Tavazzi, Head of Scenario practice for The European House – Ambrosetti, and Cetti Lauteta, The European House – Ambrosetti Consultant and Project Coordinator of the “Liguria 2022” initiative
A number of recent events—such as the fires in vast areas of southern Italy, Portugal and California, the disastrous floods in Latin America and China and the earthquakes which in recent years have put the regions of central Italy to the test—have forcefully reiterated the need to prepare models and tools to preserve, monitor and defend local areas and mitigate environmental risk in order to safeguard human life, urban centers and industrial infrastructure.
The deterioration of the land and hydrogeological instability are phenomena on the rise globally with accelerating trends resulting from human activity and growing urbanization (it should be noted that, in 2007, for the first time in history, the population of urban areas exceeded that of rural areas).
In some areas, such as Italy, the promotion of a culture aimed at sustainability and prevention of natural and climatic risk finds the perfect terrain. In fact, on a global level, Italy is only behind China, Japan and the countries of Central and South America in terms of environmental risk. In Italy, 88.3% of its 7,145 municipalities are at-risk from landslides and/or flooding and 100% of the municipalities in seven regions (Valle d’Aosta, Liguria, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, the Marches, Molise and Basilicata) are subject to hydrogeological risk. In addition to these, in Calabria, the province of Trento, Abruzzo, Piedmont, Sicily, Campania and Apulia, over 90% of the municipalities are at-risk.
Sustainability and environmental protection are fundamental to a new phase of development in Italy, but they also offer a concrete opportunity for industrial development that Italy could capitalize on and position itself in a market which, on a global level in the environmental monitoring sector alone, is worth over $30 billion per year, and up to $500 billion in the clean technology sector with double-digit growth.
These markets are also affected by policies on a European and international level that aim at creating a shared vision and taking coordinated action to combat climate change and reduce its economic impact, including through mitigating measures based on prevention and correcting damage.
Acting along these lines means developing cutting-edge skills and technologies that encompass broad-ranging economic, manufacturing, scientific and service supply chains: new materials, soil bioengineering, construction, new systems of environmental control, drones, nanotechnologies for reclamation, etc.
Throughout the world, a number of countries are focusing on creating new growth and employment in these fields. In Austria, for example, the turnover of environmental products and services is more than 40 billion euros, over 11% of the national GDP, with more than 174,000 people employed (5% of the total). For decades, Japan has been one of the leaders in the study and commercialization of technologies to prevent hydro-geological and seismic risk.
Italy also has assets that can be capitalized on. For example, Liguria has major industrial and research expertise, thanks to the presence of a technology district, four innovation poles, two national technology clusters, ten university departments, ten Institutes of the National Research Council, the Liguria District of Marine Technologies (the leading pole in Italy that works with the Italian Navy and the NATO Undersea Research Centre) and specialization in telecommunications and electronics.
Thanks also to the synergies offered by ENEA, the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology and the CIMA Foundation, state-of-the-art environmental monitoring tools have been developed to protect the country from natural disasters. For example, among the most innovative projects are the development of a system for assessing and monitoring nanoparticles in the atmosphere, and the use of artificial intelligence and nanometric sensor systems for environmental monitoring.
The high quality of scientific research, combined with the network of local industry, makes it possible for Liguria to explore advanced eco-sustainable solutions, for protection not only of the land but also of urban centers. Among the cutting-edge projects are, for example, the creation of membrane contractors used for the absorption of CO2 in industrial environments and the development of exterior paints with infrared reflection to limit heating in the summer and the use of energy to cool the inside space.
The central importance of the protection and promotion of local areas is reflected in a number of areas, including: natural disaster and emergency prevention, monitoring and management; upgrading the security of the transport system and logistics; measures to guarantee the security of the population, etc. Also included in this perspective are initiatives involving environmental protection, such as reducing soil use and containing urban sprawl and the re-functionalization of areas and/or buildings on the basis of sustainability and security criteria.
Thus, Liguria could become an area of reference in the experimentation of avant-garde solutions in protecting and safeguarding the land, sea and people. This strategic direction is one of the elements of the “Liguria: from sea to life” perspective that the Advisory Board coordinated by The European House – Ambrosetti proposed and discussed at the “Liguria 2022” Forum held this past May 23rd in Genoa.
Aiming to develop specialized production and research that are recognized on an international level in all areas connected to capitalizing on and preserving the local area, is not only an opportunity for Liguria, but also for Italy and its economy as a whole. The creation of a local pole to assemble expertise and businesses could result in “critical mass” and bring together national excellence and promote it on global markets, while creating the conditions for building competitive positionings that can be maintained in the medium/long-term.