Italy is one of the few European countries that have not yet approved a National Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change (PNACC). A first draft, presented in 2018, was supposed to be approved swiftly, but got stuck in a complex revision process. As climate science keeps advancing, the draft ended up being outdated with respect to the most recent IPCC reports.
At the end of December, a new draft was published on the website of the Ministry for the Environment and Energy, that on 16 February opened a public consultation to invite comment on it, a last step before its approval. The new plan includes updated modelling of Italian climate scenarios, and plans for measures such as defenses for people and infrastructures from sea level rise, the promotion of precision agriculture to reduce the carbon footprint from the food sector, or campaigns to reduce household food waste. The new version also includes a national observatory for adaptation to climate change, to monitor and update plans.
One of the main differences between the new draft and the old one is in the way Italian climate is modelled. “The 2018 version identified six climate macro-regions in Italy and their respective expected climate projections, based on a single climate model with 8-km resolution, developed by Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC),” says Paola Mercogliano, CMCC director of the Regional Model and Geo-Hydrological Impacts Research Division. In the current version the analysis is instead based on five administrative regions: Northwest, Northeast, Centre, South, and Islands. “In addition, we decided to use all the regional climate models available in the literature at the highest resolution available (12 km) and under 3 different scenarios, in order to have more statistical power,” Mercogliano explains.
Along with France and Ireland, Italy is among the few countries to include cultural heritage in its climate plan. “Most of Italy’s cultural sites are located on the coasts and are affected by coastal erosion and sea level rise, which are exacerbated by the climate crisis,” notes Alessandra Bonazza, senior researcher at Italy’s National Research Council Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (CNR-ISAC). “These sites will continue to experience increasingly high levels of thermal stress and could exceed 200 extreme events per year by the end of the century”.
Monuments in urban areas are another concern, she says, because more precipitations and more carbon dioxide will hasten the chemical dissolution of carbonate stone materials, resulting in a 30% increase in surface recession compared to the period 1961-1999.
In some areas, the new plan has fewer stringent commitments than the previous one, as in the case of landslides and floodings. The 2018 draft envisaged a complete re-arrangement of the natural and artificial hydraulic network by 2020. In the latest published version of PNACC, that same objective is re-proposed without a deadline for concrete implementation. “Defining the timing for such measures is particularly difficult,” says Fausto Guzzetti, director of Civil Protection Department’s Technical-Scientific Activities Office for the Forecast and Prevention of Risks and coordinator of the PNACC chapter dedicated to geo-hydrological instability. “When planning structural projects, the time required for drafting, planning, and starting the work is often longer than the time for the construction itself.” Soft measures are easier to design but can still suffer from a lack of infrastructure and personnel, says Guzzetti. An example is the national system that issues geo-hydrological risk alerts, a joint effort by the state and the regions that would need more staff and more funds to maintain the observation network.
Citizens, local authorities and all public or private organisations have until 16 April to submit comments to the plan, which the ministry will review before granting approval.