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A special day for the environment

Europe leads the way in the process of carbon neutrality with solutions aiming at the use of new renewable sources and industrial energy efficiency.

by Maria Pia Rossignaud
05 June 2020
4 min read
byMaria Pia Rossignaud
05 June 2020
4 min read

One of the 17 goals of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for restoring the balance on our planet is protecting the environment. This is a crucial issue, in honour of which it holds World Environment Day every 5 June.

Filippo Giorgi, a climatologist at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, the only Italian scientist to sit on the executive body of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (also co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with American environmentalist politician Al Gore), asserted that "pollution and greenhouse gases at historic lows, clear waters and nature blooming."

Now more than ever, the energy transition from a system using 80% fossil fuels to one based on clean energies is seen as a worldwide priority. With the European Green Deal, the EU has recognised this need, aiming to provide society with a modern, competitive economy that uses resources efficiently, so it no longer generates greenhouse gas emissions. The European Commission’s aim is to make the bloc the first carbon-neutral “continent” by 2050. Over the past 20 years, the EU has gradually become a driving force in the transition to renewable energies and the development of new energy efficiency solutions for industry, transport and buildings. However, in Italy only 18% of primary energy and 35% of electricity come from renewable sources.

The ”first and after” provided by NASA

The images taken of the world during the pandemic in 2020 are a stark reminder of the need for a sense of urgency that will really energise processes. Photographs of China have circled the globe, but what is even more startling are the before-and-after images of the lockdown in China captured by NASA and later the European Space Agency (ESA), showing a fall in nitrogen dioxide, or NO2, the reddish-brown, highly toxic and irritating gas with a strong, pungent smell.

The ESA website also notes a sharp fall in NO2 over Italy, a curve that could continue to flatten out if the country converts to electric transport. This period could in fact be a big boost for companies wanting to achieve the UN’s decarbonization goals ahead of schedule.


Nitrogen dioxide emissions before and during the pandemic

Eni's low carbon strategy plan

Eni is has come up with a precise and integrated strategy, which sees waste and raw material scraps transformed into bio-fuels, freshwater consumption reduced and best available techniques (BAT) – namely plant engineering, control and management – applied, to protect the environment and reduce polluting emissions. In its sustainability work, the company has also established a forest protection programme (one of the cornerstones of its low-carbon strategy) and one more to store 40 million tonnes of CO2 carbon dioxide overall by 2050, with renewable energy production reaching an installed power of 55 GW by the same date.

And while natural gas will be the only hydrocarbon to see a rise in use between now and 2050, making it a more resilient fuel than oil in the future (it is also the most suitable fossil source for decarbonization), recent agreements signed by Eni envisage a sustainable mobility plan aimed at further reducing emissions. This involves the transformation of waste cooking oil and waste from raw vegetable materials into biofuels, the adoption of alternative mobility solutions, such as car-sharing and dual-fuels, and the use of bio-methane, as the new frontier in the circular economy. This is an integrated energy supply chain, which aims to reuse waste, including agri-food waste from meat, by converting these materials into bio-methane.

By 2030, the real challenge is to ensure incentives for energy from renewable sources to meet the targets of the integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP).