From Expo to Cop28, Italy’s next moves

On Tuesday, member states of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) awarded Expo 2030 to Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. The decision took place in Paris where each state expressed a secret preference through one of its delegates. The victory was overwhelming: Riyadh got 119 of the 182 available votes while the South Korean city of Busan came in second getting 29. Rome, on the other hand, came third, collecting just 17 votes. Although the Saudi city’s victory had become somewhat predictable, the result obtained by the Italian capital was particularly disappointing.  Those in charge of the government-appointed bid were convinced that they could rely on a minimum base of 50 votes, and thus be able to achieve at least second place to play it all out in an eventual runoff with Riyadh. What was thought to be a probable defeat assumed, in the final hours of the vote, the dimensions of an unexpected diplomatic rout that was the subject of discussion and controversy at the political level as well. In fact, in the hours following the announcement, an “all against all” attitude meandered, amid fears of being left holding the bag in the rising chain of errors.  If Italia Viva spoke of  «a galactic blunder» and Azione leader Calenda of «a lost opportunity for Rome», Giuseppe Conte criticized the actions of the Meloni government and the Gualtieri administration for playing badly a game «so important for the country system». On the other hand, Minister Urso recriminated «the delay in the start of the candidacy with the then Conte government» and former mayor Raggi’s choice to propose it as a sort of «fallback in the face of the rejection of the Olympics, which perhaps would have been a more attainable goal»

In the meantime, however, the government has achieved an important policy objective with the approval by the Council of Ministers meeting on Monday of the long-awaited decree law on energy. Included in the measure were measures to promote the use of renewable sources and support for so-called “energy-intensive” companies,  those that consume a large amount of gas and electricity for their productions. The measure was also long overdue because of a possible extension of the transition to the protected electricity and gas market, but this was not included. Waiting to begin its parliamentary process, which will most likely start in the Senate, the Energy Decree is structured on the following cornerstones: self-production of renewable energy in energy-intensive sectors at risk of delocalization, strengthening the security of natural gas supplies also related to the measure of the so-called gas release, provisions on geothermal concessions and a multi-year plan for the promotion of investments, provisions to incentivize regions to host renewable plants. Finally, there is provision for Italian local authorities to self-bid to host the national nuclear waste repository.

On the foreign policy front, Prime Minister Meloni flew to Dubai to attend the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference, known to most as COP28: the major international meeting held annually with the goal of countering the effects of global warming. On the eve of the meeting, the chairman of the conference, UAE Minister of Industry and Technology Sultan Al Jaber, said he was very optimistic about the course of the conference: decisions will be made in Dubai that will keep global warming within one and a half degrees as called for by the Paris Accords. Al Jaber’s enthusiasm was certainly not contradicted by the first day of the Summit, when the agreement was closed to operationalize the “Loss and Damage” fund for countries particularly vulnerable to climate disasters and historically less responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. This is an unprecedented historic success considering that it is the first time in 30 years that the Cop has begun with an agreement, which was by no means a foregone conclusion given the reluctance of the US to move forward with it. The conference will then proceed on two other major issues such as reducing the use of fossil fuels and an assessment of what has been done so far. In any case, judging the outcome of the conference will have to wait until December 12, when the 197 delegations vote on the final declaration.