Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Energy

Italy’s Meloni aims to make climate change a right-wing issue

Press play to listen to this article

Giorgia Meloni has a message for climate campaigners — the right wing is coming for your favorite issue.

“Ecology has been militarily occupied from the left,” she said at a web-streamed event in September.

Last year she was even clearer, saying: “There is nothing more ‘right-wing’ than ecology. The right loves the environment because it loves the land, the identity, the homeland.”

Now that she’s taken power in Rome at the head of a turbulent coalition of right-wing and nationalist parties led by her Brothers of Italy grouping, her message is that carbon dioxide emissions can be lowered without having to sacrifice economic growth and employment — two perennial difficulties for Italy. But that comes with a kick aimed firmly at campaigners who have been pushing efforts to tackle global warming by going electric while calling for a rethink of economic growth and consumption.

“Greta Thunberg’s ideology will lead us to lose thousands of companies and millions of jobs in Europe,” Meloni told a crowd at a June forum of right-wing parties in Spain. “We have been told over the years that there is no alternative to ecological ideology, that it will make us live in a cleaner world. But they were wrong or lied to us. Because we now realize that our energy dependence is dramatic and that the transition to electric without controlling the raw material will make us even more dependent on China than we are on Russia.”

Italian President Sergio Mattarella met with the parties on Friday and they agreed to put Meloni forward as the country’s first female prime minister.

Meloni and her Brothers of Italy party signed a declaration by right-wing parties to respond to the challenges of a warming planet. The declaration says: “We must collectively do much more to combat the threat of climate change,” and adds: “We will not achieve these aims by harming the economy or through an exclusively state-led approach. We need to harness the expertise and creativity of businesses and entrepreneurs.”

As part of the declaration, Meloni has promised to uphold mid-century net-zero objectives — a target agreed to by all EU countries — and support climate funding for emerging and vulnerable nations.

It’s a recognition that climate change is a crucial issue for Italy — a country considered among the most vulnerable in Europe and which is still recovering from a summer of scorching heat, deadly glacier melting and flooding. It also marks a break with other right-wing parties like the Republicans in the U.S., where many top leaders question the science of climate change.

Words and actions

But it’s unclear how much of Meloni’s climate policy is rhetorical and how much involves real action — and a lot of her comments would make traditional climate campaigners bristle.

The Brothers of Italy party manifesto — released a few days before last month’s election — vaguely references global climate commitments alongside the need to limit the over-exploitation of natural resources, improve water protection, boost reforestation and support the uptake of public transport. But it doesn’t spell out any targets for reaching the EU’s 2030 emissions reduction targets.

Meloni has called the EU’s Green Deal, which sets the 2050 climate neutrality target into law, “climate fundamentalism.” She is also dubious about the scale of financing going to the green transition and wants to review the way Italy has to spend €191 billion from the bloc’s recovery fund — which sets a target of 37 percent of the cash going for the green transition.

Giorgia Meloni has called the EU’s Green Deal, which sets the 2050 climate neutrality target into law, “climate fundamentalism” | Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images

“The finance of the Recovery and Resilience Fund is not limitless. We’ll have to make strategic decisions on where to put the resources. The priorities that were selected ahead of the war in Ukraine by the EU and the Italian government are, at this stage, out of focus. I also have strategic doubts over the fact that the final objective is the green transition, which is not the best solution from an environmental standpoint,” she said in mid-May at a forum on Mediterranean affairs.   

But Claudio Baccianti, project manager at green think tank Agora Energiewende, said it will be difficult for Meloni to change priorities for recovery spending, adding that if Rome breaks EU rules Brussels could freeze payments.

Climate efforts come on top of a push to wean Italy off its dependence on Russian gas — which before the war in Ukraine accounted for about 40 percent of demand. During the campaign, Meloni backed resuming nuclear power and domestic gas drilling — something that would upend past policy on abandoning nuclear power and ending drilling for fossil fuels.

The new administration plans to return energy-related files — currently under the ministry of the ecological transition — to the economic development ministry, rolling back a shift in responsibilities made only a year ago to deal with the challenge of decarbonization. A key indicator will be the names of the ministers in charge of those portfolios — something that will be announced after the government formally takes power.

Meloni’s careful positioning on the climate and environment is no revolution in Italian politics. In an address to the U.N. General Assembly last month, outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi mentioned “climate” only three times.

In the wake of the energy emergency, Draghi scoured the Middle East for new gas deals, called for building more liquefied natural gas terminals and fought a rearguard action to preserve a loophole for high-powered sports cars from the EU’s planned ban on fossil fuel cars by 2035 — a nod to local icons Lamborghini and Ferrari.

According to a joint analysis by E3G and the Wuppertal Institute, only 16 percent of the finance from the EU’s COVID recovery program is going to projects significantly aligned with climate action, far below the 40 percent declared by the outgoing government.

Luca Bergamaschi, head of the ECCO climate think tank, reckons it’s still too early to predict Meloni’s energy and climate position.

“Unlike her allies from the Northern League and Forza Italia, whose stances in support of nuclear and domestic gas extraction look unshakable, she has always adopted a far more cautious approach,” Bergamaschi said, adding “there’s a chance that she will be open to hear about what actually works.” 

This article has been updated with Friday’s talks with President Sergio Mattarella.

This article is part of POLITICO Pro

The one-stop-shop solution for policy professionals fusing the depth of POLITICO journalism with the power of technology


Exclusive, breaking scoops and insights


Customized policy intelligence platform


A high-level public affairs network

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You May Also Like

Europe

KYIV — It’s all about the weapons — and we’ll do everything to get them to Kyiv.  That was the message from Nordic and...

Energy

Italy’s top disaster official warned Monday that the whole country is “at risk,” after a deadly mudslide Saturday tore across the island of Ischia,...

Europe

Press play to listen to this article Voiced by artificial intelligence. The French left has seldom been so united — and rarely so divided....

Europe

Ukraine’s main power operator Ukrenergo announced Monday that it has applied emergency shutdowns throughout the entire country due to a rapidly increasing power deficit....

Energy

EU countries resumed last-ditch talks on Monday to secure agreement on a price cap for Russian oil, with deep splits among them on where...

Energy

Higher energy prices, including for natural gas, are pushing up electricity prices and the cost of living for households across the EU, prompting governments...

Europe

Space exploration is, perhaps, humankind’s longest dream. The night sky has always allowed our imagination to fly.  It has taken our creative and innovative...

Europe

Press play to listen to this article Voiced by artificial intelligence. NATO allies finally agreed earlier this year that China is a “challenge.” What...