According to a study published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in 2050 there will be more plastic than fish (by weight) in the oceans. The always-increasing phenomenon of oceanic pollution caused by plastic has started to alarm governments and environmental associations, so much so that Lisa Svensson – Coordinator of the UNEP (United Nation Environment Programme) for Marine and Coastal Ecosystems- has included this phenomenon among the “global crises”. As a matter of fact, more than 8 million tonnes of plastic are released into the sea every year, bottles, packaging and other waste. In response to this critical situation, many countries have started to develop laws to abolish the use of disposable packaging and products largely made of plastic. Among those Italy that, following the abolition of plastic bags in supermarkets, has also extended this ban to bags used in the retail sale of fruit and vegetables, replacing them by biodegradable ones.
According to a recent study published by the consulting firm Ecofys – and commissioned by the Gas for Climate consortium – 25% of the current natural gas consumption in Europe can be replaced by renewable gas by 2050. The research has identified the role of the latter in a completely decarbonized energy system, and it has assumed that, in within thirty years, all the European countries will have concentrated their resources on the production from renewable sources and on the adoption CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) and CCU (Carbon Capture and Utilization) systems for traditional electrical installations. Thus, the net carbon emissions will be equal zero. Furthermore, the authors of the research have calculated that renewable gas production can be increased to 122 billion cubic meters per year by 2050. In addition, if not considering the industrial sector, it would be enough to use only 72 billion cubic meters out of 122 total in order to heat buildings and to produce electricity that can be used in times of peak energy demand, saving up to 138 billion euros. Finally, the study provides an estimate of the sustainable production potential of biomethane in the European Union: by 2050 it will be equal to 98 billion cubic meters (1072 TWh) of energy per year, while the production of renewable hydrogen, which uses wind and photovoltaic energy, will be 24 billion cubic meters.
According to the 2017 Agi-Censis Report, “The culture of Innovation”, the most important answers to confront the complex challenge of sustainability and the decarbonisation of the economy will come from innovation. In regards to this, according to the data contained in this report, among the infrastructures that are most appreciated by Italians, we can find photovoltaic parks with a percentage of 82.4%, high-speed railway stations (76.4%), and wind farms (73.3%). While among those that are the least appreciated, in the first place are oil refineries with the 77%, followed by the coal-fired power plants (76.5%) and chemical or metal-mechanical plants (63%). There is therefore confidence in new technologies and new discoveries: the 65.6% of Italians are deeply convinced that we will all become producers of energy, thus generating a “smart-grid” scenario, in which it will no longer be only consumption to unite us, but also production. The 57.6% of the respondents stated that they were confident that, thanks to innovation, we would soon have all the energy that we need without significant impacts on the environment. There is a deep and widespread conviction that over the next thirty years we will witness and participate in profound changes in the energy scenarios: according to some people, it will be a manageable change, while according to others, this change will be predominant in regards to energy resources and it will give rise to an increase in social gaps.
Extreme climatic events (typhoons, heatwaves, and floods), natural disasters, ecosystem collapse with loss in biodiversity, human inability to mitigate the effects of global warming: environmental risks are the most alarming topic under discussion. This is what has emerged for the second consecutive year from the global Risks Report, published by the World Economic Forum on occasion of the last meeting in Davos. It is interesting to notice how the perception of risk has changed over the last ten years: during the period 2008-2010, the economy and the geopolitics were the unknowns that dominated the scene. On the contrary, from 2011 onwards, the environmental issues have gained the first place, with a peak of concern recorded between 2017 and 2018. Climatic change is ultimately changing the risk management strategies of big companies and of public-private institutions all around the world. In particular, many energy utilities are aware that in a few years they could lose huge profits due to the obsolete and no longer profitable existing infrastructure, such as coal-fired power plants. As a result, the so-called “carbon risk”, the financial risk associated with global pollution and CO 2 emissions, is gaining increasing importance in the investment decisions of banks, governments and fund managers.