22 Dec 2021 | 3 min read
In July 2020, the European Council approved the Next Generation EU, most commonly known as the Recovery Fund or Recovery Plan. Italy is the biggest recipient of the EU fund, achieving more than €200 billion to invest in different areas. One of the six missions that Italy aims to accomplish is titled “infrastructures and sustainable mobility”. The overall goal of the project is to invest in making it easier to have a connected mobility throughout Italy, without burdening our precious environment.
The Recovery Plan is designed to relaunch the EU economy overwhelmed by the pandemic crisis, which seems to be quite an expensive affair. The Recovery Fund amounts to €750 billion. The Italian Economy Commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni, defined it as “the most important economic decision taken since the introduction of the Euro”.
Italy got the first part of a more than €200 billion, obtaining 28% of the total European Union fund. The largest chunk of money, €74.5 billion, was decided to be invested in the green revolution. Indeed, 30% of the total Recovery Fund is earmarked for the Green New Deal, in accordance with the Paris climate agreement. Further, €48.7 billion was planned to be invested in digitalization and innovation. And finally, the third biggest investment was made in sustainable mobility and infrastructure, with an amount of €27.7 billion. The rest of the money was allocated for improving education, research, health care, and gender equality.
So, let’s dig a little deeper.
The allocations for mobility in Italy are mainly allocated to the realization of the high-speed railway lines. Within this project, one of the main objectives is the completion of a high-speed network in the South of the country, where the railway system is the poorest.
In Italy, we are below the European average for train travels. In fact, according to Eurostar data, only 6% of Italians move by train as passengers, while 8 out of 10 of us drive a car. Therefore, the Italian Ministry of Transport has decided to incentivize Italians to use trains, and make it an easy game for us through the realization of strategic operations. Most of the projects concern the South part of our country, and many others focus on regional commuter routes. Among the main ones are the high-speed lines of Salerno-Reggio Calabria, the lines between Palermo, Catania and Messina, and the connection line between Venice and Trieste. Further, a series of other works in Liguria, Rome, Sicily and Puglia.
On the other hand, €8.5 billion was the money invested in urban mobility. This amount of billions was allocated to the strengthening of sustainable local transport through the extension of bicycle paths, buses, subways, and streetcars.
The “urban mobility” project also includes the construction of electric charging stations throughout the country, and hydrogen refueling points for road and rail transport.
Next Generation EU focuses on revitalizing its member countries through a different and more sustainable development model. Precisely, one of its strategies is to increase the sustainable production of hydrogen.
As a result, Italy has allocated €3.2 billion for research, testing, production, and use of H2. Quite simply, a hydrogen car emits zero CO2, as only water vapor is emitted from its exhaust pipe.
The Italian government, therefore, assigned an important role to hydrogen in the plans for ecological transition and set up ambitious targets for the development and application of this energy vector by 2030.
But this is not only happening in Italy. The Next Generation EU commission presented Flagship projects across member states, and one of them is called “Recharge and Refuel”. Within this, green technologies are promoted to incentivize the future use of sustainable, accessible and smart transport, zero and low emissions vehicles, charging and refueling stations. By 2025, the completion of charging points and hydrogen stations around the EU countries is expected to rise up considerably.
We all know it by now: Greta was right, the future is green. To be fair, not only the Swedish environmental activist says so. More than 99% of climate scientists agree with establishing human responsibility for climate change.
Italy recently presented its National Green Transition Plan, also responding to the challenge of the Green Deal, which sees the European Union commit to ensuring a more sustainable future for all. Thus, the Recovery Fund grants are closely linked to the country’s Green Transition Plan in order to boost Italy’s economy.
Starting from 2030, to reach the goal of completing decarbonization, the plan foresees that at least 50% of motorizations will be electric. But this isn’t everything.
Among the regulatory interventions to encourage the development of clean road mobility in Italy, we find the eco bonuses: monetary incentives for the purchase of electric or hybrid vehicles. The bonuses were initially launched in 2020, to then be repeated in 2021 with an additional stationing of €100 million.
The eco bonuses really seem to have an impact on the electric vehicles market in Italy. According to the data provided by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Sustainable Transport, in June 2021 the new registrations of electric cars recorded an average increase of +350% compared to 2020.
On the one hand, the “kick-scooter bonus” has been contested and mocked by many, on the other, it seems to have started a trend in the use of electric vehicles. Between September 2020 and September 2021, the eco-scooter increased by 35%. Surely, the electric vehicle is one of the greenest ways to move around the city. The use of it does not cause any carbon dioxide or particulate matter emissions. Moreover, it is a pretty fast way to avoid a traffic jam.
In 2020, 7.4 million rentals of electric scooters were recorded in Italy, costing a net saving of 2 million kg of CO2. But we do not need to read numbers to realize that the phenomenon is growing, we can simply look around us.
For example, one of the latest initiatives launched by two sharing companies, Helbiz and Bird Rides Italy, involved offering two free 15-minute rides on electric scooters to the polling station to vote in the October 3-4 local elections. The service not only encouraged citizens to vote but also incentivized the use of micro-mobility in large cities.
Unfortunately for the most curious, it will be necessary to wait until the end of 2026 to find out all of the projects in which the recovery fund will be committed. The €27 billion investment in “sustainable mobility and infrastructures” makes room for imagining further upgrading of national railways and roads, safer bridges and viaducts, new cycle paths, greener cities, and cleaner air. The overall mission goal is to make it easier for all Italian citizens to be connected in an eco-friendly way.
Time will tell if Italy will succeed in accomplishing the imposed targets of the European Union. What is clear right now is that we, as a community, have the occasion of a lifetime to really change the mobility, finding a green, sustainable path to the future.