The green motor of recovery

by André Francischetti Moreno

           “Nature is healing!” After several images showing how nature was positively responding to the absence of people due to isolation and lockdown measures, this saying became recurrent in many countries. Pictures of wild animals reclaiming urban spaces and even dolphins swimming in the Venetian channels were shared on social media. Although most of these reports were fake news (including, for our misfortune, the dolphins replacing the gondola in the Gran Canale), two questions gained place: Did the Coronavirus crisis have any positive impact on nature? And if so, will this effect be long-standing?

           As a matter of fact, social isolation and the fall of industrial production massively impacted the emission of greenhouse gasses. While two-thirds of the global air fleet are at standstill, in cities such as Rome and Milan the traffic fell by 85% from its normally expected levels (a pattern which is mirrored around the world), and the amount of coal used in the power industry plummeted. In fact, the International Energy Agency announced that the global energy demand will fall by 6% in 2020, causing serious damage to the gas and oil industry, while for coal the value hits 8% (a number that was not seen since World War II). Already considering the possible economic recovery in the second semester, this would lead to a decrease of 0.3% in the global carbon emission. In comparison, the great financial crisis of 2008/2009 led to a dip of 1.3% in anthropogenic emissions. By 2010, however, with many countries investing in their industries at levels never seen before, the emission of anthropogenic gases went off. The situation became so critical that in many Chinese cities, people were recommended to use masks due to poor air quality.

           From now on, governments will and should do anything to recover their economies as efficiently as possible, as well as foster transnational cooperation for this being essential in dealing with growing global problems i.e. global warming. Nevertheless, it is necessary that both officials and citizens take this moment of society restructuring as an opportunity to cause a real and long-standing positive impact on the environment. Particularly, recent actions by the European Union institutions toward this goal should be given attention, so as to give an example of how economic and environmental recovery can be joined in an integrative manner.

           In April, the European Parliament indicated that the Commission should propose a recovery and reconstruction package which had the Green Deal at its core. Namely, the European Green Deal is a proposal issued by the European Commission in December 2019 that aims to turn Europe into a climate-neutral continent by 2050. Much more than a target, it envisages a thorough transformation of the economy by changing, for instance, industrial tools, promoting clean mobilization means, and renewable energy sources. Furthermore, its strategies, such as the Biodiversity Strategy, plan to restore by 2030 damaged ecosystems, protected habitats and species, and European forests (the goal is to plant more than three billion trees). On March 4th, the European Climate Law proposal, which seeks to legally bind countries to the European Green Deal, was presented in the European Parliament and is already endorsed by a vast number of MEPs.

           Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, pointed out that one should face the challenge of rebuilding the economy as an opportunity of making it more sustainable and resilient. She also called attention to the importance of individual changes of actions such as buying sustainable products, re-using old materials, buying electric cars, and even renovating each one’s house by adding ecological systems. The European Green Deal is being called ‘the motor for Europe’s recovery’ and needs to be treated as such from the individual, to the governmental, to the international domain. The nations of the world should plan their own green strategies while reconstructing their economies because nature is at a breaking point. Based on the practical idea that all industries depend greatly on nature, the economy will never heal toward a sustainable stage, if nature itself does not.

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

References

EU Circular Economy Action Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/index_en.htm

EU COVID-19 recovery plan must be green and ambitious, say MEPs: News: European Parliament. (2020, April 21). Retrieved from https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20200419IPR77407/eu-covid-19-recovery-plan-must-be-green-and-ambitious-say-meps

Has coronavirus helped the environment? (2020, April 23). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200422-how-has-coronavirus-helped-the-environment

Ludden, J., & Brady, J. (2020, April 30). Greenhouse Gas Emissions Predicted To Fall Nearly 8% – Largest Decrease Ever. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/30/848307092/greenhouse-gas-emissions-predicted-to-fall-nearly-8-largest-decrease-ever

Will Covid-19 have a lasting impact on the environment? (2020, March 27). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200326-covid-19-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-the-environment

Apulia: The Strategy Behind Tourism

By André Francischetti Moreno

An 800 kilometers coastline, olive groves leading to timeless cities of unscalable heritage value, mountains, cliffs, sanctuaries, home of Virgil, shelter of three UNESCO world heritage sites and an inspiration for one of the most representative Italian songs Nel blu dipinto di blu. Apulia is the most dynamic region in Southern Italy and is precisely located in the “heel” of the Italian “boot”. In recent years, it has become a trendy destination for tourists interested in exploring more in depth a country that keeps enchanting the world with its culture, nature and history. Emphatically, both culture and tourism have been an essential and interlinked part of the shift away from a primary-based economy, representing a big asset for regional economic growth. Rather than a natural coincidence for a gifted region, however, increased tourism has been the result of several projects sponsored by the European Union and the Italian government aimed to deal with important local challenges for international markets.

The first challenge for a further tourist development was the relative remoteness of Apulia regarding the main Italian destinations’ circuits, such as Venice, Florence and Rome. The second was the presence of small and medium sized tourism enterprises with difficult representation in the global market due to a lack of resources or willingness, thus problematizing the matching between single suppliers (e.g. hotels) and smaller suppliers (e.g. Bed and Breakfasts) with international tour operators involved in the organization of travel for foreign tourists. Additionally, a lack of highlight to the treasures of the region, seasonality, lack of private investment and infrastructure problems were also key issues to solve. A myriad of important projects was designed to address these matters, nevertheless in this text we are going to focus on two of them: “Buy Puglia” and the “PiiiL Culture” plan.

Buy Puglia was a Cohesion Policy program largely funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), lasting from 2007 to 2013. Its main goal was to give visibility to local sellers in national and international markets to attract foreign buyers. Pugliapromozione, the agency responsible for implementing the project, promoted exhibitions, trade sector initiatives to expose regional products, and provided educational tours, familiarizing tour operators with tourist attractions. The heart of Apulia´s strategy focused on two pillars, these being culture and tourism. Firstly, the action was based upon promoting culture as a place-branding and tourism attractor, strengthening the idea of culture as an employment generator tool and building competitive advantage. For tourism, the rationale was based upon reducing seasonality and attracting foreign investment via tourism promotion, diversification of the offering (from romantic routes to a sports destination), restoration of key monuments, fostering and supporting employment, and stimulating a more widespread growth of tourism including in less popular areas. Additionally, the ERDF invested heavily in ports, airports and in the restructuration and linkage of cultural and environmental heritage, becoming an important regional driver of economic activity for both employment and the overall economic development of the region.

Besides, in coherence with the EU strategy “Europe 2020”, which emphasizes a European agenda for growth and jobs in the coming decade, Apulia became a model of cultural planning by implementing the “PiiiL Culture” plan. As the name suggests, it is an economic development policy based on culture which aims on achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. With an investment of 400 million euros for ten years, beginning in 2017, the region government decided to focus on the “PiiiL” acronym: Product (building a cultural product of quality), Identity ( defining identity as rooted, authentic, half-caste, open and plural), Innovation (regarding both product and its shaping), Enterprise (from volunteering to a new business culture) and Work (without good employment there is no economy of culture). Also, in partnership with the Apulian Film Commission Foundation, the Regional Ministry for Tourism changed the traditional approach on the promotion of specific areas (i.e. Salento and Vale d´Itria) towards the promotion of the brand “Apulia” and “Apulia and cinema” in Italy and abroad. The “PiiiL Culture” is planned triennially and favors public-private partnerships, innovation, internationalization, valorization of urban and suburban areas, use of underused spaces and the growth/formation of the public through cultural activities.

Today, international flights land in the main airports of Puglia in Brindisi and Bari, and the official tourism website of the region offers ready-to-take itineraries and tips on things to do, where to go and events to attend. If you have any social media, you may also use the hashtag #WeAreInPuglia to discover new places and find more about the experience of other people who visited those. Abraham Lincoln once said that the best way to predict the future was to create it, and Apulia, supported by the European Union and the Italian government, is building it in a sustainable, inclusive and attractive way.

Photo by Claudia Lorusso on Unsplash

References

https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/evaluation/pdf/expost2013/wp9_mini_case_buy_puglia_en.pdf
https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/evaluation/pdf/expost2013/wp9_case_study_puglia_en.pdf
https://www.viaggiareinpuglia.it/allegati/Eventi/100423_apulia__synthesis_oecd_draft_report_1275388292363.pdf
https://www.agenziapugliapromozione.it/portal/documents/10180/4141542/Communication%20plan%20Puglia%20destination%202019
PiiiL CULTURA IN PUGLIA. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.piiilculturapuglia.it/.
Your key to European statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/europe-2020-indicators.