From Europe one billion for Taranto and the Sulcis: will Italy have a plan to spend it?

Italy has a great opportunity: to try to change the future for the better of some of its territories. In fact, Europe will allocate to the coffers of our state more than one billion euros – of the total 17.5 available – within the Just Transition Fund programme (JTF) 2021-2027 for “a just climate transition” of Taranto (with his Ilva) and the territory of Sulcis, in Sardinia. The money allocated by the European Commission, in other words, has the purpose of converting the territories concerned, giving them a new economic boost no longer based on fossil fuels but oriented towards environmental rehabilitation. The Fund is in fact a financial instrument which it’s just about providing assistance to all those territories which, more than others, will have to face important socio-economic challenges to embark on the path of climate neutrality, adapting to the rest of the country.

At the moment, however, in addition to the general indications given by the EU, there are still no real nationwide plans to spend the money. However, the second phase of the program provides for the preparation of tenders and therefore the presentation of more concrete “ideas”, in line with European directives. The fear, justified, is that Italy will once again lose a great opportunity, which is currently more urgent than ever.

In fact, in order to achieve the climate objectives, it will be necessary to push above all towards a greater production of clean energy, for example by transforming the existing carbon-intensive plants. Without forgetting, however, to deal with the relocation of workers. In fact, the focus of the JTF will be on economic diversification and job creation in green sectors, including that of renewable energy. Indeed, the objective is that no one is left behind or disadvantaged. «The Italian program is targeted and specifically conceived for support regions in the throes of a challenging transformation in the coal and steel sector’, he has declared Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms. This will mostly happen supporting small and medium-sized enterprises: in the territorial plan for the province of Taranto, therefore, there is no direct support for the former Ilva, the steel mill which in 2021 recorded a turnover of 3.3 billion euros. A difficult change to achieve without the right investments and the right projects. therefore, we need to make it.

Specifically, the resources of the national JTF will be divided as follows: 796 to the province of Taranto e 367 million euros to Sulcis Iglesiente. The other 48.4 million are earmarked for technical assistance. In general, funds should be used in this way.

Let’s start with Puglia. “The climate transition of the province of Taranto is conditioned by the presence of largest steel mill in Europe: Acciaierie d’Italia (ex Ilva)” wrote the European Commission in a note. Reason why, most of the money available, will be used for obvious reasons create new business models, which gradually replace those based on steel, encouraging them to use more renewable energy. Without forgetting however that that steel, until today, has allowed hundreds of families to pay their bills. Indeed, in the province of Taranto one third of industrial workers are employed in the sector iron and steel and for this reason the Fund – which in Puglia will cover 29 municipalities – has the objective of train more than 4,000 workers to redeploy them in jobs related to clean energy.

Among other things, the European Commission has declared that the money will also be used to build new wind turbines and new geothermal plants for buildings, and to create a “green belt” around the city of Taranto, installing urban parks and naturalistic areas which «will contribute to the restoration of degraded land and to the reduction of CO2 emissions».

As regards the Sulcis Iglesiente, an area that includes 23 Sardinian municipalities (including Carbonia, Iglesias, Piscinas and Portoscuso) where the last Italian coal mine is located here – the goal is rather similar to the Apulian one. Specifically the funds will be mainly intended to finance micro-enterprisespushing them to innovate their processes and in general the entire production chain, from A to Z. A big push will also come for start-ups, especially those that will propose presearch projects in the key to the circular economy. Reason why the Fund has provided for more than 2 thousand workers training courses aimed at acquiring new skillswhile at the same time strengthening the structures that help workers find new employment. Among other things, the idea of ​​creating a big one in the area is in the pipeline clean energy production center and one for its accumulation.

In fact, we recall that Italy has declared its intention to block the production of electricity derived from coal by 2025, as envisaged by the National Plan for Energy and Climate (even if the events of recent years risk making the deadline jump). With this in mind “it is clear that the priority now is decarbonisation, that goes hand in hand with energy, environmental and social innovation. Above all, it will be necessary to have certain and rapid times, because Taranto and Puglia can no longer wait”, declared Ruggero Ronzulli, president of Legambiente Puglia and Lunetta Franco, president of the Taranto club. And it can no longer wait even for Sardinia, and for the whole of Italy.

[di Gloria Ferrari]

From Europe one billion for Taranto and the Sulcis: will Italy have a plan to spend it?