Is sustainable mobility really possible in Italy?

8 June 2022

2 minuti

While many hoped the reduction of traffic and lowering of polluting emissions from cars after the onset of the COVID-19 emergency would continue today, that is not the case. According to Roma Mobilità, 100% of the cars registered on March 2, 2020, are back on the roads, while 90% of heavy vehicles have returned.

There are many issues preventing sustainable mobility, including the disposal of batteries, difficulties, redesigning infrastructure, the high cost of eco-friendly cars, and the rarity of some materials. However, a more sustainable mobility is possible if public decision-makers are willing to push for technical and political choices.

After the lockdown period from March 11 to May 3, over 65% of citizens feared using public transportation at the risk of contagion and preferred using private vehicles. Moreover, with social distancing measures, public transportation usage was reduced up to 70% with less than half of regular pre-COVID-19 users willing to use it regularly again. Therefore, politicians were forced to find ways to combat this turn away from local, efficient transportation. One method for doing this was through the approval of the Simplification Decree (n. 76 of July 16, 2020), which allocates 30 million euros to the timely continuation of public works, including high-speed rail transport to unite regions of Italy with varying levels of infrastructure. Attention has also been given to developing subway systems, the most environmentally friendly and effective means of transport, which Italy sorely lacks compared to other European countries.

In addition, the ACI confirms that the average age of cars in circulation is 12 years, meaning it will take decades to eliminate polluting vehicles and replace them with hybrid or electric ones at this rate. Concerns over the Italian automotive sector being ready for electrical transitions have led Italy to be below the European average in average CO2 emissions per km of new cars, but there have been small legislative incentives for buying Euro 6 cars, such as one bonus that can be found in the Relaunch Decree.

Italy is doing well with integrating alternative fuels, compared to other European countries. It is second in having the number of cars with propulsion fuels cleaner than diesel or petrol, with 8.6% of circulating cars. Most European countries do not exceed 2.2% of their fleet.

While bicycle production has decreased by 4.7% in Italy over 2018, Article 229 of the Relaunch Decree introduces “bicycle” bonuses and measures to create bicycle lanes in cities. However, some cities are slow to implement these redesigns, particularly Rome.

For sustainable mobility to become a reality in Italy, public decision-makers must push for investments in green public transport and accompany the public in adapting to electrification. Change to help the public and the environment is possible if public leaders are willing to devote the attention and resources to these issues. The public will begin to match the political figures’ enthusiasm if the Government shows that eagerness for sustainable mobility.