Climate change mitigation - Drivers and pressures (Italy)

SOER 2010 Common environmental theme (Deprecated)
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Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 11 May 2020 Feed synced: 03 Jan 2011 original
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Part C - Italy - Commonality (June, 1st 2010) - Drivers and pressures

The most recent figures for the national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory show that emissions, in carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2-eq) terms, increased from 517.05 million tonnes to 541.49 million tonnes during the period 1990-2008, a growth of 4.7 %, whereas, according to the Kyoto Protocol, Italy should have reduced its emissions, during the period 2008-2012, by 6.5 % compared to the 1990 level, down to 483.44 Mt CO2-eq.

Globally, Italy is responsible for no more than 1.51 % of overall emissions generated from fossil fuels, meaning that it ranks 12th among the countries with the highest levels of GHG emissions[1].


GHG emissions in Italy registered overall growth of 24.44 Mt CO2-eq between 1990 and 2008. During this period (Figure 1) there were reductions in fugitive emissions due to accidental losses during the production and distribution of hydrocarbons – by 3.39 Mt CO2-eq – as well as in emissions by manufacturing industries, 13.83 Mt CO2 eq; agriculture, 4.71 Mt CO2-eq; use of solvents, 0.46 Mt CO2-eq; industrial processes, 3.41 Mt CO2-eq; and waste, 1.32 Mt CO2-eq while emissions from the residential sector and services increased by 8.22 Mt CO2-eq along with those from energy industries, +19.74 Mt CO2-eq and the transport sector, +20.20 Mt CO2-eq. In 2006, for the first time since 1996, overall GHG emissions were lower than in the previous year, down by 1.85 %. This declining trend, mainly related to the effects of the global economic downturn, has been continued in 2007 and 2008.


The trend observed in GHG emissions is in line with changes in final energy consumption (Figure 2), an increasing trend is evident until 2005, with an increase of 20.7 % compared to 1990, followed by a decline of 2.9 % between 2005 and 2008. Preliminary indications for 2009 show a further decline of 1.2 %.


A decomposition analysis has been used to identify the main drivers behind the observed trends in GHG emissions. This technique has been applied to production-related GHG emission data from 1992 to 2006 (Femia and Marra Campanale, 2010). A comparison of trends in the main economic variables with GHG emission indices shows a strong growth of output and value added, while GHG emissions increased, though at a slower pace than the economy, thus showing relative decoupling[2]. In order to decompose changes in GHG emissions, the following four determinants were considered: level of economic activity (economic growth), weight of the different industries in the economy (structure of production), energy intensity of output (for example fuel-use efficiency) and emission intensity of energy use (effects of technological choices other than changes in fuel intensity).

The decomposition analysis of the increase in emissions between 1992 and 2006, amounting to about 24 million tonnes, shows (Figure 3) that the increase is exclusively due to economic growth. If the effects of economic growth had not been offset by the other components, the increase would have been about 30.8 %, instead of the actual 5.6 %.



In particular, the improvement of the two technological components emission intensity of energy use and energy intensity of output would have led to a 20.7 % reduction of emissions. The structure of production also played a significant, though less important, role in decreasing GHG emissions by 4.5 %.


A year-on-year analysis of the changes shows that the overall 1992-2006 change, a 9.5 % reduction, attributable to emission intensity of energy use was achieved mostly by cumulative small year-on-year efficiency increases over the period, suggesting a real, though slow, improvement of the environmental efficiency of Italian industry through the decrease of non-fuel dependent , for example from solvent use; the shift towards less polluting fuels; the use of technologies that improve production processes, such as integrated technologies; and the installation of end-of- pipe devices for emission abatement.


In contrast, the energy intensity of output effect is characterised by an irregular pattern, with sudden and often large changes from year to year, such as a 3.4 % increase in 2003 and a further increase in 2005 and 2006, suggesting that energy use was becoming less efficient. In fact, this component takes into account the effects of some possible real improvements – the introduction of less fuel-intensive techniques and the replacement or removal of energy-wasting machinery or plants – but its overall importance and volatility may be explained, at least partly, by the delocalisation of Italian industrial production, with more and more intermediate and final products of being manufactured abroad with only the final stages of production being performed in Italy.




The transport system has had to respond to a sharp rise in the demand for mobility. During the period 1990-2008, the demand for passenger transport increased by 34 %, while the demand for domestic freight transport for distances of more than 50 km grew by 23.2 %.

Growth in passenger demand remained steady during the period 2000-2005, followed by increases over the following two years. In 2008, there was a drop of 4.7 % in the demand for transport.

The demand for passenger transport continues to be met mainly by road transport, the least efficient mode from energy and environmental perspective. In 2008, cars, motorcycles and scooters were used for 81.6 % of passenger travel.

Italy ranks second, after Luxembourg, in terms of the ratio of cars to resident population, but ranks first when motorcycles, scooters and commercial vehicles are included. Worldwide, only the USA has a higher number of vehicles per inhabitant.


The demand for passenger transport has been growing since 1990, being closely tied to the dynamics of economic development.

Domestic transport of freight by Italian carriers is primarily by truck, 68.2 % in 2008, the share having remained fairly constant since 1990. A significant increase for truck sharing was observed for 2000-2005, followed by decreases in subsequent years. 

In 2008, sea accounted for 17.7 % of domestic freight transport and rail for 9.5 %, while air transport represented a marginal 0.4 % of freight transport; the increase in other modes after 2000 in Figure 5 is due mainly to increased transport of freight by sea.

[1]   IEA (2009). CO2 emissions from fuel combustion. Highlights, 1971-2007.

[2]       If the economic variable shows positive growth, absolute decoupling is said to occur when the growth rate of the environmental variable is zero or negative; relative decoupling is said to occur when the growth rate of the environmental variable is positive, but less than the growth rate of the economic variable (OECD, 2002).


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

Filed under: SOER2010, climate change
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