Environmental sustainability and the primary challenges

The principal challenges for environmental sustainability, in the context in which Acea operates, are focused on a few issues, including climate, water resources, technological innovation applied to infrastructure management and the circular economy.
As far as climate change is concerned, the Group has been taking action for several years to progressively reduce climate-changing emissions. In 2018 it also embarked on a path towards the implementation of a system that reflects the UNI EN ISO 14064 standard (on the inventory of greenhouse gases), which will allow more accurate analysis and knowledge of emissions generated by plants.

With regard to water, after the extraordinary drought that hit Italy in 2017, in 2018 the interventions aimed at reducing water losses continued. In agreement with the institutions of reference, Acea has laid the foundations for the construction of an infrastructure of particular value, the design of a second aqueduct – the so-called “doubling of the Peschiera” – which will secure the water supply and drinking water for the city of Rome, from the Peschiera and Le Capore springs. On technological innovation (see also Corporate Identity, Context Analysis) particular attention is paid to applications that concern the management of networks and their evolution. Acea has been investing in the circular economy for some years now, pursuing the triple objective of reducing community waste, increasing the reuse of process waste – for example by transforming waste into a second raw material – and achieving energy recovery.

At an international level, climate change remains one of the most important environmental and social challenges. In particular, the European Commission has implemented the new long-term strategy “for a prosperous, modern and climate-neutral economy by 2050 - A clean planet for all” 99.

According to this Strategy, the European Union will seek to lead the transition to a clean, zero-emission planet (see the box). This is thanks to the commitment of all countries to the development of innovative technological and product solutions, carried out by involving all the players in the supply chain, from the public to politics, from finance to universities and research, with the aim of improving the quality of life. The strategy also aims to comply with the climate agreements defined by COP21 in Paris, which aim to keep the temperature increase well below 2° C, even 1.5° C if possible.

In particular, Europe’s strategic vision 100 calls for actions in seven different areas: energy efficiency; deployment of renewable energies; clean, safe and connected mobility; industrial competitiveness and circular economy; infrastructure and interconnections; bio-economy and natural carbon sinks; and carbon capture and storage to reduce remaining emissions.
By the end of 2018, Member States were to submit their national climate and energy plans101 to the European Commission, which are essential to ensure that the 2030 targets are met.

[99] The European Commission requests that the European Council, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee analyse the Union’s vision for a zero climate impact Europe by 2050, so that ministers from different countries can present a joint draft at the European Council of 9 May 2019 in Sibiu. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-18-6543_en.htm.
[100] See https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/strategies/2050_en.
[101] On 8.01.2019 the Ministry of Economic Development sent the European Commission the Proposal for an Integrated National Plan for Energy and Climate (PNIEC), as provided for in the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council 2016/0375 on the Governance of the Energy Union. The Plan is structured in 5 dimensions: decarbonisation, energy efficiency, energy security, internal energy market, research, innovation and competitiveness.


On 28 November 2018, the European Commission presented its long-term climate strategy, setting the objective of “a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate-neutral economy by 2050”, indicating how “Europe can take the lead in achieving zero climate impact, investing in realistic technological solutions, involving the public and harmonising actions in key areas, like industrial policy, finance or research while ensuring social equity for a just transition” (source: European Commission Press Release, 28.11.2018).

The presentation of a long-term EU strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was requested by the European Parliament and the Council. It is not a legislative proposal, but a strategic vision, proposing not to change the 2030 climate and energy targets but rather to build on them to enable the EU to develop policies that look to 2050.

The EU Commission underlines that its vision for a zero climate impact future covers almost all EU policies and is in line with the Paris Agreement objective of keeping the temperature increase well below 2° C. The idea is that for the EU to maintain a leading role in zero climate impact, this objective must be achieved by 2050.

The EU Commission invited all European institutions, national governments and parliaments, companies and other stakeholders to examine and discuss the long-term climate strategy so that it can be examined by the Heads of State and Government at the European Council of 9 May 2019.
(Source: L’Astrolabio 6.12.2018).

Following the Paris Climate Agreement, the 24th UN Climate Conference, COP24 (see also the box), was held in Katowice, Poland in December 2018, to implement technical aspects of the Paris Agreement. Among others, the Italian Minister of the Environment spoke and reiterated the importance and urgency for the international community of “accelerating the pace of the fight against climate change, which must include the adoption of an effective package of ambitious rules applicable to all, in full agreement with the spirit of Paris”.

The december 2018 climate conference in Katowice-cop24

COP24 closed on 15 December 2018 with the adoption of the “Katowice Climate Package”, the “rulebook” for implementing the Paris Climate Agreement. “The multilateral system has produced a solid result”, said Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Secretary-General of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “Now there is a roadmap the international community can follow to decisively tackle climate change”.

The Katowice Climate Package first sets out how countries will provide information on their national contributions to reduce emissions – the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) – including mitigation and adaptation measures and details of climate financing for developing economies. The package also includes guidelines for setting new financing targets from 2025 onwards and for assessing progress in technology development and transfer.

On the contrary, one of the problematic topics at COP24 on climate change was the way in which countries will increase their emission reduction targets. The NDCs as defined after Katowice would ensure an increase in world temperatures of as much as 3° C compared to pre-industrial levels.
That is 1.5 degrees more than recommended by the latest report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Among the issues referred to the next Conference of the Parties is the use of cooperative approaches and the sustainable development mechanism, contained in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. This should allow nations to achieve part of their national mitigation goals through the use of “market mechanisms”, like the carbon market or the counting of CO2 credits linked to forests.
However, the divergent positions at the Polish Summit prevented these instruments from being defined in the package.
The next UN conference to finalise the last elements of the Paris Regulation and to start work on future emission targets is scheduled for 2019 in Chile (COP25).
However, the crucial moment is in 2020, when countries will have to show that they have met the deadline for their current emissions commitments and produce new targets for 2030. Both Italy and the United Kingdom have applied to host (source: www.rinnovabili.it).

In this context, recognising the centrality of environmental protection and the fight against climate change and in line with the Paris Agreement, on the one hand Acea included in its strategy some adaptation and mitigation actions with respect to climate change (see the 2018-2022 Sustainability Plan and the operational objectives in the Corporate identity), on the other hand, as already mentioned, in 2018 it began to verify its own carbon dioxide emissions, setting the inventory of these emissions according to UNI EN ISO 14064-1. It is hoped that this effort, which includes precise reporting of GHG (Green House Gases) emissions by Group companies along with monitoring and calculation procedures will make it possible to improve knowledge of its impact in terms of GHG and, consequently, the effectiveness of mitigation efforts.