Environmental sustainability and the primary challenges - Overview
In line with the Green Deal and the “Next Generation EU” recovery package, Italy has published the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), outlining the challenges in the short-term, also with regard to environmental sustainability, and the economic tools to achieve the established goals. The Plan sets out large investments in the circular economy and sustainable agriculture, in renewable energy, in the use of hydrogen and in the national electricity grid supporting mobility, in energy efficiency, and in the protection of the land and water resources, which will support the country in the ecological transition.
Although the health emergency continued in 2021, European guidelines were relaunched, with the goal of swiftly reaching climate neutrality by 2050, as established by the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, and supporting economic recovery of businesses across the area.
The pathway to 2050 involves intermediate targets for 2030, such as achieving a 40% quota of renewable energy (of total generation), as required by the Green Deal, halting deforestation and a minimum 30% reduction in methane emissions, defined by recent COP26 agreements (see info. box on COP26 and 2021 climate change appeals).
Acea has an important role to play in the achievement of these goals through development projects in the field of the circular economy, and in the context of smart cities through an increase in renewa- bles, increased resilience of electrical and water infrastructure, a focus on safeguarding water resources and technological innova- tion for the management of infrastructure.
With regard to climate change, the Group is undertaking initia- tives aimed on the one hand at the process of adaptation to these changes, for example, by making infrastructure more resilient and incorporating the analysis of critical scenarios into operations, and on the other hand at the mitigation process through the progressive reduction of climate-changing emissions.
Specifically, with regard to GHG emissions, again in 2021 Acea participated in the CDP - Carbon Disclosure Project, achieving a score of A-, confirming its leadership position (see Corporate identity info. box in the chapter Strategy and sustainability). Additionally, Acea was part of a working group together with A2A, Edison, Enel, the Hera Group, the Sofidel Group, Maire Tecnimont, Pirelli, Salvatore Ferragamo, Snam, Terna and VIU to develop the position paper Italian businesses moving towards decarbonisation: a fair and inclusive transition. Officially presented on 19 January 2022 at the Italian Pavilion at the Dubai Expo the position paper had “the goal of demonstrating and developing the commitment of Italian companies that have signed the UN Global Compact on Decarbonisation, to play their role in achieving the objectives of the Paris Accords and the goals the European Union has set itself, to achieve climate neutrality by 2050”113.
Meanwhile, with regard to a broader approach to climate change, Acea completed an important project for alignment with the international recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures-TCFD, leading to the publication in 2022 of the company's first dedicated Report (see info. box for details in the section Environmental and climate risks: in-depth analysis and disclosure).
With regard to the management of water, in agreement with the relevant institutions, Acea continued preparatory actions for the construction of the new upper section of the Peschiera-Le Capore Aqueduct to safeguard the water supply in the city and province of Rome. Review of the project documentation has been launched and a report has been prepared aimed at defining the methodology for estimating CO2 emissions generated by creation of the infrastructure (project carbon-footprint).
Acea has played a primary role with regard to the circular economy, for a number of years, with the aim of reducing waste of resources, for example by utilising process waste, and enabling recovery of energy and secondary raw materials. In this context, the Group has progressively expanded in the field of waste management (Environment Segment). With reference to financial year 2021, the companies Berg and Demap enter the scope of reporting, operating in the areas of storage, disposal and treatment of waste, as well as the construction of treatment plants, in the case of the former, and se- lection and packing of urban waste for consortia and other customers, in the case of the latter.
With regard to the circular economy, of particular interest there is also the innovative BIOREF research project, carried out by Acea Elabori in cooperation with IRSA-CNR, which is aimed at recovering products with high added value during transformation of the organic portion of urban waste and biological sludge. The project is the result of a partnership launched in 2020 with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between CNR and Acea for the technological development of waste-processing and treatment procedures (see also the chapter Institutions and the company).
During the Ecomondo trade fair, Acea Ambiente received a special mention from ISPRA for its environmental declaration videos and efficient communicative use of the EMAS logo (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme). Acea Ambiente was the only organisation in the waste sector recognised in this way. The videos, each around 15 minutes long, presented Acea Ambiente's commitment to safeguarding the environment and to the reduction of CO2 emissions through the use of innovative technology, in line with the sustainability goals of the UN 2030 Agenda. The videos were shown at the Acea stand at Ecomondo and can also be watched online on the Group's website.
ACEA PROJECTS AT ECOMONDO 2021
Again in 2021, the Acea Group took part in Ecomondo, the most important trade fair for green and circular-economy sectors in the Euro-Mediterranean area, held in Rimini from 26 to 29 October. The event focuses on the chain of production and supply of the cir- cular economy and oers a rich variety of initiatives and opportu- nities for dialogue every year. It supports international networking between companies targeted at development of an innovative and sustainable business ecosystem. Areas covered included energy, transport, and the recovery and exploitation of raw materials, with a focus on the European Green Deal and the Recovery Fund. The Chief Executive Officer of Acea spoke in the international plenary session on the Green Economy, dedicated to “Global challenges for businesses”.
Acea had a 200 m2 Group stand at the event, where it presented its most recent initiatives. These included a waste-management project called SmartComp, which enables on-site treatment of organic waste for the production of compost. E-mobility and the issue of sustainable management of water resources were featured with the new Waidy Wow app. The stand also presented the Urbees project for biomonitoring of air quality using bees, as well as the development of technologies for sustainable waste management, such as the new Gasiforming technology patented by Acea and developed in collaboration with the Politecnico di Milano university and the Inter-university Consortium for Materials Science and Technology (INSTM), to transform a mix of non-recyclable plastics into green fuels. Specifically, this project is aimed at exploiting plasmix (waste that cannot otherwise be separated from the mechanical sort- ing processes of plastics) through gasification for the production of syngas, a product forming the basis for the majority of organic composts sold by the basic chemicals industry. The zero-impact process enables reuse of all the different plastics currently used for waste-to-energy generation or that go to landfill.
During the event, a memorandum of understanding was signed be- tween Acea Innovation and Ancitel Energia e Ambiente, aimed at the development of innovative projects on behalf of municipalities, public administrations and businesses. This strategic partnership is rooted in the creation of a specialised working group to identify regulatory instruments, opportunities for access to funding and planning actions based on the specific characteristics of local, infrastructural and economic contexts, with the goal of facilitating and accelerating the development of green-energy policies, energy-effciency models, design of technology and implementation proposals aligned with circular-economy models and to promoted their rapid implementation.
Overall at Ecomondo, eight scientific projects were presented, three article were published — included in the documentation for conferences — two round tables were organised by Utilitalia and Enea/Italian Ministry of Economic Development, on the topics of “Laboratories and control of water quality: new challenges” and “Critical raw materials and the new european action Plan: strategies for more secure and sustainable supplies”. In addition, two round tables were organised on research and relationships between businesses and the scientific community (research and technology hubs to face the challenges of the NRRP), with participation of several of the most prestigious Italian universities, and on the topic of delocalisation of waste treatment and the development outlook, with the participation of authoritative figures from the academic world