Rome to reverse poor environmental reputation with post-carbon plan | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 01.06.2010
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Rome to reverse poor environmental reputation with post-carbon plan

The mayor of Rome has announced a revolutionary new plan to make the Italian capital the first "post-carbon" city in the world - a place where, by 2030, fossil fuels will be virtually a thing of the past.

St. Peter's Basilica is seen in the background of a solar panel set up on the roof of the Paul VI Hall

Rome will attempt to go green

Gianna Alemanno, the mayor of the Italian capital Rome, has announced a bold new plan to make his city more environmentally sustainable. The so-called Master Plan is also an economic scheme, designed to infuse the ancient city with new clean industries.

With constant traffic congestion, terrible public transportation and hardly any alternative energy in sight, Rome isn't exactly the first city that comes to mind when thinking "green."

It's no wonder a radical new plan to transform the Italian capital into a city of rooftop gardens, solar panels and bikes paths, all circled by a "green ring" of organic agriculture, seems the stuff of fairy tales.

And it would, if it weren't for the 140-page outline put together by the world's leading renewable energy companies and architects, all under the guidance of American economist and environmental visionary Jeremy Rifkin.

It is a plan, as Rifkin points out, that is fully endorsed by Rome's center-right mayor Gianni Alemanno.

"This mayor, this city, has decided to take a risk," says Rifkin. "And I would say it's easy to be skeptical, it's easy to be cynical, it's easy to say we won't do this, it's easy to say everyone will fight with each other. But what's more difficult is for the citizens of Rome and the citizens on this planet to realize we are in deep trouble."

Energy, money savings

An aerial view of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Millions flock to Rome every year to see its many ancient sights

The plan outlines an investment of billions of euros over the coming 20 years. Much of the money, the mayor hopes, will come from private investment. But a lot will also come from the city.

Rome currently spends about one-fifth of its gross domestic product (GDP) of 26 billion euros annually investing in things like schools and infrastructure. Starting next year, it will allocate 1.3 percent of GDP - about 500 million euros a year - into renewable energy and greening the city.

The energy savings, says Rifkin, will more than make up for the investment, at about 800 million euros a year.

In 10 years, Rome plans to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent, in line with European Union targets. But by 2030, Rome wants carbon levels down by 46 percent, way ahead of the EU curve.

The 'three circles'

A key factor in reaching that goal, says Rifkin, is to treat Rome's "three circles" - its downtown core, the light industry around it and the agricultural area that surrounds the whole city - as a unique biosphere.

"We now envision Rome as these three circles making up their bio-sphere, and what we envision is an integrated, seamless relationship between these circles so that Rome can be as self-sufficient as possible within the biosphere that makes up its limits," Rifkin says.

Romans line up at a tram line in southwestern Rome

The various areas of Rome will be treated as a single biosphere

Mayor Alemanno says, after decades of environmental neglect in Rome, he has no choice but to adhere to Rifkin's plan. He says if Rome is going to compete world-wide, it needs to clean up its act.

"When Italy lost the chance to host the European (soccer) Championships for 2016, one of the main reasons the committee cited was the limited economic sustainability," Alemanno says. "So if Rome wants to host the Olympics, we have to hugely improve our sustainability."

Rifkin says key to the success of the plan is getting citizens involved in a local, active way.

"We want all the neighborhoods involved, we want all the businesses involved. We want the entire city of Rome engaged. This is a city-wide process," he says. "My hope is that Rome will set the pace and that with this flagship, the European Union will become the lighthouse for the rest of the world to create a biosphere era."

Author: Megan Williams, Rome (dfm)

Editor: Michael Lawton

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