27 July 2021
The Italian authorities have approved a new gas exploitation project that threatens protected dolphins and turtles in Venice’s iconic gulf.
The gas project would be built at the mouth of the Po Delta, a declared UNESCO World Heritage site – and on the border of an EU marine protected area, known as a Natura 2000 site, which was appointed to create a safe haven for some of Europe’s most important marine wildlife like bottlenose dolphins and loggerhead sea turtles.
So we’re taking action. Working with Legambiente, Lipu-BirdLife Italy, WWF Italy, and Greenpeace Italy, we’re going to try to cancel the Italian authorities’ decision to allow the ‘Teodorico project’ – consisting of a gas platform, wells and pipelines – to be built next to an area specifically meant to protect these precious animals.
“The Italian authorities have an obligation to protect the country’s natural heritage not only because of its historical and economic importance, but because of the crucial role it plays in safeguarding our future.”
According to our lawyers, this project breaches Italian and EU laws. Construction in and around protected areas is forbidden in Italy. At EU level, projects like this must always be subject to intense scrutiny because of the impact they can have on the habitats and wildlife being protected – but in this case, no impact assessments were done.
Italy has pledged to phase out coal by 2025 but approvals like Teodorico call into question the government’s commitment to urgently quit fossil fuels.
Our wildlife and habitats lawyer Francesco Maletto said: “Approving this new gas platform on the border of a protected area, and without even assessing the project’s impact on it, is incomprehensible and a blatant breach of national and EU nature laws.”
In Italy, the project has also been met with public and political outcry from across the political spectrum. A claim has already been filed by the management of the Po Regional Park, nine Municipalities and the Province of Rovigo.
The strong public opposition to this gas project comes amid Italy’s recent decision to ban cruise ships from the Venice Lagoon. That decision was made after UNESCO threatened to put Venice on its endangered list unless Italy made changes to the types of ships docking in the world heritage site.
Concerns have also been raised that the Teodorico project will further increase the risk of the land gradually collapsing, which is already occurring at an alarming rate due to the fossil fuel exploitation already taking place in the region, with former farms submerged.
Tensions are high as countries like Italy move beyond coal but look dangerously like they may turn to gas instead of powering up on renewables. If choices like this are made across Europe, climate goals will not be met.
Francesco added: “Two parallel crises threaten life on Earth: climate change and species loss. Prioritising fossil fuel exploitation over wildlife protection exacerbates both.”