On Dec. 28, 2022, the updated draft of the National Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change – PNACC was published on the website of the Ministry of Environment and Energy Security (MASE), and on Feb. 16, 2023, the public consultation under the procedure of (Strategic Environmental Assessment, SEA) opened. The consultation allows citizens, communities, and all public and private stakeholders to contribute comments to the drafting of the Plan. The consultation lasted for 45 days (deadline April 14), and currently, the Plan is being evaluated by the SEA Commission.

SEA is a procedure applied to plans and programs that may have impacts on the natural environment, such as land-use plans. It aims to ensure environmental protection and verify that, in the preparation and adoption, these plans and programs are consistent, contribute to sustainable development and avoid negative environmental impacts.

The process for establishing an adaptation plan began in 2015 when the National Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (SNAC) was adopted, but since 2017, with the submission of the draft PNACC by the Ministry of Environment, the process has continued at a slow pace. In 2018, the Ministry deemed that the Plan should be submitted for SEA, but the scoping process was not completed until 2020. After the scoping phase and following the European Commission’s presentation of the new Adaptation Strategy for EU countries, in 2022 the then Ministry of Ecological Transition, set up a special working group in collaboration with the Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale (ISPRA) to rework the Plan in light of the comments posed by the Technical Commission for Environmental Impact Verification and to make it consistent with the new European directives. 


The PNACC is a national planning tool that identifies the potential impacts of climate change on the territory and directs institutions (national, regional and local) in the implementation of adaptation actions that are effective with respect to the specificities of the context where they fit, to minimize impacts and improve the adaptive capacity of natural, social and economic systems.

The PNACC is organized into 5 chapters: i) legal framework, ii) national climate framework, iii) climate change impacts in Italy, iv) adaptation measures and actions, and v) adaptation governance.

The climate framework shows an analysis of the climate for a reference period 1981-2010 and projections for a 30-year mid-century period 2036-2065 according to three scenarios defined by the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, RCP 2.6, 4.5 and 8.5, i.e. the scenario with strong mitigation, an intermediate scenario and the business-as-usual scenario. Climate variations are described using 25 climate indicators, including cumulative precipitation (seasonal and annual), mean temperature, drought indices, daily precipitation maxima, and the warm spell duration index.

The Plan focuses on land, marine and coastal variations and assesses the most relevant impacts on the environmental systems and socio-economic sectors most vulnerable to these climate variations. It assesses, for example, impacts on the cryosphere and the availability of water resources, with consequences on hydrogeological risk and soil deterioration, as well as on marine, terrestrial, coastal, and inland water ecosystems (lakes and rivers). It then goes into detail about the consequent impacts on the agricultural and fishing sectors, tourism, and industry.

The sectors covered by the PNACC are 19: transport, energy, water resources, agriculture, forestry, marine fisheries, aquaculture, geological, hydrological and hydraulic disruption, inland and transitional water ecosystems, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, urban settlements, cultural heritage, health, tourism and socio-economic impacts.

Adaptation concerns both infrastructural measures, such as the construction of lamination basins to store water during flood events or defence works against sea level rise, and behavioural changes of individual citizens, such as changing their diet towards foods that require less water consumption.

In the PNACC, measures are planned at three levels:

  • soft: policy, legal, social, management and financial measures that can change lifestyles and increase awareness of the potential impacts of climate change and appropriate behaviour. They fall into the categories of governance and information and are aimed at administrative, technical, institutional, and legislative strengthening.
  • green: nature-based measures that use the ecosystem services provided by natural environments to improve the resilience of territories.
  • grey: infrastructural and technological measures that make buildings, facilities, infrastructures, networks, and territories more resilient.

361 sectoral adaptation actions were identified and collected in a database, which were given a value rating (low, medium, medium-high, and high) with respect to the following criteria. 

  • efficiency (cost-benefit assessment) 
  • effectiveness, 
  • second-order effects (positive such as the creation of new jobs, or negative),
  • performance in the presence of uncertainty (flexibility, i.e. the ability to adapt cost-effectively to different contexts, and robustness, i.e. the ability to be effective in different contexts), 
  • policy implementation (multidimensionality of the measure, institutional viability and urgency). 

As adaptation is necessarily local and specific according to the characteristics of the territory, the value of actions varies according to the geographical and socio-economic context, the different climate scenarios and the risks considered.

Soft actions account for 76% of the total, green measures for 13% and grey measures for 11%. Agriculture, urban settlements, forests, and water resources are the most significant nodes for effective adaptation, since the actions developed in these sectors manage to involve the largest number of other sectors. The Mediterranean area and the Alpine arc are hot spots for climate change, so Italy is particularly vulnerable. Moreover, a large part of its territory is subject to various natural hazards (hydrogeological instability, flooding danger, coastal erosion) that could be amplified in the future due to climate change. 29.5 per cent of the national territory is subject to hydraulic hazard (high, medium, and low) and 20 per cent are landslide hazard or attention areas (report on hydrogeological instability in Italy, 2021 edition, ISPRA). For example, the potential increase in the intensity and frequency of intense precipitation events and the rise in sea level, also highlighted by the latest IPCC report, may respectively contribute to an increase in the above-mentioned hazards. It is essential, therefore, that Italy begins to invest in adaptation plans and actions, as envisaged by the objectives set by the Paris Agreement.

Article by Francesca Casale, Volunteer Section Coordinator Italian Climate Network

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