Sustainable Tourism Key to Island Development

Green tourism is a potent opportunity for the many small islands dotted around the Italian peninsula that could have positive effects on economic development, society and the environment. That’s the message from the 3rd Italian edition of the “Greening the Islands” conference, held last week in Rome in collaboration with Italy’s association of small island municipalities (ANCIM).

According to the Observatory on Tourism for Islands Economy (OTIE), sustainable tourism is necessary for the survival of islands because, if the right policies are put in place, it can reduce the stresses placed by excessive visitor numbers and at the same time increase revenues for island economies.

Vilma Moronese, chair of the environment committee of the Italian senate, told the conference that €170 million  are due to be provided over six years to fund projects protecting and enhancing the country’s small islands. Moronese presented a framework law on small islands that has been approved by the Senate and is now being examined by the lower house of parliament.

The conference also saw the launch of the Charter of Rome, initiated by ANCIM and Greening the Islands to create a single economic development area including islands around the Mediterranean, a step that would facilitate co-operation and access to European funds.

“Greening Islands will work with its network of islands to encourage other such areas around Europe, which could join together to represent the ‘state’ of European islands,” said Gianni Chianetta, scientific director of Greening the Islands. “There are 25 million people living on Europe’s 2,500 islands and they should have a stronger voice in EU decisions, and as well as at global level.”

During the event, George Kremlis, Wioletta Dunin-Majewska and Helmut Morsi from the European Commission’s directorates-general for the environment, energy and transport respectively presented new financing programmes specifically targeted at islands. The Horizon 2020 project has earmarked 150 million euros by 2020 to support the development of renewable energy projects on islands, including through the European Islands Facility. For transport, the 2019 Work Programme provides similar levels of financing to help connect remote locations.

Turning back to Italy, the energy regulator (Arera) and state-owned energy markets operator GSE presented for the first time in public new regulations (2018 558/2018/R/efr) incentivising the production of power and heat from renewable sources on islands that are not connected to the national grid. The new rules switch incentives from fossil fuels to renewables, highlighting how the regulation has been drawn up bearing in mind the specific situation of non-connected islands.

The conference also heard an update from the two-day meeting of the Greening the Islands Observatory, which looked into the first projects that are planned in the energy, water and mobility sectors in the islands that have joined the initiative (the Egadi archipelago in Italy, Crete and Borocay in the Philippines).

The proposed projects include: the introduction of an integrated system for a smart island by Enel X, smart grids by Terna Energy Solutions, electric car sharing by Axpo, and the latest efficiency systems for water networks by Hitachi. The next meeting, due in the first quarter of 2019 in the target islands, will serve to include local stakeholders in the plans.

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