The issue of climate change and environmental awareness has grown increasingly prominent in Western countries' debates, particularly in Italy. The Chamber of Deputies recently enacted a constitutional change that makes environmental, biodiversity, and ecosystem protection an intrinsic aspect of the constitutional framework - following years of parliamentary deliberation. The Chamber of Deputies formally accepted on February 8, 2022, a draft bill on constitutional revision that had already been passed by the Senate (with double discussions in a second deliberation with a two-thirds majority of its members). The DDL's parliamentary procedure is then completed, and the text will be published in the Official Journal after being promulgated by the President of the Republic.
In a nutshell, art. 9 has a new paragraph that, in its current form, refers to landscape, historical and artistic heritage without specifically referencing the environment. The revision stipulates "conservation of the environment, biodiversity, and ecosystems, including in the interests of future generations" as one of the Constitutional Charter's essential values. In addition, the legislator is referred to establish ways and means of animal protection. Finally, in the case of private initiative, the current regulation (Art. 41 Cost.) is completed with the requirement that no activity should be conducted in a manner that is harmful to either human health or the environment.
The bill that was passed calls for a constitutional amendment, and only a statute adopted by each Chamber, with two consecutive deliberations at intervals of not less than three months, can bring about such change. Then, in the second vote, an absolute majority of the members of each Chamber is required (art. 138 c. 1 Cost.). At the matter, the Senate passed a reform on June 9, 2021, and the Chamber passed on another on October 12, 2021; the Senate passed, again, on November 3, 2021, followed by the latter, on February 8, 2022. As a result, the draft for the constitutional change was implemented with no need for a referendum. The bill was divided into three sections: the first adds a new paragraph to Art. 9 Cost; the second adds a new paragraph to Art. 9 Cost; and the last adds a new paragraph to Art. 9 Cost. The second amends the expense of art. 41, while the third adds a safeguard clause for the application of the animal protection principle.
The draft bill is to amend two articles of the Constitution, the 9th and 41st. One of the fundamental principles is Art. 9 Cost, which now consists of two paragraphs. The reform adds a new paragraph declaring that the Italian Republic will foster the development of culture, science, and technology, as well as landscape and historical and artistic heritage preservation. It is also emphasized that environmental, biodiversity, and ecosystem conservation, in addition of methods and forms of animal protection, must be regulated in the interests of future generations. Instead, art. 41 Cost. is contained in title III, named "economic relations," in the section devoted to "citizens' rights and duties." The said article is currently consisted of three paragraphs, and the reform calls for the addition of some "engraved" ones, which are bolded here. To begin with, it is said that private economic initiative is unrestricted; however, it cannot be pursued in violation of societal utility or in a manner that jeopardizes public health, the environment, security, freedom, or human dignity. Finally, the law establishes the appropriate programs and controls for directing and coordinating public and private economic activity for social and environmental reasons.
The original version of art. 9 Cost. mentions landscape, historical and aesthetic heritage preservation. The environment is not specifically mentioned in the Constitutional Charter, except on subjects of exclusive state competence (art. 117 c. 2 lit. s) of the Constitution, which provides for "environmental, ecological, and cultural heritage protection." With the revision to Article 9 Cost., the draft has, now, a broader reach as it directly affects the environment, ecosystem, and biodiversity. The reform rationale is to treat the environment as a constitutionally protected primary value rather than a commodity. Furthermore, protection is intended at future generations and is a completely novel constitutional formulation. This change complies with European regulations (the Charter of Nice addresses environmental protection in the arts): "A high level of environmental protection and quality improvement must be integrated into Union policies and ensured in accordance with the sustainable development philosophy." In addition, Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union establishes Community environmental policy by outlining the objectives to be met.
In addition, For the first time, there's reference to animals in the Constitution. Always within art. 9, the draft law provides for a legal reservation, establishing that the legislator defines the forms and ways for protection. This is a noteworthy novelty that follows the direction of European legislation; in fact, the art. Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU states that the Union and the Member States must pay full attention to the needs of animals, since they are sentient beings, always respecting the administrative and legislative measures of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage. The importance of this rule lies in recognizing the dignity of animals, which are no longer regarded as things. The reform adds two new constraints to the already existing ones that govern the scope of private economic initiative. It must not jeopardize human health and the environment, as well as safety, liberty, and dignity. The first two limits are placed ahead of the others, putting into effect the new article 9 of the Constitution, which mentions environmental protection as a primary value to be safeguarded. Furthermore, the objective of directing and coordinating public and private economic activities is not only social, but also environmental.
Based on this research, it appears that Italy is on the correct track to conserve the environment in all of its manifestations. It is enough to say that Italy has the highest number of infringement procedures and violations of European environmental and climate legislation. Will this constitutional reform prove to be a watershed moment? It is hoped that this would serve as a catalyst for future legislative action.
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The two sides of the environment: destruction against protection [Image] - Wix.com
The Italian Chamber of Deputies in the debate [Photo] - Euronews. https://newseu.cgtn.com/news/2022-02-10/Ecological-and-biodiversity-protection-added-to-Italy-s-constitution-17wkCvdfGrm/index.html
Italy's vineyard extent, as well as the country's environmental legacy [Photo] - GoNexus Project. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/italy-makes-protecting-environment-part-constitution-2022-02-08/.