At UN headquarters in NYC, the 31st meeting on the General Debate of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) continued this past Monday. Amongst the many distinguished speakers was the Italian Minister of the Environment and the Protection of the Territory and the Sea, Sergio Costa.
It was a pleasant surprise to hear the Italian Minister of Environment address the urgency behind climate change. As the current Italian administration, formally under Premier Giuseppe Conte, but with Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini in charge of much of the Foreign Policy agenda, mirrors all of US President Trump’s rhetoric, who thought the Environment Minister would acknowledge that climate change is not only a real issue, but also a critical one that deserves immediate attention. The current, radical right-wing part of the administration under Deputy Prime Minister Salvini has continuously spewed misinformation about migrants, and pushed a ‘sovereignty agenda’ like his American counterpart. So, to hear the Italian Minister of the Environment acknowledge the truth behind climate change, while President Trump denies its entire existence, was, to say the least, refreshing.
Minister Costa’s speech was relatively proactive on the current agenda that the Italian government has in place to address the pressing issues facing the world while simultaneously working with the goals of the Sustainable Development Agenda for 2030. Some of the key points the Minister of the Environment covered included climate change, access to water, reduction in emissions, electricity and clean energy, and education.
For the first time under Salvini’s populist administration, Italy sounded like its former self, one that wholeheartedly supported multilateralism, instead of the current one imitating Trump’s policy of sovereignty. However, it is possible that this was the one issue that the Italian administration knew it couldn’t deceive the Italian people on, considering their success in spouting propaganda on other subjects, such as migration.
Whatever the reason may be, the Minister of the Environment’s speech was straightforward in addressing the urgent need to take action in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, with climate change at the forefront. Costa stated that he supported the current Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres’, message on climate change. It seemed that he tackled most of the goals that were outlined in the Forum’s agenda, from sustainability to accessibility and education. This is certainly one speech from Italy in the recent months that I can get behind.