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Basic information

Year of approval of the
SD strategy and updates

The Environmental Action Strategy for Sustainable Development in Italy (NSDS) was developed by the Ministry of the Environment, Land and Sea, in accordance with the 6th Environmental Action Plan and the guidelines of Barcelona 2002 European Council.

The NSDS was approved by the Inter-ministerial Committee for Economic Planning (CIPE) on 2nd August 2002 (CIPE Deliberation n. 57 of 2nd August 2002 (available in Italian only).

CIPE is an Inter-ministerial body responsible for coordination and horizontal integration of national economic policies. The Inter-Ministerial nature of the CIPE allowed every social-economic development to be framed in the sustainability context as identified by the NSDS, causing a double effect: on one hand, the integration of the environmental concerns in the decision-making processes; on the other hand, the increasing co-ordination among the three pillars of development.

In 2015 a working group has been established inside the Ministry of the Environment, Land and Sea, in order to start the review process of the Strategy and to build up strategies among all the institutions involved. The review of the Strategy is also included in the legislative proposal on environmental protection and green economy linked to the 2014 Stability Law, currently under discussion at the Parliament.

Type of SD strategy

NSDS highlighted the environmental dimension of SD, so as to allow for its mainstreaming into sector policies.

Lead ministry/institution in
the SD strategy process

Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea

Link to the SD strategy

'Strategia d'azione ambientale per lo Sviluppo Sostenibile' (2002) (in Italian)

Further information about
the SD strategy process

The NSSD focused mainly on environmental matters. The driving element for sustainability and for the definition of targets was essentially the achievement of a decoupling between economic growth and pressure on the use of natural resources and on the environment, especially in agriculture, power and transport sectors. Specific indicators for use of material, soil, energy, water, resources, and waste production per units of economic wealth were foreseen as a measure of outcomes achieved. The NSSD contained four broad priority themes, in line with the EU 6th  Environmental Action Plan.


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National Implementation of 2030 Agenda for SD



In Italy, the National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) represents the main framework for the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The adoption of Law 221/2015 (Provisions to promote measures on Green economy and to limit the extensive use of natural resources) committed the Italian Ministry of Environment  to take proper actions and measures in different fields related to green economy and sustainable development. Article 3 of the same Law provides for the revision, every three years, of the NSDS. This recent law can contribute to depict a new pathway for the mainstreaming of sustainable development into national policies and programs. In particular, the renewed strategy for sustainable development aims at providing general guidelines to inform policies, programs and actions towards sustainable development and at meeting the challenges of the new global internationally agreed goals.


The NSDS, in line with Agenda 2030, is structured in five areas: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership. Each area consists of a system of strategic choices: priority areas of action that are declined in national strategic goals. The NSDS integrates both the domestic and external dimensions of Agenda 2030. In particular, the Area “Partnership” includes the thematic, sectoral and geographical priorities for development cooperation and provides the framework for financial resources, in line with the Italian Cooperation's three-year Programming Document (approved every year by the Council of Ministers, Law 125/2014).


To ensure a sound basis to the Strategy, and, at the same time, to track SDGs’s implementation status, a mapping exercise has been developed, to assess where  Italy stands in relation to each goal and target of Agenda 2030 and to identify the key implementation challenges to be faced and the gaps to be bridged. Such challenges have been the basis on which the strategic goals have been mainly set.


The Ministry of Environment has led the process for the elaboration of the NSDS, adopting an integrated, balanced and inclusive approach, in line with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030, to ensure consistency among different policies and an effective process of implementation. Indeed, a wide multi-level consultation process has been developed, it involves: all the Ministries, all the Regions and other relevant institutional actors; research institutions (among them CNR, ISPRA, ENEA, ISTAT); other important research and scientific body (more than 200 including universities, companies or scientific associations); NGOs (about 200); civil society.


The structure of the system of implementation and monitoring of NSDS and its institutional governance has now been drafted in preliminary methodological lines. Being an essential part of the strategy, the Ministry for Environment is now working in order to define and share it within the instrument of approval of NSDS. Regions are expected to be fully engaged in the declination of NSDS contents at their own territorial level.


The National Strategy for sustainable development can represent a crucial contribution for monitoring the achievements of the goals and ensuring the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development. Following this approach, Italy submitted its candidature for the second round of Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) to be held during the 5th session of the High Level Political Forum in July 2017.




Leading Ministry and
respective unit


Ministry of the Environment

Other ministries involved


All Italian Ministries

Main contact point for the
implementation process



Giovanni Brunelli

Director - Division I

Directorate General for Sustainable Development, Environmental Damage, European Union and International Affairs



Links to main websites/
documents on national
implementation of the
2030 Agenda and SDGs

Voluntary National Reviews


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Mechanisms of Vertical Integration

National — sub-national linkages

Overall co-ordination of policies at the national and subnational levels is ensured through a system of “permanent conferences”. The State-Regions Conference allows regional governments to discuss issues related to the transfer of functions from the centre, while the State-Local Authorities Conference discusses relations between state and metropolitan areas, municipalities and small communities.  The Unified Conference brings together the two conferences on issues pertinent to implementation of the 2001 reform of the Italian Constitution. A number of environmental projects have been undertaken within the conference system, such as a programme for co-financing regional environmental education, information and training programmes. In parallel, the horizontal Conference of the Regions and Autonomous Provinces meets regularly and frequently discuss environment-related issues of mutual interest.

In the field of environment and sustainable development, the Italian Network of Environmental Agencies, which comprises the ISPRA (Institute for environmental protection and research) and all regional environment agencies, promotes implementation of national objectives at the regional level and development of harmonised methodological and operational guidance.  A separate National Network of the Environmental Authorities and the Programming Authorities of the Community Structural Funds provides ongoing assistance to southern regions which benefit from the EU funding.  The National Observatory for Organization and Management of regional agencies (ONOG) was established to prepare management and technical studies and guidelines on funding and management. These co-operation mechanisms were effective, but after an intensive period in the early 2000s, their activities slowed down and the ONOG’s work was discontinued.

EU linkages

The renewed EU Strategy for Sustainable Development (EU SDS) that was adopted in June 2006 foresees that Member States bi-annually report about how they address the priorities of the EU SDS. Italy has published its first national report on implementing the EU SDS in June 2007.


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Mechanisms of Horizontal Integration

The Ministry of the Environment, Land and Sea is the main governmental body in charge of regulations, co-ordination and control related to environmental management. In 2006, the Ministry acquired new responsibilities for the protection of marine waters, and in 2009 its structure was streamlined by establishing five core directorates. 

A number of specialised agencies provide support to the Ministry, including the Italian environmental agency (ISPRA), the Department of the Marine Environment of the Italian Coast Guard (RAM), the Carabinieri Corps for Eenvironmental Pprotection (CCTA), an environmental unit of the national military police (Carabinieri) at the disposal of the Ministry, and the State Forestry Corps (CFS), an autonomous unit of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

From a broader point of view, the search for horizontal integration and coherence through integrated environmental policies was one of the most explicit aims of the NSDS. Within this framework, in these latest years, consistently with the EU's Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, actions for environment and sustainability through scientific research have been enhanced, in order to promote lifestyles and technological innovations for sustainable development.

The Inter-ministerial Committee for European Community Affairs (Comitato interministeriale per gli affari comunitari europei, CIACE), a form of the “European Affairs Cabinet”, as well as the National Council for Economy and Labour (Consiglio Nazionale dell'Economia e del Lavoro, CNEL), an advisory body to the government, Parliament and the regions, have become important fora for discussing environmental sustainability.

Interdepartmental co-ordination is also carried out through task forces and steering committees, such as the Steering Committee for preparing the National Action Plan for Green Public Procurement and the inter-ministerial Technical Committee for Emissions of GHGs.


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Evaluation and Review

In this last decade the Strategy has been implemented mostly through sector activities. In this regard, Italy has promoted over 300 projects of (i) Local Agenda 21; (ii) sustainable development in the depressed areas of Southern Italy; (iii) promotion of environmental certification for small and medium enterprises; (iv) promotion of programme agreements with industries for the creation of low emission systems and technologies with a high environmental and energetic efficiency; (v) research and development aimed at experimenting innovative systems for the production and exploitation of energy by means of renewable sources and hydrogen and of highly efficient technologies for the distributed generation of electricity, heat and cold; (vi) participation of scientific institutions and universities in research programmes, both European and international, for the protection and understanding of global environment.

Along with the provisions of the NSDS, the EU SDS and the EU2020 Strategy, Italy has also given great relevance to the implementation of some specific topics related to sustainable development, and namely the green public procurement (GPP) and the consumption and production patterns (SCP). To this end, a National Action Plan for the environmental sustainability of consumption in the public administration sector was issued.
The National Action Plan, adopted in 2008, sets out the general framework and encourages national and local authorities to adopt a GPP approach. It foresees, as a main national target, that at least 30% of goods purchased by the PAs shall comply with ecological criteria, and at least 30-40% shall have reduced electricity consumption. Public authorities are allowed to include “minimum environmental criteria” in the calls for tenders for goods or services listed in the Plan (e.g. paper for printers, furniture for offices, electrical devices, food services, vehicles….).
Through Ministerial Decree of 6 June 2012 Public authorities were recently provided also with operational instructions and guidelines to take account of social criteria in the definition of tenders for goods and services and for the execution of works.
Social criteria are aimed at promoting the implementation along all the supply chain of social standards relating to fundamental human rights and working conditions, such as social protection floor, minimum wage, the protection of children from child labor.

The private sector has also been stimulated to conduct responsible business through the guidelines foreseen in the National Action Plan for Corporate Social Responsibility, developed by the Ministry of Economic development and Ministry of Labour in compliance with the European Comission Communication 681 (2001) ‘A renewed EU strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility’ :

The main commitment on sustainable development policy in Italy for future years is to ensure that sector policies are consistent and coherent and not undermined by other policies. Improving policy coherence and integration for the pursuit of the goal of sustainable development requires specific attention to governance practices, drawing attention to the main obstacles to be overcome at domestic level in order to address the institutional challenges raised by the pursuit of shared objectives.

To develop national policies and measures aimed at sustainable growth, while at the same time cutting public expenditure and invert public debt trend will be a big challenge.

In order to achieve this goal, some actions have been already put in place. The CIPE has recently approved the updated National Action Plan for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The new Plan foresees to continue the process of de-carbonisation of the economy of the country through actions to support the green economy, consistently with the new National Energy Strategy.

Among the measures proposed, the extension of tax deduction for energy efficiency in buildings, the extension until 2020 of white certificates for energy savings, the promotion of renewable energy sources, the green technologies database and the refinancing of the revolving of Kyoto fund are the most relevant ones.


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Indicators and Monitoring

The Italian NSDS in general terms provided a set of 150 indicators directly linked to the priorities and key issues outlined in the Strategy itself. Additionally, the key environmental indicators set by Barcelona’s European Council in 2002 were included in the document. The National Statistical Institute (ISTAT) and the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) took part in the international Working Group on Sustainable Development Indicators (SDI) in the framework of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy (Eurostat) .

Besides that, the ‘Environmental data Yearbook’ issued yearly by the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) is the national information reference in the Country on environment and sustainable development.

The ‘Environmental data Yearbook’ includes many works: an unabridged version (containing all information forms filled out during the year, organised by production sectors, environmental conditions and responses), ‘Key Topics’ (including a piece of information relevant to the priority environmental issues, subject matters of prevention and recovery intervention), ‘vademecum’ (a pocket handbook, including a short synthesis of ‘Key Topics’ evaluation), Multimedia version and the Yearbook Database (an instrument designed for consultation of the indicator fact sheets and the production of reports). This tool, which has been implemented to streamline and improve the processing of the data and metadata, allows users to search the available indicators and to access, if needed, other information not contained in the final version of the Yearbook or contained in past editions.

In the framework of the international activities on indicators complementing GDP, ISTAT and CNEL have established in 2011 a Steering Committee and a Scientific Commission in charge of identifying a common set of indicators for broader measure of progress. The Steering Committee - composed by representatives of civil society - has identified 12 dimensions of well-being relevant to the country. The Scientific Commission then selected 134 high-quality statistical indicators appropriate to measure the domains identified by the Committee. Extended consultations with public opinion (through on-line surveys) have also been carried out. The first comprehensive report of this work, aimed at the definition of the Indicators for an equitable and sustainable well-being (‘benessere equo e sostenibile’ - BES) has been issued in March 2013


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In 2002 the drafting of the Strategy has seen the adoption of a thoroughly new approach, allowing for a better sharing of the draft document among the main actors involved in the implementation and to ensure a highly integrated vision of priorities. Both central and regional administrations, local authorities, non-governmental environmental and consumers associations, industry and business organizations and trade unions representatives reviewed the draft document. The consultation round was carried out during 14 meetings, involving more than 140 authorities and organizations.

In 2007, within the process of elaboration of the first National Report to the EU Sustainable Development Strategy, a strong co-ordination mechanism among central Administrations and Regions was set up, chaired by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers – Inter-Ministerial Committee for Community Affairs (CIACE) in collaboration with the Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea.

In both cases previously mentioned, a relevant consultation process on sustainable development took place, contributing to develop processes of participation that allowed for the voluntary involvement of citizens, local administrators and the business sectors, and encouraging participation in managing environment and following sustainable development principles in line with the Aarhus Convention.

In 2012, in the run up to the UNCSD Conference (Rio+20), two big events open to civil society were organized. These events aimed at defining a common framework, structured and useful at the national level to address not only the preparatory process for the Rio +20 Conference but also the longer-term sustainable development policy in Italy in view of the major international commitments.


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Sub-national activities

According with the 2005 Reform of Italian Constitution, some competences in the environment field have been transferred from national to regional and local levels. The national level is competent for the definition of environmental quality objectives and the general criteria for sector environmental policies. Regions are responsible for strategic planning and provinces and municipalities for control and implementation of plans and programs.

Some Regions have adopted during the last few years Regional Strategies aiming at building an overarching framework for their policies and be coherent with European and national level.

At a lower level, in the view of principle of subsidiarity, municipalities are recognised as the direct target of EU policies for urban sustainability and the importance of programmes for urban sustainability has been raised during the last few years.

The role of local governments has been enhanced and promoted also through the provisions of the NSDS, by empowering local authorities to play a more effective role in local sustainable development and providing support for programs and partnerships to deliver more effective sustainable development outcomes.

Regional and local administrations play an important role in environmental management. Not only do these administrations issue permits that adapt (in a regional context) objectives determined through national legislation, as well as monitoring environmental performance, but they also define environmental priorities for environmental action, introduce specific policy instruments, carry out investment programmes, and respond to non-compliance. The provinces take part in all regional plans, such as those on waste, air and noise pollution. An elaborate system of regional environmental agencies supports subnational administration. This system includes 19 regional environmental protection agencies (ARPAs) and two provincial environmental agencies for the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano (APPAs). These agencies carry out planning and regulatory activities, as well as monitoring and inspections, on behalf of both levels of local administration (provinces, municipalities) and local offices of health authorities.


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This Country Profile has been last updated on: Monday, 30 October 2017

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