The energy transition at the first Road to Trento conference held at USI

Institutional Communication Service

Università della Svizzera italiana hosted the first international conference of the Trento Festival of Economics on Monday, 6 February. The "Road to Trento 2023" initiative, devised by Il Sole 24 Ore in collaboration with Italian diplomatic offices worldwide, will land next in San Francisco, Abu Dhabi and Johannesburg. 

The conference "Ecological transition between digital finance and the energy challenge" is part of the Trento Festival of Economics' growth strategy, as explained by the director of Il Sole 24 Ore Fabio Tamburini.   

The event started with greetings from Monica Duca Widmer, President of the USI Council, who emphasised the close economic, cultural and academic ties between Italy and Switzerland. It is necessary to stand united, continued Duca Widmer, quoting Goethe, not to stand together, but to do something together. The importance of international cooperation was also emphasised by Silvio Mignano, Italian Ambassador to Switzerland, and Michele Coduri, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Switzerland in Rome. On the other hand, the Mayor of Lugano, Michele Foletti, recalled the importance of urban centres as drivers for innovation, citing the Lugano Living Lab project, developed in collaboration with USI, and Plan B for the development of cryptocurrencies. 

The digitalisation of the financial sector was indeed one of the main themes of the encounter. As Barbara Antonioli Mantegazzini, vice-director of the Institute of Economic Research (IRE) at USI, emphasised in her speech, the 2050 goal of climate neutrality requires a strong commitment from governments, supranational bodies and private individuals, and also a commitment from the financial sector, which must embrace the sustainable development goals laid out by the UN. Also, because of the delays, the ecological transition will entail high costs that will affect specific sectors of the economy and sections of the population more. "There will be those who will pay more, but solidarity funds are already in place to reduce these disparities," Professor Antonioli Mantegazzini concluded. 

The banking sector, explained Banca del Ceresio's General Manager Gabriele Corte, can contribute first by reducing the environmental impact of internal procedures through digitisation; banks can channel private financing towards sustainable investments. This, added Corriere del Ticino's economics editor-in-chief Generoso Chiaradonna, is an opportunity for the Swiss financial centre to rethink itself from the sustainability perspective. A revamping of the banking sector that, according to Massimo Morini, Chief Economist Algorand and lecturer at USI Faculty of Economics, could look to cryptocurrencies. 

Energy, from renewables to the unexpected return of coal and the uncertain future of nuclear fission, was the focus of the second part of the meeting. Stefano Battiston (University of Zurich) and Ambrogio Fasoli (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne) emphasised the importance of technological innovations finding the proper support from the public and investors. Massimo Filippini, Professor at the Faculty of Economics at USI and Director of the Centre for Energy Policy and Economics at ETH Zurich, emphasised the need to accelerate the energy transition from the current energy system based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable sources. He stated that this transition would allow us to no longer depend on oil and gas-producing countries, improve air quality, help save the planet from climate change, and create and develop a green industry. An innovative energy policy based on market tools (taxes and subsidies) and regulatory tools (standards, bans) will be needed to achieve this goal. The latter, concluded Professor Filippini, are especially important in the presence of consumers and companies that do not act rationally, underestimating the private economic and societal benefits of investments in energy efficiency and renewables. 

Maurizio Bona, Vice-Chair International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development, emphasised the importance of science and technology in facilitating international collaborations and called for the creation of a CERN for the climate. Ilaria Espa, assistant professor at the Law Institute of the Faculty of Economics, pointed out the challenges of achieving ambitious results in international climate negotiations due to the growing conflict between countries (industrialised and developing) with very different technical and financial means. The Paris Climate Agreement is the first step, introducing the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.