The environment in the Constitution: from principles to formal rules

The environment in the Constitution: from principles to formal rules

Last week, Italy became the 5th country in the world to include the words “environment, biodiversity and ecosystems” in its Constitution. Despite some other Nations have already implemented some more radical principles in their constitutions (such as Bolivia and Ecuador, which openly talk about “right of nature”), this initiative entails a big step towards building a more sustainable economy.

The Constitution now explicitly declares that the State has to play an active role in preserving the environment, ecosystems, biodiversity “in the interest of future generations”. At the same time, the constitution draws new limits to the right of free enterprise. In Article 41, free enterprise rights are granted; however, companies should operate without harming the environment and public health (as well as safety and freedom, and workers’ dignity).

According to Rossella Muroni, one of the main voices of the ecologist movement in the Italian Parlament, this is a “historical achievement”, and it gives the State the possibility of “guiding and coordinating economic activities not only for social goals but also for environmental ones”.

As some of the principles that are included in the Constitution have not been always followed by legislation and day-to-day policy, questions are now being raised about future legislation which might be inspired by this initiative. Environmental protection organisations expect some change to existing rules and laws to make sure the new investments coming from the European Union Recovery Fund will improve the Italian economy, defending at the same time its natural beauties which include coastline, mountains, and very rich biodiversity.