Invisible cities: from Calvino to sustainability


In the United Nations building, some seemed genuinely united in agreement on one point: “sustainability is not philanthropy, it is responsibility, it is business, but above all, it is our survival.”

The point was made loud and clear on Friday by Enel president, Patrizia Grieco at the conclusion of the morning session on the topic “Sustainable Energy for a better World”, a meeting requested by Enel to share important experiences concerning what is being done and what remains to be done in order to fulfill the dream of a greener planet through the transition to sources of energy that are renewable and sustainable.

Three intense hours, without pause, in which the representatives of many nations, came together in a hall inside the UN headquarters in New York to declare agreement on the fact that the road ahead towards global sustainability has been plotted and following this route is not just an option, but an obligation.

Among the participants were: Enel CEO Francesco Starace; Enel President Patrizia Grieco; the head of the new division Global e-Solutions Francesco Venturini; the CEO of Formula E Alejandro Agag; the Energy Minister of Chile (a country that aims to produce 70% of its energy from renewable sources by 2050) Andrés Rebolledo; the Special Representative of the Secretary of the United Nations for Sustainable Energy and CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, Rachel Kyte (SEforAll), in addition to permanent UN Representatives from Italy and Chile. According to Lise Kingo, CEO of UN Global Compact, all of the participants are key players in “the first generation capable of eradicating poverty and the last that can halt climate change.”

For the United Nations, the road to sustainability passes through 17 points (the SDGs), a sort of inverted (but no less arduous) Via Crucis that at its conclusion does not lead to death but, rather, rebirth: the rebirth of a new, clean planet with respect for the environment in which everyone can live, but also, in a certain sense, the rebirth of the human race.

Of those 17 SDGs, Enel has made specific commitments with regard to four in order to, in the words of Starace, “construct a genuine system around the word sustainability.” “Our company wants to contribute to providing access to energy to a billion people who do not have it. Our aim,” he continues, “ is to bring energy to three million people by 2020, and we have already reached 1.2 million. Furthermore, we want to achieve the complete decarbonization of the company by 2050 and this is a goal that we could well achieve in advance. Finally we want to bring education to places where there is none, because without it, the development of society and the conditions to access sustainable jobs would be impossible.”

This plan has led Rachel Kyte to describe Enel as “the extraordinary example of a giant energy utility that is reinventing itself, a useful example for many others.”

Another key problem that urgently needs to be faced is that of planetary urbanization: it has been estimated that in the very near future one in three of the Earth’s inhabitants will live in a city. “Already today,” Lise Kingo explained, “one billion human beings live in urban slums. Cities are often centres of suffering and grave problems: this can only get worse. Therefore, it is of great importance to transform them, making them welcoming, resilient and sustainable.” On this topic another guest, Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence, intervened to state his conviction of the importance of cooperation between the public and private sectors for the promotion of urban mobility that is increasingly sustainable.