Venice is reeling from some of the worst flooding in 50 years, driven in part by sea level rise. The high water has put the city under a state of emergency and, in theory, should be a huge wakeup call that it’s all hands on deck to combat climate change. But the regional council, controlled by a president from Italy’s far-right League party, rejected a host of climate measures on Wednesday. Immediately after the vote, the council chambers flooded.
There comes a point where you can’t even laugh at on-the-noseness of 2019. This is one of those times.
Andrea Zanoni, a council member and chair of the environment committee, posted photos of the flooded chambers on Wednesday night. It’s the first time the council chambers have ever flooded. The building sits right on Venice’s Grand Canal, and its flood protections appear to have failed.
But the timing couldn’t be more absurd. Zanoni noted in his Facebook post that councilors had been voting on amendments to the region’s 2020 budget prior to the flood. He said the “budget does not contain any concrete action to counteract climate change,” and all amendments put forward to address climate change like boosting renewable energy, replacing diesel buses, and improving efficiency were rejected. The region has contributed relatively little to climate change, but then everything everywhere will need to shift to avert the worst of the climate chaos.
As mentioned, the council is currently controlled by the regional wing of the League, Italy’s far-right party. While not as virulently into climate denial as conservatives in the U.S., the League hasn’t exactly done much on climate. Matteo Salvini, its leader, voted against ratifying the Paris Agreement. An analysis by German think tank Adelphi found the party’s European Parliament representatives voted against every climate and energy policy proposals put forth between 2014 and 2018, save one on energy performance for buildings.
The votes in the Venice regional council, where it has the most members and governs in concert with three other conservative parties, is hardly surprising. The council’s president and League member Roberto Ciambetti claimed in a statement to CNN that Zanoni was misrepresenting the situation by ignoring past pro-climate measures. But he didn’t defend the recent votes that happened immediately before the chamber flooded.
Venice has been a total mess this week. Floods topped 187 centimeters (six feet) on Tuesday night, aided and abetted by the nearly 11 inches of sea level rise the the city has dealt with since the Industrial Revolution. The surge has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, and the city’s mayor has declared a state of emergency while in part blaming climate change for Venice’s watery woes.
The city’s multibillion-dollar flood barrier, meanwhile, has run over cost and time. It’s scheduled to be completed in 2022—more than a decade late—and may not even be enough to hold back the Adriatic Sea. And the Venice city council’s votes will ensure the sea has even more leverage to win.