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Italy climate resilience policy indicator

Part of Climate Resilience Policy Indicator

  • Italy’s average annual temperature has increased at a rate of 1°C in the last 100 years, with the rate of warming accelerating in the last 50 years. In fact, in the last two decades Italy’s temperature has been climbing slightly more strongly than the world average. Warming has been more marked in the summer and spring, and at high altitudes. Italy’s average annual temperature is likely to continue rising, causing the number of summer days and tropical nights to increase.
  • At the same time, average annual rainfall has decreased slightly. From 1800 to 2011, precipitation in Italy’s northern regions decreased 19% in the summer and 25% in the autumn, while in southern regions the greatest drops were in the spring (‑22%) and winter (‑12%). Although low and medium precipitation events have become less frequent, the number of heavy episodes per year has increased across the country. Consequently, more frequent heavy precipitation could pose a threat to electricity network and power plant operations.
  • Italy has developed national climate and energy policies that focus clearly on energy sector climate resilience. Its 2015 National Adaptation Strategy recognises climate impacts on the energy system and is based on nationally assessed climate change impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation measures. Meanwhile, the National Adaptation Plan (2018 draft) provides guidance with concrete actions. The 2017 National Energy Strategy and the National Energy and Climate Plan emphasise the importance of energy sector climate resilience to ensure energy security, and the 2021 Long-Term Strategy on the Reduction of GHG Emissions and the 2021 National Recovery and Resilience Plan also address energy sector climate resilience.

Level of floods, drought and tropical cyclones in Italy, 2000-2020


Level of warming in Italy, 2000-2020



Italy’s average annual temperature has increased by a rate of 1°C in the last 100 years, which has accelerated in the last 50 years. In the past two decades, its rate of warming (0.0369°C per year) was slightly higher than the world average (0.0313°C per year). Climate observations in Italy’s 7th National Communication to the UNFCCC show that its temperature has increased more quickly in the summer and spring than in other seasons, and high-altitude areas experienced a greater rise in temperature than the lowlands. The number and intensity of heatwaves has also increased sharply in recent decades.

According to climate projections by the National System for Environmental Protection (SNPA), temperatures are likely to continue rising across the country, with the mean annual temperature climbing by the end of the century to 1.8-3.1°C1 to 3.5-5.4°C2 higher than during 1971-2000. The number of summer days (i.e. daily maximum temperature above 25°C) and tropical nights (i.e., daily minimum temperature above 20°C) is projected to increase across Italy by the end of the century.

Climate change also affects energy demand, as it reduces the number of heating degree days (HDDs) and increases cooling degree days (CDDs). According to Italy's 7th National Communication to the UNFCCC, its average number of HDDs fell by around 19% in the past three decades. In contrast, energy demand for cooling in the summer has already increased and is likely to continue rising by as much as 50% by 2080.

Italy’s 2022 report on climate change, infrastructure and mobility indicates that the average energy expenditure per adult in the residential sector could be 9.7% to 14.7% lower in 2050 than in 2007, depending on the climate scenario.3 This drop would result mainly from a decline in natural gas consumption for heating, even though power consumption for cooling would rise and electricity expenditures could be 5% higher than in 2007 under a moderate warming scenario.

Temperature in Italy, 2000-2020


Cooling degree days in Italy, 2000-2020


Heating degree days in Italy, 2000-2020



Although climate observations highlight no statistically significant trends in annual and seasonal precipitation between 1961 and 2020, longer-term data show that between 1800 and 2011 Italy began to receive less precipitation, with a more pronounced decrease in the northern region. Seasonally, there have been strong drops of 22% in the winter and 12% in the spring in southern Italy since 1800, with a trend reversal in recent decades. Meanwhile, in northern Italy the seasons with the strongest negative trend since 1800 are summer (‑19%) and autumn (-25%). Climate records also show that precipitation events have become less frequent, but more intense.

Average annual precipitation is projected to decline and become more variable by the end of the century compared with 1981-2010. This overall trend is expected to result from a decrease in low- and medium-level precipitation events, while heavy precipitation events (above the 95th percentile) are likely to become more frequent. The increase in average temperature, evapotranspiration and low rainfall will contribute to a 40% decrease in waterflow by 2080.

The increasing number of heavy precipitation events is likely to pose a threat to electricity networks located in Italy’s flood-prone areas, which in fact make up 4% of its territory. Heavy snowfall in winter at higher altitudes could also damage electricity distribution lines and power generators, as happened in central Italy in 2017, when over 150 000 households experienced power outages (in fact, 7 000 of them were without electricity for over a week – the longest blackout in Italian history).

In the Emilia Romagna region, heavy snowfall disabled the electricity network and power generators in 2017, leaving 30 000 people without access to electricity for several days, and a similar situation in 2018 cut power to 12 000 households. Power outages happened in the region again in 2019 when trees fell onto power lines after a heavy snowfall, affecting more than 60 000 households in the northeastern area. In 2020, 10 000 homes in a nearby area experienced blackouts due to strong snowfall and rainfall which caused flooding and sea storms.

Tropical cyclones and storms

Although Italy is not exposed to tropical cyclones, the country’s electricity sector has been impacted by intense windstorms4 in recent years. By toppling trees and branches onto electricity transmission and distribution lines, high-speed winds can cause local network failures. For instance, during the storm Vaia (October 2018), wind gusts over 190 km/h brought down more than 300 000 trees, some of them falling onto electricity distribution lines and interrupting electricity supplies for 200 000 households between the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions for several days.

Italy has developed national climate and energy policies that clearly focus on energy sector climate resilience. The national assessment of climate change impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation; its national climate change adaptation strategy; and its national energy strategy all identify the energy sector as a priority area and provide guidance with concrete actions.

Italy published a report on the state of scientific knowledge on climate change impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation in 2014,5 based on input from a national scientific panel co‑ordinated by the Fondazione Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change (CMCC). This report, which comprehensively assesses climate impacts and vulnerabilities and contains a chapter dedicated to the energy sector, specifically analyses climate impacts on energy demand for heating and cooling, and on the electricity supply. In 2020, the CMCC released the most up-to-date integrated analysis of climate risk in Italy, focusing on climate projections for upcoming years.

Based on the 2014 assessment, Italy adopted a National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) in 2015. The NAS recognises the potential impacts of climate change on energy supply and demand, as well as on project planning. It recommends that climate impacts be taken into consideration in the earliest stages of an energy project and that climate data collection be improved.

Since adopting the NAS, Italy has made progress in promoting climate change adaptation information. For instance, in 2016 the National System for Environmental Protection launched a national working group on climate change impact indicators to establish a quantitative knowledge base on the impacts of climate change.

Its first report on climate change impact indicators, published in 2021, focuses on 50 indicators in 13 sectors, including energy. National indicators include gross hydropower production and the gradient of natural gas heating consumption. Meanwhile, HDDs, CDDs, electricity consumption in July and natural gas consumption in the residential sector are selected as indicators for regional pilot cases. For each indicator, the report specifies climate factors, frequency of data collection, temporal and spatial coverage, and limitations, as well as overall future trends. Climate indicators can be employed to develop suitable climate change adaptation policies and monitor changes and progress. Therefore, in addition to providing an initial overview of phenomena potentially linked to climate change, this report presents a dynamic and updateable system that can integrate any new scientific knowledge on climate change and its impacts on different sectors.

To further advance NAS implementation, the government prepared a draft National Adaptation Plan (NAP) in 2018. It analyses anticipated impacts and vulnerabilities, and it details a set of adaptation measures for the energy sector. It also provides information on possible sources of financing to implement the suggested measures. The National Adaptation Plan is currently undergoing strategic environmental assessment.

Italy’s energy policies also recognise the importance of climate change adaptation and resilience. For instance, the 2017 National Energy Strategy outlines the importance of making the electricity system more resilient to extreme weather events to preserve energy security. It suggests that proofing Italy’s electricity system against extreme weather events and emergencies should be a priority. It also recommends European-level co‑ordination by 2030 to minimise cross-border risks.

Italy’s National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) demonstrates that energy sector climate resilience measures are well aligned and linked to one other, but it also proposes additional actions for climate resilience. While the NECP describes how the NAS, NAP and National Energy Strategy are already addressing energy sector adaptation and resilience, it also outlines six further actions: developing micro- and smart grids; implementing demand-side management; promoting best available technologies for energy efficiency; improving interconnections with European networks; using an energy mix that guarantees adaptability to extreme climate situations; and evaluating and monitoring energy system resilience.

The brief chapter on adaptation measures in the 2021 Long-Term Strategy on the Reduction of GHG Emissions also offers some actions to enhance energy sector climate resilience. In addition, Italy’s 2021 National Recovery and Resilience Plan includes a measure linked to interventions on the climate resilience of electricity networks, with EUR 0.5 billion designated to improve the resilience of about 4 000 km of its network.

Notes and references
  1. By 2071-2100 under IPCC climate scenario RCP 4.5.

  2. By 2071-2100 under IPCC climate scenario RCP 8.5.

  3. Under IPCC climate scenarios RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5, respectively.

  4. “Storms” refer to any disturbed state of the atmosphere, strongly implying destructive and unpleasant weather, and can range in scale. “Tropical cyclone” is the general term for a strong, cyclonic-scale disturbance that originates over tropical oceans. Although this report uses these terms generally, they can be divided into detailed categories: a tropical storm is a tropical cyclone with one-minute average surface winds of 18‑32 m/s. Beyond 32 m/s, a tropical cyclone is called a hurricane, typhoon or cyclone depending on its geographic location. Hurricanes refer to the high-intensity cyclones that form in the South Atlantic, central North Pacific and eastern North Pacific; typhoons occur in the northwest Pacific; and the more general term cyclone applies to the South Pacific and Indian oceans.

  5. Castellari, S. et al. (2014), Rapporto sullo stato delle conoscenze scientifiche su impatti, vulnerabilità ed adattamento ai cambiamenti climatici in Italia, Ministero dell’Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare, Roma.