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A hollow victory for the fossil government? It will depend on us

European Green Party Co-Chair, Monica Frassoni, responds to the results of the Italian referendum on offshore drilling.

The referendum on offshore drilling within 12 miles of the Italian coasts has been sunk after failing to attract enough people to vote.

Despite 86% of voters voting in favour of cancelling the law which currently allows the drilling to take place, the turnout of 31% was far below the 50% +1 threshold required to validate the result.

As soon as the initial voter turnout indications came through, I was of course somewhat disappointed. Nevertheless, I was also thinking about the next steps in the struggle for a new energy model for Italy which, after this result, must continue even more than ever. It was very difficult to manage making 50% of the voters go to the ballot box, because there was very little time to really talk about the issue and television and radio channels avoided setting aside space for real debate. Matteo Renzi and a part of his party asking for abstention, moreover, meant demobilising the electorate and boycotting the discussion about it, reducing it to a detail in the power struggle between this and that. This corroborates the outlandish thesis I have repeatedly heard which maintains that, this is a “far away” issue that might involve regions interested in the drilling. It is above all for this “dismantling” effect that it has been very serious that political and institutional leaders have irresponsibly encouraged a lack of commitment. It is sacred for citizens to be able to abstain; it is less so that they are pushed to do so by leading institutional representatives with the main intention of causing the referendum to fail.

In this case, honour and merit goes to those who have put up a campaign in the blink of an eye to demonstrate that, the choices of energy policies can and must become part of a public debate. They are not, therefore, so incomprehensible and cannot nor must not be reserved for just a small circle. Not just for environmental associations or committees but also that section of ecological politics that still survives and that with great difficulty and few resources has striven to be fully involved, from the Green Italia to the Verdi (Green political parites in Italy). I much less liked those who have used this campaign to strike at the government without even managing land a blow. Let it be said decisively, in my view, quite apart from the fact that we were on the same side and with the right arguments it seemed like the Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle), 27%, was not able to mobilise the electorate over a theme like the one on Italy's energy choices. A sign that, unfortunately, it is not the environment that moves and causes to move the great consensus. It is also for this reason that I am still convinced that there is still a need for a strong ecological representation in politics.

Now, however, we have to avoid dropping the considerable result of the referendum: we cannot allow ourselves to waste it. We have to enter in a dialogue with the government and at face value take – difficult though it may be – Renzi's declarations in favour of the great “green” turnaround… Our commitment must be that of working together with all those who have worked for this result. To make it possible for those millions of people who have mobilised for "Yes" to remain and to continue the battle for an energy system that leaves fossil fuels behind, stops massacring renewables and stops ignoring the great potential of energy efficiency in terms of business and employment as well as reducing emissions and pollution.

We have to learn a lesson from this vote, more and better than we did over nuclear and water power and we have to do it straight away. We have to move beyond disappointment and anger at the fossil government and those that speak for it.

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