Sace’s new path is so little green that Eni is on board as well

It was 10 February when ReCommon warned of revolving doors between public finance and the fossil fuels industry, with the consequent risk of major conflicts of interest. In the previous days, Rodolfo Errore had left the chairmanship of SACE – the public insurer controlled by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, which covers Italian multinationals against political and commercial risks in their exports and investments – to join the top management of Ludoil, a company active in the oil and petrochemical sectors. If that door was an exit door, the fear that it would also work in the opposite direction finally materialised: the new SACE President, Filippo Giansante, is also a member of Eni’s board of directors.

Raffineria di Sarroch, Foto Barocco DigitaleCC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

On 18 May, SACE Shareholders’ Meeting approved the 2021 Financial statements and appointed the new Board of Directors, in office until 2024. The top positions of one of the key entities for the ‘green’ implementation of the Italian part of the Next Generation EU programme will thus be held by Alessandra Ricci as CEO and, indeed, by Filippo Giansante in the role of Chairman.

Alessandra Ricci has so far been in charge of SACE’s “Garanzia Italia” and “Garanzie Green” programmes, which are supposed to pull the Italian economy out of the post-pandemic quagmire and with the objective of an ecological transition. However, from April 2020 to date, numerous loans granted by banks and 80% guaranteed by SACE have ended up with companies operating in the fossil fuels business. Among these, there are €365 million euros to Maire Tecnimont; projects in which the multinational corporation is involved include the Amur Gas Chemical Complex, owned by the Russian company Sibur: “the largest project carried out by Maire Tecnimont”, as the company puts it. Then there is the 662 million guaranteed between 2020 and 2022 to Saras, petrochemical giant, often under the spotlight for complaints of pollution, with serious health repercussions, by people living near the refinery in Sarroch, Sardinia.

Among the companies benefiting from SACE guarantees is Saipem, a subsidiary of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and Eni, the real ‘arm’ of Italian fossil interests, contributing to the construction of infrastructure for new hydrocarbon exploration, production and transportation projects. Recently, Saipem benefited from a major rescue plan, with a €855 million loan guaranteed by SACE. This means that, in light of Saipem’s uncertain present, if anything should go wrong, the bank loan will be repaid with public money.

Filippo Giansante, on the other hand, is a member of Eni’s Board of Directors. Italy’s leading fossil multinational corporation exercised all its ‘firepower’ in an attempt to steer the funds of Next Generation EU programme, in favour of its fossil business: between 2020 and 2021, Eni led the lobbying effort with at least 20 official meetings. Exploiting its privileged relations with the state, the company managed to ensure that successive versions of the plan increasingly coincided with its business plan. Only the intervention of the European Commission put a brake on the most dangerous outcome for the environment and climate. However, the war in Ukraine threatens to mess up the cards of Next Generation EU programme and, consequently, of all national recovery plans, including the Italian one.

With directors of this calibre, the risk of once again throwing the doors wide open to the fossil fuels industry for Italy’s ‘green recovery’ is very high. It could happen that, with Giansante’s dual role, Eni proposes a project, if authorised, obtains financing from commercial banks and is given a state guarantee. SACE claims to have adequate processes to mitigate conflicts of interest, starting with the code of ethics, which are rather vague. In short, the details are not public. What happens if a request for a guarantee for an Eni project reaches the Board of Directors? Would Giansante abstain from the discussion? Perhaps, in order not to give rise to an obvious conflict of interest, he should resign from the Eni board of directors as soon as possible.

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