Austrian government under attack over climate

Ministers accused of watering down action plan, aiming to avoid domestic emission cuts

Austrian environmental groups and scientists have strongly attacked the government over its new climate action programme, accusing it of removing clear targets for action and avoiding firm action to reduce emissions. The Austrian Council on Climate Change (ACCC), a scientific body that advises the government, has cancelled further cooperation in protest.

Published last week, the national climate protection programme aims at achieving a 10m tonne cut in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2008-2012 in order to meet Austria's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 13% from 1990 levels (ENDS Daily 12 September).

According to the ACCC and environmental group Global 2000, however, much clearer and more ambitious targets and commitments proposed in a preceding strategy paper were removed before the programme was published. A proposal to introduce distance-based charging for private motorists was dropped, they say, as well as commitments to increase environmental taxes. In addition, the paper puts an end to the environment ministry's responsibility for coordinating climate policy, instead assigning this to no one single ministry. NGOs claim this is a recipe for inaction.

"The published paper cannot be called a climate strategy," said Corinne Veithen of Global 2000, which is the Austrian branch of Friends of the Earth. "It seems that Austria is aiming not to reduce domestic emissions but to use [the Kyoto] flexible mechanisms extensively," she added.

Stefan Schleicher of the ACCC expressed disappointment over the final paper. "What we need now is a clear political commitment to take steps to achieve the targets Austria is committed to," he told ENDS Daily.

Follow Up:
ACCC, tel: +43 316 380 3440, Global 2000, tel: +43 1 812 57 30 20.

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