As pandemic restrictions fell away, emissions in Austria started rising

Report: After 30 years of climate policy, Austria regressed to 1990 CO2 emissions levels

Report: After 30 years of climate policy, Austria regressed to 1990 CO2 emissions levels

According to researchers at the University of Graz, emissions rose sharply in the previous year

Yesterday, researchers in the Wegener Centre for Climate and Global Change at the University of Graz published a study on carbon emissions in Austria. According to the data, in 2021 the country’s CO2 emissions rose by 6.5% and were back to their 1990 level. This essentially means that to reach carbon neutrality by 2040 and adhere to the Paris Climate Accord, Austria has to reduce emissions by 95% in the next 18 years.

The Paris Climate Accord states that a country needs to be carbon-neutral compared to emissions levels in 1990, meaning that Austria has made no progress towards reaching that goal in the last 30 years.

Carbon budgeting in Austria

When the pandemic first hit in 2020, many industries slowed to a crawl, while personal transportation with cars was nearly non-existent for much of the year. Carbon emissions also fell dramatically during the year and many governments were optimistic about continuing the trend.

However, scientists are now saying that 2020 was a fluke. In 2021, as many services began picking up speed again and restrictions gradually fell away, emissions started to rise. In Austria, they rose by 6.5% compared to 2020, reaching their level from 1990. This means that Austria has a carbon budget of just 700 million tons to emit until reaching neutrality.

Furthermore, the researchers explain that 90% of the reductions have to come from fossil energy and industry, while carbon storage in agriculture and forestry can also help to quicken the process.

Interestingly, emissions seem to be a persistent issue, despite the fact that Austria is constantly unveiling new green projects and the national railway’s 100% carbon neutrality.

A just transition – Austria in the global context

Despite Austria having to reduce its own impact on the environment, the report of the Wegener Centre also pointed to the government’s responsibility towards developing countries. Dr Gottfried Kirchengast explained that additional equalisation funds need to flow towards different parts of the world, financing sustainable energy.

The rationale behind this idea is that there are still a lot of countries in Africa and Asia that lack reliable amenities like electricity, heating and sanitation for the population. Instead of these countries going through a phase of heavy emissions and an energy system based around coal, the developed world should help them to build up their infrastructure directly with renewable energy. This would basically skip the heavy emissions cycle that Europe and the US went through in the 19th and 20th centuries.



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