Austria is our Green European country of the month – here’s why

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Renewable energy, carbon taxes and public transport are top of the agenda for Austria.

Countries across Europe are racing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and avert the worst effects of the climate crisis. This has thrown them into a new kind of healthy rivalry with each other.

Of course, any nation’s win is a victory for all of us. But looking to the most positive examples on the continent can help inspire and pressure our own politicians to follow suit.

Each country has its unique natural resources, meaning it’s not always an even playing field. Political and economic circumstances can also help or hinder climate action.

Albania, Denmark and Iceland have all given us cause for celebration so far this year.

This month, we’re highlighting a European country that is making good progress on a number of key climate fronts: Austria, a small but mighty nation right at the heart of the continent.

Austria is a renewable energy leader

Austria has a high share of renewables in its electricity mix – 71 per cent in 2021 according to Eurostat data. Mountains, many rivers and high rainfall mean hydropower is the backbone of its renewables network but now the country is building on that with other forms of green energy.

By area, it has built more solar panels in the last three years than it did in the past 20. Wind and biomass are also being explored with one goal in mind.

“By 2030, we are aiming to produce electricity only via renewables,” Samson Sandrierser-Leon, a spokesperson from the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology tells Euronews Green.

“But to reach our climate goals – we want to achieve climate neutrality by 2040 – we have to invest of course and build heavily renewable power plants.”

Austria has also overhauled its tax system to introduce a €30 per tonne carbon levy. And the price will increase year by year until 2025.

But, in a move that is different to others with a similar system, a ‘Klimabonus’ is also paid to all residents to offset some of the costs brought about by this CO2 tax. 

The amount varies depending on where you live and what public transport is on offer, with people in Vienna, for example, receiving less than those who are more rural.

Austria is a public transport pioneer

In 2021, Austria launched its Klimaticket – a yearly ticket accepted on all public transport throughout the country. The government thought it would only sell around 1,000 in the first year but so far 200,000 people have bought one.

Studies have shown people are using the Klimaticket to shift their mobility habits and change from car to public transport. There have recently been extra discounts for students, servicepeople and public servants too, encouraging even more people to get on board.

Earlier this year, Greenpeace told Euronews Green that the country’s ticketing system was the closest in Europe to its ideal model. This is because it covers all means of transport when compared to some other ‘climate tickets’ on offer.

If public transport is the most equitable end of travel, private jet journeys are surely the worst and here too Austria is trying to make a difference. It was one of a number of countries which called for restrictions on private jet use at a recent Transport Commission meeting.

“We’re calling for a regulation of private jets. It was brought due to the initiative from Austria,” says Sandrierser-Leon.

But, they add that, a small country like Austria banning private jet flights has no great impact on the EU’s climate neutrality – it needs to be done on a European level.

“Our goal is to get this law brought to the table on a European level.”

What’s next for Austria on the climate front?

Being named Country of the Month is “quite an honour”, Sandrierser-Leon says, “because Austria is putting a lot of efforts and measurements and laws into place to tackle the climate crisis and be a frontrunner on climate action.”

But it isn’t stopping there. Several new climate-related laws – including ones to clean up the heating sector and get rid of old fossil gas boilers – are in the pipeline.

It faces some challenges still. The government claims that CO2 emission reductions have stagnated for a long time but now they are beginning to pick up again. Continuing this momentum, however, requires everyone to acknowledge their responsibility for the future.

“There is responsibility on every level of power, from the mayor of a little village, to the chief of a county, or at the minister level, everybody is responsible and must work towards climate action.”

What is Euronews Green’s country of the month?

Euronews Green is highlighting European countries that are advocating for climate, nature and the environment. Each month, we select a country that stands out for anything from eco-innovations to policy change.

If you’re feeling encouraged by a European government-led initiative in July– please do reach out to us on social media, either on Instagram or Twitter.


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