Austria’s climate change policy reflects its own research

Federal Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management Andrä Rupprechter reveals Austria’s climate change policy

In Austria, records indicate an increase in the average annual temperature of about 2°C since 1880 (APCC 2014), which is significantly above the global temperature rise of 0.85°C (IPCC 2014). The effects of climate change can already be observed today, becoming visible through rapid melting of glaciers, thawing of permafrost and the increasing numbers of hot days, etc. This research informs Austria’s climate change policy.

There is no doubt that global warming will continue and the effects of climate change will even increase over the coming years. Climate change today is affecting a broad number of sectors, systems, institutions, and individuals. An economic study conducted for Austria (Cost of Inaction – COIN), demonstrates that climate-related damage costs will increase by 2050, compared to today and reach an average annual level of €3.8 to €8.8 billion (Steininger et al. 2015).

Therefore, in addition to efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the long-term planning and consequent implementation of adaptation measures is crucial. Adaptation, as the second pillar in climate policy, is requested in the Paris Agreement and represents an indispensable complement to mitigation efforts.

Action against climate change

Already in 2007, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW) has put adaptation to climate change on its agenda. A broad participatory process was conducted by the Environment Agency Austria (EAA) to involve more than 100 institutions, from national to a regional level, in the process to develop the adaptation strategy.

The Austrian adaptation strategy was adopted first in October 2012, by the Council of Ministers and endorsed by the Provincial Governors’ Conference, in May 2013. In August 2017, a revised version of the strategy was adopted by the Austrian Council of Ministers.

The Austrian adaptation policy aims to build strong resilience to climate change. It intends to ensure coordination and harmonisation of the various climate change adaptation activities in all areas. The adaptation strategy consists of a basic framework (NAS, BMLFUW 2017a) and an Action Plan (NAP, BMLFUW 2017b). While the NAS focuses on the strategic components of adaptation (i.e. setting the scene, guiding principles, research activities, social aspects of adaptation, etc.), the NAP presents a comprehensive catalogue of adaptation options.

The recommendations, based on a qualitative vulnerability assessment, are presented for the following sectors: Agriculture, forestry, water resources and water management, tourism, energy, natural hazards, construction and housing, disaster risk management, health, ecosystems/biodiversity, transportation infrastructure, spatial planning, business/industry/trade and cities, with a focus on urban green.

Austria is one among a few European countries which have started to work on monitoring and evaluation of the NAS/NAP. In Austria, a two-pronged approach has been taken. Firstly, a participatory approach consisting of a self-assessment by relevant stakeholders. Secondly, a data-based approach focusing on a criteria catalogue (indicators) helping to put some light on selected aspects relevant for adaptation.

The joint consideration of these two components provides a broad picture of the state of implementation of adaptation, as well as key trends and progress in Austria. A progress report was published by the BMLFUW in 2015, to present the state of implementation of the NAS and NAP.

As climate change impacts are most visible at the local and regional level, one important initiative of the BMLFUW is to support rural municipalities and regions in adapting to a changing climate. Thus, in 2016, the KLAR! – Climate Change Adaptation Model Regions Programme – was launched as a Europe-wide unique climate adaptation support programme for Austrian regions, and as an important component to implementing the Austrian NAS/NAP.

To conclude, for Austria, the topic of how to deal with climate change impacts is high on the agenda. The summer of 2017, with its extreme weather events such as heat, floods and mudslides have shown that without any doubt, that adaptation efforts are necessary now and even more so in future. Thus, we consider it our responsibility to join forces for adaptation and work now for a climate-resilient Austria of the future.

References:

APCC (2014): Österreichischer Sachstandsbericht Klimawandel 2014 (AAR14). Austrian Panel on Climate Change (APCC), Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien, Österreich. 1096 pp.

BMLFUW (2015): Anpassung an den Klimawandel: Fortschrittsbericht. Wien, Österreich.

BMLFUW (2017a): Die österreichische Strategie zur Anpassung an den Klimawandel, Teil 1 – Kontext. Wien, Österreich.

BMLFUW (2017b): Die österreichische Strategie zur Anpassung an den Klimawandel, Teil 2 – Aktionsplan, Handlungsempfehlungen für die Umsetzung. Wien, Österreich.

IPCC (2014) Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In Core Writing Team, Pachauri RK, Meyer LA (eds). IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 151 pp.

Steininger, K., König, M., Bednar-Friedl, B., Kranzl, L., Loibl, W., Prettenthaler, F. (eds.) (2015) Economic Evaluation of Climate Change Impacts: Development of a Cross-Sectoral Framework and Results for Austria, Springer, and Germany. (Basic study: COIN)

Andrä Rupprechter

Federal Minister 

Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW)

service@bmlfuw.gv.at

www.bmlfuw.gv.at

@BMRupprechter

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