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OECD Finds Successful Green Economy in Austria, Recommends Improvements

OECD6 November 2013: Austria's green economy and environmental performance meet high standards, according to an assessment from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), but has room for improvement on pollution and other issues. The Environmental Performance Review (EPR) for 2013 highlights progress made since the previous report for Austria, in 2003. EPRs of OECD member countries are now in their third cycle.  

The 2013 EPR reports on Austria's progress towards sustainable development and green growth, with a focus on chemicals management and climate change adaptation. It portrays a successful green economy in which environmental goods and services make up over 10% of gross domestic product (GDP), far outpacing more traditional economic drivers such as tourism. The report highlights Austria's growth in green job creation despite the economic crisis. It also lauds the country's: high quality drinking water; use of renewable energy; system for managing natural hazards; and robust and long-standing environmental policy framework.

However, according to the review, Austria's pollution remains a concern. Urban air pollution from particulate matter and ozone is high compared to most other EU countries, and concentration of nitrogen oxides remains higher than the national limit, according to the report. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have failed to meet Kyoto targets, with their sources are largely driven by transport and manufacturing.

Existing funds for environmental subsidies could be more efficiently redirected toward penalizing polluters, the assessment suggests. Reforms such as shifting tax burden to polluters would stimulate economic growth and employment. Similarly, the report notes, subsidies that worsen air pollution, such as policies on company cars, should be reconsidered so that incentives discourage rather than encourage pollution. The report praises Austria's steps in this direction, and recommends measures such as a carbon tax to ensure sectors are financially responsible for their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. [OECD Press Release] [Publication: OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Austria 2013]