On Monday this week, the European Commission published the country reports on implementing European environmental policies. Overall, Austria was given a clean bill of health. Yet, at the same time, the Commission highlighted two “challenges” that Austria needs to tackle.
The Commission positively evaluated the sectors water quality and waste management. With a recycling rate of 58% Austria has the third highest ranking EU-wide, only outperformed by Germany (64%) and Slovenia (61%). Apart from that, already existing initiatives in the areas of recycling management and green infrastructure – for example a platform for a sustainable procurement service and exchange of information – was praised.
Still, the Commission encourages Austria to increase its effort concerning the designations and protection of Natura 2000 sites. There even is the possibility of the Commission taking legal action against Austria.
Furthermore, the Commission sees cause for concern regarding Austria's air quality. In particular, urban areas continue to exceed the limits for nitrogen oxide (NO2), limit value of particulate matter (PM10) and ozone. The Commission estimates the external costs caused by air pollution in Austria exceed 5 billion euros per year. Unfortunately, the report lacks clear recommendations as to how air quality can be improved. It is a well-known fact that traffic is the main cause for exceeding these limits. However, it is particularly here, where the Commission curbs the Member States to take effective measures, if free movement of goods is thought to be put at risk.
Finally, the Commission recommends an increased taxation on environmental pollution and resource consumption, which could then be used, among other sources, to finance a reduction of incidental wage costs.