By 2040, Austria should not emit more greenhouse gases than the soil and forests can absorb from the atmosphere. That’s what the government program says. Yesterday, Wednesday, experts from the economic research institute expressed doubts about the timing of this project.
If the previous trend were to continue in Austria, it is estimated that this would only be possible until around 2065 or 2070, said Wifo boss Gabriel Felbermayr in an online press conference with environmental economists Mark Sommer and Claudia Ketter. “From today’s perspective, the targeted climate neutrality by 2040 is a long way off,” said Felbermayr.
The corona pandemic even helped to reduce emissions, especially at the beginning: According to the Federal Environment Agency, emissions fell by 7.7 percent compared to 2019 to 73.6 million tons of CO2 equivalents in the first year of the crisis, 2020. This is because economic activity and mobility have decreased. In the previous year, emissions rose again – to 77.6 million tons. For this year, the Wifo predicts a decline of 1.8 percent to 76 million tons, for the coming year a minus of 1.1 percent to 75 million tons.
Felbermayr, Sommer and Ketter cited a generally weaker economic development as the reason for this, especially in CO2-intensive production, for example in steel. The high energy prices are also playing an increasing role, namely in terms of road traffic, because people would be more likely to do without their cars in the future. The energy, industry, transport, buildings, agriculture and waste management sectors are among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases.
Wifo wants to include greenhouse gas emissions in a quarterly forecast in the future. This is necessary to show politics, business and society that “instruments to reduce emissions must be implemented more vigorously,” said Felbermayr.
Expensive failure to meet climate targets
The economist warned that if climate targets were missed, it would be very expensive for the economy due to the necessary purchase of certificates. It is important to decouple the increase in value creation and employment that economic policy is aiming for from material consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.