Credit: Bernd Thaller

Austria big on plastic in 2018 but lacklustre on agriculture pollution – assessment

Austria got a thumbs up from environmental campaigners this week for its role in 2018’s global fight against plastic when the country took its turn to chair the EU in the second half of last year. But campaigners were less enthusiastic about the country’s performance at the bloc’s helm on tackling pollution from intensive agriculture.

In a thorough assessment, put together by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Austria received recognition that it worked hard to reach a compromise among EU governments on single use plastics, sending a strong signal that the EU is committed to addressing marine litter and getting plastic out of our oceans.

EEB Secretary General Jeremy Wates described the Austrian Presidency’s “positive role in the global fight against single-use plastics” and their action on climate change “in some areas”, including wrapping up negotiations on CO2 emission standards for passenger vehicles and the role it played at the Climate COP in Katowice in December.

Last year saw scientists from the International Panel on Climate Change issue a stark warning that climate change’s impact is more severe than was previously thought.

However, Wates said this enthusiasm did not extend across the board:

“The Austrian Presidency missed the chance to echo the Parliament’s call for a significant increase in the EU’s only funding instrument dedicated to environment and climate action, LIFE; nor did it push for the much larger sums of public money that are spent on agricultural subsidies to be used to ensure that food is produced in ways that our planet can handle. If we ignore the impact agriculture has on our climate we will not limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and efforts in other areas will be in vain.

The EEB document was based on ‘Ten Green Tests’ the network of environmental citizens’ organisations laid out at the start of the Austrian Presidency in July 2018.