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Rethinking approaches to climate change or free Teslas for everyone?

Wilhelm Bergthaler
Foto: Rainer Weiß

Our Partner Wilhelm Bergthaler was asked to talk at the Environment Committee in the Austrian parliament as an expert on the climate referendum. After participating in a discussion on the energy transition in the Danish parliament one-and-a-half years ago, this is the second time that Bergthaler has spoken in a national parliament within a short period of time. For us, it is a source of pride that our expertise is not only appreciated by our clients. He took the opportunity to make seven legal proposals in eight minutes. Here is a short version of his statement:

In the climate referendum, the issues of mobility and energy are rightly addressed together since they have crucial things in common: They need infrastructures that are to be designed and expanded in a climate-friendly manner and an innovation boost that enables conversion to climate-friendly technologies (keyword: hydrogen). From this follows:

  • Our licensing law has to become more open to innovation.
  • The expansion of renewable energies and climate-friendly infrastructures needs acceleration – without any loss of participation. Planning certainty and more efficient procedures are the order of the day. The binding examination of alternatives to technology and location before the approval procedure is crucial. It will not do anyone any good if we have to deal with the question of whether other locations would have been preferable or whether it would have been better to build a few wind turbines at the end of an authorization process about a hydropower plant. A well-structured strategic environmental review could prevent such test loops.
  • The public sector should lead the way when it comes to retooling the system. Public procurement is to be made more ecological. The environmental consideration in construction contracts is still too low.
  • Time-consuming test criteria should be left aside when introducing a new regulation.
  • Efficiency and consumption: There is still untapped potential in local and long-distance heating as well as long-distance cooling. The aim is to promote cooperation models between industry, municipalities and the energy sector.
  • Levies can be a good steering instrument since taxes can control behavior. They should be given an ecological earmarking. Free Teslas for everyone will not happen but an intelligent system with charge exemptions for low-income households can avoid hardship. 
  • Instead of relying on merely one instrument, a myriad of instruments is recommended. The citizens’ creative will must be given as much freedom as possible. In the field of energy, for example, this applies to producer associations as well as micro-public transport services in the field of mobility. And: These instruments should be well coordinated.

Conclusion: The legal toolbox is full to the brim. It just needs to be opened and used properly.


14. January 2021

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