Scholarly article on topic 'Austrian climate policies and GHG-emissions since 1990: What is the role of climate policy integration?'

Austrian climate policies and GHG-emissions since 1990: What is the role of climate policy integration? Academic research paper on "Social and economic geography"

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Abstract of research paper on Social and economic geography, author of scientific article — Maria Niedertscheider, Willi Haas, Christoph Görg

Abstract In 1990 Austria has committed to the Kyoto-protocol and later to the Paris Agreement. Since then, it has developed two climate strategies, has passed its first climate protection act, has adopted a strategy for adaptation to climate change and has implemented many new institutions, programmes and local to provincial climate change mitigation (CCM) measures. Indeed, Austrian GHG-emissions have been decreasing since 2005, giving reasons to suspect policy success. A closer analysis, however, challenges this impression. Here, we put climate policies since 1990 into perspective with other, often short-term drivers of GHG-emissions. Employing a conceptual framework, we evaluate the level of climate policy integration, which has been found key for successful climate policies in literature. This framework also helps us to detect benefits and shortcomings of past and existing CCM policies and so to derive insights relevant for policy-makers. We find that short-term climatic and socio-economic events overruled climate policies in their proximate GHG-emission effects, even when policies were implemented due to EU regulation after 2007. Policy effects are much more difficult to uncover, because they often happen within longer time-frames and are usually accompanied by indirect CCM-effects. In the background of accelerating climate change impacts in combination with associated high uncertainties, strengthening climate policies and integrating reflexive mechanisms that allow adjusting and continuously re-evaluating policy effectiveness, will become ever more important. Eliminating inconsistencies between CCM- and other sectoral policies and drastically reforming accounting schemes to include carbon leakage effects are particularly timely, yet considering political realities, very bold but necessary next step to make climate goals attainable.

Academic research paper on topic "Austrian climate policies and GHG-emissions since 1990: What is the role of climate policy integration?"


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Austrian climate policies and GHG-emissions since 1990: What is the role of Ü) climate policy integration?

Maria Niedertscheider*, Willi Haas, Christoph Görg

Institute of Social Ecology Vienna, Alpen-Adria Universitaet, Schottenfeldgasse 29, 1070 Vienna, Austria



Keywords: Climate policy Climate policy integration Austria

Policy effectiveness GHG emissions

In 1990 Austria has committed to the Kyoto-protocol and later to the Paris Agreement. Since then, it has developed two climate strategies, has passed its first climate protection act, has adopted a strategy for adaptation to climate change and has implemented many new institutions, programmes and local to provincial climate change mitigation (CCM) measures. Indeed, Austrian GHG-emissions have been decreasing since 2005, giving reasons to suspect policy success. A closer analysis, however, challenges this impression. Here, we put climate policies since 1990 into perspective with other, often short-term drivers of GHG-emissions. Employing a conceptual framework, we evaluate the level of climate policy integration, which has been found key for successful climate policies in literature. This framework also helps us to detect benefits and shortcomings of past and existing CCM policies and so to derive insights relevant for policy-makers. We find that short-term climatic and socio-economic events overruled climate policies in their proximate GHG-emission effects, even when policies were implemented due to EU regulation after 2007. Policy effects are much more difficult to uncover, because they often happen within longer time-frames and are usually accompanied by indirect CCM-effects. In the background of accelerating climate change impacts in combination with associated high uncertainties, strengthening climate policies and integrating reflexive mechanisms that allow adjusting and continuously re-evaluating policy effectiveness, will become ever more important. Eliminating inconsistencies between CCM- and other sectoral policies and drastically reforming accounting schemes to include carbon leakage effects are particularly timely, yet considering political realities, very bold but necessary next step to make climate goals attainable.

1. Introduction

Under the Paris Agreement the European Union has committed to cutting domestic Green House Gas (GHG) emissions by at least 40% over the 1990 level in order to limit global temperature rise to 2 °C and avoid the most devastating climate change impacts (Rogelj et al., 2016). Hence, all member states are urged to introduce drastic climate change mitigation (CCM) measures. This will be challenging for countries such as Austria, which already had to spend high amounts for emission certificates in order to convey with the Kyoto targets (, 2009; refer to Steurer and Clar, 2015). Examining policy-performance in terms of strengths and weaknesses of past policy frameworks, is crucial for present and future policy makers. Hence, it can be a first step towards more effective CCM-policies.

However, CCM-policy analysis are non-trivial, because they involve multiple policy levels (international, EU, national, provincial and community-level), actors and stakeholders (politicians, economic entrepreneurs, the civil society, or community governors). In the past, research on Climate Policy Integration (CPI)1 has put exactly this intricacy into the centre of policy analysis, arguing that particularly the level of CPI across all policy (and actor-) levels determines CCM-policy success (Lafferty and Hovden, 2003; Kivimaa and Mickwitz, 2006, 2009; Mickwitz et al., 2009; Adelle and Russel, 2013; Jordan and Lenschow, 2010).

Mickwitz et al. (2009) have suggested five key criteria for CPI-analysis: (1) "inclusion", i.e. acknowledgement of CCM by different sectors, is the precondition for all remaining criteria. (2) "consistency": Have contradictions between existing policies and climate policies been

* Corresponding author.

E-mail address: (M. Niedertscheider). 1 It could, however, be argued, that the state under capitalist conditions is always marked by inconsistencies and tensions across policy fields and levels, following e.g. the state theory of Poulantzas and O'Hagan (1978). This approach then requires a different methodology of policy analysis (materialistic policy analysis, Brand, 2013), to detect the influence of structural conditions on concrete policies. In our paper, we pursue a much more confined approach. The aim of our analysis is to scrutinize whether climate policy integration was achieved by Austrian policies or whether inconsistencies emerged that caused weaknesses or failures. Thus, we do not assume that states are dedicated to deliver consistent policy strategies; but at the same time we do not analyse the struggles and controversies within the state apparatuses which are the major objectives of materialistic policy analysis.

Received 30 August 2017; Received in revised form 15 November 2017; Accepted 7 December 2017

1462-9011/ © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

minimized? This implies a high level of (3) "weighting", defined as prioritization of CCM relative to other sectoral priorities. (4) "reporting" is a pre-condition for tracking CPI progress and for evaluating policy effects. Finally, mainstreaming CPI requires substantial (5) "financial resources", i.e. for information dissemination, or the in-stitutionalization of relevant positions.

However, CPI must also entail a high level of reflexivity, in order to avoid lock-ins, resolve path dependencies and evaluate effects of unintended outcomes. Rational problem solving strategies based on a linear understanding of "cause and effect" fail in this context, because CCM-policies are confronted with a high level of uncertainty, both regarding epistemological uncertainties of climate models, as well as ontological uncertainties regarding feedback loops between climatic change and the socio-economic system (VoK, 2005). Thus, instead of sticking to a clear-cut problem-actor constellation, re-evaluating and reopening the problem and solution space is central for enabling a reflexive learning-process (VoK, 2005). In the context of CCM, reflexive governance entails "learning from the past" in order to re-adapt climate policies iteratively (Mickwitz et al., 2009). However, it is an empirical question whether reflexivity can be achieved under certain conditions in terms of the institutional and structural frameworks and the existing constellations of power.

This research paper analyses Austrian CCM-policies from 1990 until today, with a focus on CPI, using and extending the five CPI-criteria introduced above. Our main objectives are to (a) trace policy-process based on primary and secondary literature, and (b) to put these findings into perspective with GHG-emission trends and effects of external, short-term economic and climatic events and carbon leakage. We find this research aim especially interesting for the Austrian case due to its particular challenging actor constellation: Austria is characterized by a high level of federalism and corporatism (Siaroff, 1999; Brand and Pawloff, 2014) and since the early 2000s, the EU has become an additional influential actor. Corporatism is particularly relevant in Austria, because, although corporatist actors have no direct legislative power, they are strongly interwoven with political parties and so directly influence decision- and policy implementation processes.

2. Research framework

As a research framework we build on the key criteria raised by Mickwitz et al. (2009), which we modified and extended according to our study focus (Table 1). In particular, we include "reflexivity" and "uncertainty" as central components of CPI. While Mickwitz et al. (2009) have described "multi-actor governance" as one level above the CPI-criteria, we add "multi-level" and "multi-actor" as additional key criteria to the analytical framework (Table 1). This allows us to integrate Austrian particularities in terms of actor-constellations into the

Table 1

Key criteria for CPI used as a research framework.


This paper starts with a narrative on Austrian CCM-policies since 1990 (Section 3), focussing only on the most relevant CCM policies. A complete list of all cross-sectoral policies and measures was beyond the scope of this paper. For detailed sectoral policies and acts, please refer to additional literature, such as Steurer and Clar (2015), Bitterling (2010), or Brand and Pawloff (2014). Section 4 integrates these findings into the CPI-framework (Table 1) and scrutinizes strengths and shortcomings of Austrian CPI. Section 5 draws a time-line that integrates findings on CPI with GHG-emission trends, and puts policy-effects into perspective with other external drivers, such as short-term economic (recessions, energy prices) and climatic drivers (i.e. heating degree days). We also show trends of consumption based GHG-emissions in order to highlight carbon leakage as an important issue that is not addressed in national GHG-inventories. Section 5 represents the conclusion and outlook.

3. Four phases of CCM-awareness and action in Austria

Based on a literature recherché we could distinguish four phases of CCM-policy progress in Austria, which are characterized by distinct levels of CCM-prioritization and concrete actions. We start in the early 1990s, a time in which climate-change awareness gained momentum in the public discourse.

3.1. Phase 1 (1990-1995): awareness and first CCM institutions

The early to mid-1990s were marked by an upswing of climate change awareness as a side-effect of the overall "natural protection" euphoria (Hackl, 2001), fuelled by recent successes of the environmental movement in Hainburg and Zwentendorf (Lauber, 1997; Natter, 1987). Austria committed to bold GHG-emission targets in the Toronto agreement of 1988, which foresaw a reduction of global emissions by -20% over 1988 until 2005. CCM experienced a high level of prioritization in the political arena. New institutions were founded and the environmental ministry was drastically empowered from 35 relevant positions in 1989, to 208 in 1995 (Hackl, 2001).

The Austrian CO2 Commission (ACC) was implemented in 1990 as a multi-actor, interdisciplinary board, targeted at identifying high potential areas for reaching the Toronto agreement. The ACC consisted not only of scientists, environmental speakers of the parties, NGO-s, academic representatives, but also of members from the corporatist interest groups, hitherto referred to as Social Partners. Hence, corporatism played an important role already at this early stage. The ACC was provided with an annual budget from the environmental ministry and the Academy of Environment and Energy ("Akademie für Umwelt und Energie") of Lower Austria, which also provided space and literature

Criterion Definition

1. Inclusiona To what extent is direct as well as indirect climate change mitigation covered?

1. Consistencya Have the contradictions between the aims related to climate change mitigation and adaptation and other policy goals been assessed and have

there been efforts to minimise revealed contradictions?

2. Weightinga Has the relative priority of climate change mitigation and adaptation impacts compared to other policy aims been decided and are there

procedures for determining the relative priorities?

3. Reportinga Are there clearly stated evaluation and reporting requirements for climate change mitigation and adaptation impacts (including deadlines) ex ante

planned and have such evaluations and reporting happened ex post?

4. Resourcesa Is internal as well as external knowhow about climate change mitigation and adaptation impacts available and used and are resources provided?

5. Reflexivity0 Is learning over time encouraged based on reporting and evaluation of policy measures

6. Commitment and sanctionsh A high level of commitment is usually accompanied by sanctions in case of non-fulfilling targets

7. Uncertaintiesh Are uncertainties of climate change policies addressed and how are they adressed (epistemological, ontological)?

8. Multi-levelh Is the interplay of different levels of decision-making (EU, national, regional) addressed properly?

9. MuM-a£torh To which degree are different stakeholders, i.e. politicians, industry, civil society, NGO-s, involved?

a Directly taken from Mickwitz et al. (2009). Note that we have slightly adapted the related definitions. b Additional criteria introduced in this study.

access (Hackl, 2001).

One year later the IMK-climate committee ("Interministerielles Komitee zur Koordinierung von Maßnahmen zum Schutz des globalen Klimas") was established in order to steer the inter-ministerial CCM-process towards GHG-reduction measures. However, the IMK was suspected to have an "alibi" function, which is supported by the fact the ministry of finances, the most powerful ministry in most states at that time (Hirsch, 1995), did not have a representative in the IMK for a very long period (Hackl, 2001).

The ACC and IMK presented key-measures for reaching the Toronto target (refer to Hackl, 2001), of which several were implemented, such as the regulation of thermal standards for new buildings through a '15a agreement'.2 In 1993 the Austrian Environmental Support Act ("Umweltförderungsgesetz") was implemented (Bundeskanzleramt, 1993), which entailed one pillar "Domestic Environmental Support Scheme", that aimed at subsidizing energy efficiency and climate and environmental protection for companies, in total through a sum of 611Mio Euros (UNFCCC, 2014; Bundeskanzleramt, 1993).

However, other important CCM measures remained unrealized, such as the shift of housing subsidies to refurbishment of old buildings (Abele et al., 2000), the continuation of district heating subsidies after 1993, or a mineral oil tax (Hackl, 2001; Steurer, 1999). In the case of the housing sector, federalism and particularly the opposition of the Länder (the nine provincial states of Austria), towards some of the proposed measures hampered the CCM-process. A consensus about the level of refurbishment subsidies is lacking until today even amongst the Länder, where for instance Vorarlberg and Vienna are refurbishment frontrunners, while Carinthia and Burgenland lag behind (Veigl, 2016). After the ACC had pointed to the need for more drastic measures in order to reach the Toronto target (ACC, 1993), the climate protection euphoria gradually faded.

3.2. Phase 2 (1995-2001): stagnation

The EU-accession in 1995 brought about new institutional and political settings and the EU-parliament became an additional central actor. Generally, the EU prioritized a flourishing transit system over CCM (Stangl et al., 2000) and effects of national measures, such the mineral oil tax, were counterbalanced by the promotion of EU-wide, motorway-based transit (abandonment of border controls in 1997), as well as by national policies, such as commuter tax allowances ("Pendlerpauschale").

Note that when Austria joined the EU, it was still regarded a fron-trunner of environmental protection. This changed markedly in the course of the following years (Lauber, 1997; Kern et al., 2001; Amann and Fischer-Kowalski, 2002) and as part of the austerity package introduced during the 1996 economic recession. The EU-accession was a welcomed opportunity to replace the Toronto target by the much weaker EU-stabilisation target and later on by the Kyoto-target, which foresaw a GHG reduction by minus13% until 2012 over 1990 in the first Kyoto period (and minus 16% over 2005 in the second period from 2013 to 2020, refer to Hochgerner et al., 2016).

During this period CCM institutions were drastically weakened. In 1996 the ACC was replaced by the ACCC (Austrian Council on Climate Change; Österreichischer Klimabeirat ÖKB), which was no longer provided with an annual budget and exclusively consisted of scientists - a sign of fading CCM-commitment amongst politicians and the Social Partners that had abandoned institutionalized collaboration with scientists. Annual press-conferences were abolished which meant the loss of a central communication-platform. The Kyoto Forum aimed at supporting a national strategy to reach the Kyoto target from 1999 onwards

2 15a agreements are binding agreements between the Länder and the federal gov-

ernment. They are particularly important with respect to Austrian federalism (refer to Section 4).

and comprised representatives of the Länder, municipalities and towns.

When the new centre-right coalition took over in 2000 up to 2006 Austria was confronted with international and EU-wide criticism and sanctions. CCM-policies saw both progress (mostly related to EU-interventions) and drawbacks (also refer to 3.3. Phase 3). In 2001 the ACCC suspended its work due to precarious working conditions and was replaced by a working group (Klimawandel) as part of the Austrian Academy of Science (Hackl, 2001).

3.3. Phase 3 (2002-2006): rising EU-influence and the first federal climate strategy

As GHG-emissions rose unhalted and Austria was now committed to the Kyoto protocol, the federal government and the Länder agreed on the first Federal Climate Strategy in 2002 (BMLFUW, 2002), where a set of suggested CCM measures should guide the implementation. The climate strategy addressed all vertical policy levels thus revealing a high level of integration, but its outreach, i.e. the practical implementation of the proposed measures, was rather low due to its voluntary character (Casado-Asensio and Steurer, 2014; Steurer and Clar, 2015).

Several international processes fuelled national CCM-progress during that time: Following an EU-directive on renewable energy production, the Green Electricity Act was implemented at the national level in 2002 (Federal Republic of Austria, 2002), which boosted the production of green electricity in the following years (refer to Brand and Pawloff, 2014). Furthermore, as part of the UNFCCC, Austria has committed to submit annual GHG-emission inventories following the IPCC guidelines (IPCC, 2006) as well as progress reports to the UNF CCC. Hence, GHG-monitoring and reporting has experienced drastic improvement under EU-influence, providing the empirical grounds for CCM-progress evaluation.

In order to boost implementation of the climate strategy, the environmental ministry launched the klima:aktiv programme (k:a) in 2004, with an annual budget between 5 and 6 Mio Euros (Bitterling, 2010). Its main purpose was to raise awareness and promote existing climate-friendly products and services in the areas "renewable energy", "buildings and refurbishment", "energy saving" and "mobility" (kli-ma:aktiv, 2009). Since the programme focussed on soft measures, it was accepted by the Länder (Steurer and Clar, 2015). In the same year, following the EU-directive on taxation of energy products and electricity (Directive 2003/96/EC), higher taxations on coal-based energy were implemented.

In 2005 emission-effects of the Climate Strategy were evaluated (AEA et al., 2005). As results clearly pointed to large inefficacies, the strategy was amended in 2007 (Bitterling, 2010; BMLFUW, 2008). Two working groups were founded in order to investigate reduction potentials in the sectors traffic and energy. However, the Länder never agreed upon this strategy, because they felt excluded in the process and disagreed on sectoral targets, particularly concerning the housing sector (Steurer and Clar, 2015).

For the energy-intensive industries a new era commenced in 2005, when the EU launched its carbon-emission market under the premise of "cap and trade". Emissions falling under the emission trading system (ETS) were regulated through national allowances and from 2008 onwards additional CO2-certificates could be purchased through flexible mechanisms (Bel and Joseph, 2015).

When the grand coalition took over again in 2006, CCM-commit-ment did not improve. Contrary - two years later refurbishment incentives of housing subsidies were abandoned by the Länder (Steurer and Clar, 2015) and the Green Electricity Act was amended towards lower feed-in tariffs following successful interventions of the Social Partners, resulting in a drastic decline of new installations (Brand and Pawloff, 2014).

3.4. Phase 4 (2007 onwards): legislations

The EU announcement of infringement proceedings for countries violating against existing EU-regulations, such as the directive on the energy performance of buildings (Steurer and Clar, 2015), acted as a wake-up call for both, the national state and the Länder. Climate protection gained momentum again, particularly through the enforcement of legal acts. In 2007 a mineral oil tax was introduced and the climate and energy fund law (KLI:EN; Bundeskanzleramt, 2007) was implemented in order to subsidise CCM-projects and research (including the Austrian Climate Research Programme ACRP).

In response to the binding EU-2020 target and as part of the Climate and Energy Directive of the year 2009, which was implemented as a side-effect of the Russian gas crisis (European Commission, 2012), Austria formulated its first "Energy Strategy" (BMWFJ, 2009). Its aim was to develop a roadmap in order to increase energy efficiency by 20% and the share of renewable energy by 34%, as well as to cut GHG-emissions by 21 % and 16% in the ETS and non-ETS sectors until 2020. A milestone in the housing sector was reached with a 15a agreement in 2009 (BGBl. II Nr. 251/2009), in which the Länder agreed on more ambitious thermal standards of buildings. As a consequence, new CCM-instruments, such as subsidizing refurbishment of old buildings ("Sanierungscheck") were implemented.

However, other developments in this period do not support rising CCM-commitment: As emissions declined EU-wide during the global economic crisis of 2008/09 the option to move beyond the 20% target (i.e. towards a 30% reduction) was communicated by the EU (Brand and Pawloff, 2014). Expectedly, the European (and Austrian) industry successfully opposed against it, but in Austria, even the environmental ministry was against it. For Brand and Pawloff (2014) this was a clear sign of corporatism and the interests of the Social Partners dominating the CCM-discussions and the political option space in Austria.

The global economic crisis of 2008/09 had two contrasting effects on CCM in Austria: National emissions dropped due to declining economic activity, but this created a certificate surplus of 9,2 Mio t CO2, which allowed a gradual spending until 2020, lowering incentives for CCM-measures in the ETS-sectors (Moidl and Wahlmüller, 2012).

In 2011 Austria passed its first climate protection act (CPA) (Bundeskanzleramt, 2011), which was regarded a milestone in terms of CCM commitment. The CPA amendment in 20153 introduced sectoral emission targets and was particularly important for assigning responsibilities. Two new institutions were founded: The NKB ("Klimabeirat") with a scientific and advisory role and the inter-ministerial climate-committee ("Klima-Kommitte Österreich"; NKK), which guides the implementation process. Although the NKK was initially supposed to consist of representatives of ministries and the Länder, the Social Partners successfully claimed a seat and so guaranteed a central role in the implementation of the CPA (Brand and Pawloff, 2014). Sectoral working groups that included representatives from ministries, the Länder, the Social Partners, the Environment Agency and sectoral interest groups, agreed on 56 accompanying CCM measures (BMLFUW, 2013, 2015a).

Two EU-regulations were particularly important for the formulation of the CPA (UBA, 2015): (a) the Renewable Energy Directive and the Energy Efficiency Directive. For the post-2015 period additional measures were agreed upon (UBA, 2015). Existing measures and instruments (WEM measures) as well as additional measures to be implemented after 2020 (WAM measures) are listed in the report "GHG Projections and Assessment of Policies and Measures in Austria" (UBA, 2015).

During this phase, adaptation to climate change became relevant in Austria and was even included in the 2008 government programme. In

3 the 2015 amendment relaxed targets from 47,8 to 48,8 million tons CO2 equivalents until 2020.

the 2008-2011 period a series of projects were financed to obtain the science perspective on the issue. Thus, based on a literature research, a written survey, and by involving a large number of experts, concrete recommendations were identified for 14 fields of activity like agriculture, forestry, energy, building & living and transport. On this basis, the Austrian Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change was developed and adopted by the Council of Ministers ("Ministerrat") in 2012 and taken note of by the governors of the Länder ("Landeshauptleutekonferenz") in the year after (Kronberger-Kießwetter et al., 2015, 2012). The first progress report on its implementation was published in 2015 and further projects were commissioned to assess the damage costs of inaction (Steininger et al., 2016a, 2015).

It is worth noting that an Austrian Climate Change Assessment Report (AAR14) funded by the ACRP was developed in 2014. In this report more than 200 scientists depicted the state of knowledge on climate change and its impacts in Austria, mitigation and adaptation strategies, as well as associated political and socio-economic issues (Kromp-Kolb et al., 2014).

4. Lessons learned for CPI

Integrating the qualitative findings of Section 3 into our CPI-ana-lysis framework (Table 1) reveals strengths, but also persistent loopholes for effective CCM in Austria (also refer to Fig. 1a in Section 5).

The first period "awareness" saw an upsurge of CPI revealing high levels of "inclusion" and "weighting" in the public and political discourse across all policy levels that brought about the establishment of new institutions ("resources") and the compilation of the first national GHG emission reports (Fig. 1a). In the "stagnation" phase, CCM priority lagged behind economic concerns. CCM institutions were destabilized through budget cuts. Under "EU-influence" (third phase) CCM gained momentum again. Austria ratified the Kyoto protocol, implemented its first climate strategy and committed to the EU-burden sharing agreement and to annual GHG assessment reports. However, reasonable "commitment" to CCM was achieved only in the late 2000s, under the threat of EU-sanctions and when CCM-legislations boosted CCM-pro-grammes and measures (period 4 "legislations"). In 2011 Austria passed its first climate protection act and in 2012 the Austrian strategy for adaptation to climate change was adopted.

Despite this progress, the consistently low priority of some CPI criteria has buffered policy-success. Above all, Austria faces a particular lack of "consistency" between CCM policies and other sectoral policies,4 still spending roughly 4.7 Bio EUR annually for climate-harming subsidies (Kletzan-Slamanig and Köppl, 2016). In the case of traffic, which contributes about one third to total emissions, showing a constant rise, this is particularly devastating. Effects of the mineral oil tax, or the road pricing tax (vignette since 1997), are largely buffered by subsidies for private-car commuters and tax-abatements for diesel cars (Kletzan-Slamanig and Köppl, 2016).

A central reason for the low levels of consistency is the semi-federal nature of Austrian jurisdiction and the high level of corporatism. Responsibilities are fragmented between the federal state and the Länder - a particular challenge for multi-level governance. For instance, the sectors "spatial planning" and "housing" are under provincial jurisdiction, but due to their direct connectedness with the traffic, industry, or energy provision sectors, the Länder can indirectly influence federal policies. For instance, subsidies for building new houses and refurbishment cuts by the Länder counteracted the success of the federal refurbishment programme of 2009 ("Sanierungscheck") (Kletzan-Slamanig and Köppl, 2016).

4 This is supported by Ken Conca's work, in which he distinguishes between explicit, i.e. direct environmental policies and implicit policies, such as trade-, traffic, or housing policies, where the latter are more important because they create limitations for explicit policies (Conca and Lipschutz, 1993).

Fig. 1. Time-line of CPI progress in the background of GHG emissions and climatic and socio-economic events. (a) Priority changes of CPI criteria from 1990 to 2014; (b) National (production based) and consumption based emissions (Wieland, 2016); (c) Household emissions and heating degree days (secondary axis) (EUROSTAT, 2017); (d) Traffic emission (EUROSTAT, 2017) and energy consumer price index (secondary axis; OECD, 2017); (e) short term events and policy milestones.

Federalism has also been deemed responsible for the relative lack of responsibility and strong measures introduced along with the Climate Strategy 2002 (Steurer and Clar, 2015). The negotiation process was heavily complicated not only by the different sectoral priorities and the imbalance of power between ministries (traditionally strong financial and economic ministry but rather weak environmental ministry; Hertin and Berkhout, 2001), but also by the contrasting priorities amongst the

Länder and the federal government (Steurer and Clar, 2015).

Furthermore Austrian corporatism contributes to the already intricate actor-constellation and poses a further obstacle to CCM-policy progress (, 2017; APA OTS, 2012; Brand and Pawloff, 2014), fuelling the perceived conflict "economic growth and job market versus climate change mitigation" (Niedermoser, 2012). Brand and Pawloff (2014) have discussed the domination of corporatism in detail

in context with negotiations on national GHG-targets and the 2006 amendment of the Green Electricity Act. Apparently, corporatist interest were more important for policy progress than were interests of the ruling political parties. While the shifts between centre-right and centre-left coalitions had no direct effect on CCM-commitment, corporatist interests continuously influenced CCM-implementation processes and the success of CCM-acts and programmes.

Top down regulations by the EU haven been probably the most important "commitment"-boost from the early 2000s onwards. Prominent examples are the implementation of the CPA in 2011, but also the Green Electricity Act in 2002 and the Energy Directive in 2009, all of which can be considered as responses to EU interventions (directives). However, in terms of the CPA, effectivity is highly debated, as responsibilities are not manifested in sector-specific sanctions (Steurer and Clar, 2015)- a big flaw in the CPA that inhibits ambitious measures (Steurer and Clar, 2015).

At our rather coarse level of analysis, we find a persistent lack of reflexivity in Austrian CCM-policies (Bauer et al., 2012). While the annual GHG-emission reports together with several progress reports (i.e. refer to BMLFUW, 2015b, 2016) provide a sound basis for reflex-ivity, an institutionalized and cross-sectoral learning process is still lacking. The problem is that reflexive governance implies an iterative learning process amongst various actors, based on re-opening problem frames and adapting goals and interests. Hence, it can only be achieved if all remaining CPI-criteria are met adequately. As reflexivity by definition entails the operationalisation of uncertainty into CCM-govern-ance, there is still a rather long way ahead for Austria to achieve overall high CPI-levels.

5. CPI-effectiveness and the role of short term events

The four phases of CCM-awareness and action (chapter 3 and 4) are reflected in Austrian GHG-emissions (Fig. 1a,b), which rose most notably in the "stagnation" phase to their highest level of ca. 95 Mio t CO2 equivalents (CO2e) in 2005 and started to decrease in the third phase, falling below the 1990 level at 78.3 Mio t CO2e by 2014. This gives reason to suspect direct success of policies that promoted green electricity, energy efficiency and the substitution of solid and liquid fuels with natural gas and biomass from 2005 onwards. However, CCM-po-licies are only one of many factors driving GHG-emissions. The following paragraphs aim at putting policy effects into perspective with other factors, such as consumption footprints, economic changes or climate variability.

Apparently GHG-emissions embodied in Austrian imports of energy, goods and services, which are not accounted for in the national inventories, were on average 20% higher than national emissions and substituted for the post-2005 decrease of territorial emissions (Fig. 1b; Wieland, 2016). A recent study has shown that during economic recovery this substitution even increased (Steininger et al., 2016b). In contrast to the post-2005 decline of territorial emissions, consumption-related emissions rose to the 2006-level again in 2012. This high level of carbon leakage questions the direct CCM-effect of Austrian material and energy consumption, because it blurs the direct link between action, i.e. domestic consumption or policies, and climate impacts (Girod, 2016).

Furthermore 1/3 of Austrian emissions fall under the ETS accounting, which has been subject to rising criticism in terms of their direct CCM-relevance. This is particularly true in terms of the so-called flexible mechanisms, which, combined with the very low carbon prizes, lower incentives for efficiency improvements. Indeed, Austria spent 700 Mio Euros on flexible meachanism in order to fulfil the Kyoto target in 2012 (Steurer and Clar, 2015). Since the future of the international carbon market (including ET-distribution schemes) is currently unclear (Andresen et al., 2016), ambitious domestic measures must be key in the coming years.

Short-term economic and climatic events repeatedly had major

repercussions on GHG-trends. Due to the direct link between emissions and economic activity, impacts of economic events, such as the global financial crisis of 2008/09, or the economic recession in 2000 (Fig. 1e) were drastic. This is particularly reflected by cuts of production and consumption-based emission in 2009 (Fig. 1b) (Bel and Joseph, 2015). Interestingly, the foreclosure of the aluminium station Ranshofen in 19925 (which coincided with a warm winter) had a comparably drastic impact. Overall, however, such events acted as disruptions rather than turning-points of long-term trends (Fig. 1b).

In case of household-emissions, at least three additional factors contribute to declines since 2000 besides direct policy effects (Steurer and Clar, 2015): a) decreasing heating degree days (Fig. 1c), b) technological improvements and c) changing accounting rules that shifted electricity and district heating emissions to "energy provision". Also, short-term climatic events, such as the very mild winters of 1994, 2000, 2007 and 2014, or the particularly cold winter of 1994 (Fig. 1e) overruled policies in their proximate emission effects (Fig. 1c).

Traffic emission trends are particularly related to energy prizes (Fig. 1d). This is important, given that the sector contributes roughly 1/ 3 to national emissions and deviates most strongly from the Kyoto target. As bold national CCM-measures are still missing (Brand and Pawloff, 2014) and taxation on petroleum is still below EU-average, energy price trends are important "external" drivers. This is also true for other sectors, as is mirrored by the 2000--2008 price-surges, which had immediate emission effects (Fig. 1b-d). Overall, energy prices can stimulate efficiency gains and technological innovations (WIFO et al., 2010), highlighting economic instruments such as ecological tax reforms, as high-potential future CCM-measures (Kletzan et al., 2008).

6. Conclusions and outlook

In this paper, we investigated Austrian CCM-policies since 1990 with a particular focus on CPI. The observed period saw important policy progress that peaked in the climate protection act (CPA) of 2011. However, an analysis of the factors that contributed to declining emissions since 2005 revealed that there is still much room left for increasing national policy efficiency, where other, often short-term factors such as climatic and economic events as well as carbon leakage dominated observed trends.

In Austria CPI is impeded by a high level of federalism and corporatism and the CCM-policy arena is bound to interests of many actors that pursue completely different goals. The underrepresentation of some CPI-criteria (consistency, commitment) throughout the study period was responsible for a persistent lack of reflexivity. While at smaller scales and tackling clearly defined fields, reflexive governance has proven feasible for problem-solving (Sonnino et al., 2014), the difficulty to steer a process towards reflexive governance rises exponentially when "wicked" problems, such as sustainability or low-carbon transitions, which involve numerous actors, sectors and policy levels are concerned. As meeting all announced CPI-criteria is a prerequisite for reflexive CCM-policies, there is still a long way ahead towards firm, reflexive CCM-policy governance in Austria.

Under the discussed circumstances, the future of Austrian climate policies is uncertain. Although climate change awareness in the public is high and climate change scepticism is politically irrelevant in Austria (contrary to the US and Germany; Brand and Pawloff, 2014), the strongest political parties still perpetuate the conflict of "economic growth versus climate protection". A recent example is the discussion around the extension of the Viennese airport (, 2017). Here again, a weakness of Austrian CPI becomes visible: when CCM is regarded as conflicting with targets supported by powerful lobbies and public discourses CPI is threatened by subordination under these targets

5 The strange effect of Ranshofen was that it was running on hydro power. After it closed down the surplus hydro power reduced the demand for fossil power (coal).

and the interests involved.

Domestic CCM-progress will probably become even more challenging in the future. Until now international and EU-climate directives and instruments were the most central drivers of Austrian CCM ambitions and policy progress. There are at least three reasons why these drivers may be weakened in the future: First, the future of the EU-carbon market is still to be fixed (Andresen et al., 2016) and there is no evidence whether these market instruments will have positive impacts on CCM.6 Secondly, concerning international climate policies, the change from the Kyoto-Protocol to the Paris-agreement will probably weaken Austrian CPI. In the Paris-agreement there are no binding targets but voluntary contributions (INDC: Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) which makes it easier for countries to stick to some low hanging fruits (concerning only a few economic sectors and CCM targets easy to achieve). Thirdly, the crisis of the EU makes it uncertain whether European institutions can stimulate further actions in member states. Thus, domestic CCM will probably become again more important for CPI and it is questionable if they will be able to seriously tackle existing weaknesses of Austrian CCM policies.

Apart from top-down CCM-polices through laws and regulations, individual stakeholders are starting to realize the economic benefits of CCM, giving reason for cautious optimism. For instance, there is a rising number of partnerships between firms and their labour-unions with NGO-s that voluntarily introduce strict CCM-standards (Niedermoser, 2012). Moreover, civil society organisations like System Change not Climate Change,7 the public initiative Growth in Transition,8 or events like the Good Life for all conference at Vienna University of Business and Economics9 stimulate awareness and public debate. Such small signals give hope that private and political stakeholders will increasingly regard CPI an important element of a comprehensive socio-ecological transformation (Görg et al., 2017) and that bottom-up initiatives will at least be partly able to compensate for shortfalls of top-down policies.


This work was financed by the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund through the Austrian Climate Research Programme (ACRP; project title: Reflexive Governance in a Changing Climate: How to Address Uncertainties in Transformation Strategies?; project number ACRP8 - RefGovCC.AT -KR15AC8K12622). We are very thankful to Nikolai Jakobi and our project-partners Daniel Barben, Jenan Irshaid and Nils Matznerfor their support.


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