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Austria Grabs Climate Initiative as Kurz Takes Power With Greens

(Bloomberg) — Austria’s new government signaled willingness to test the boundaries of conventional economic, energy and tax policies in its bid to radically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.

The conservative People’s Party and the environmentalist Greens on Thursday laid out their policy blueprint for their new coalition under Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, 33, who’s expected to be sworn in for a second term next week. The 300-page document pledges to put the Alpine country on a path to become climate neutral by 2040 while keeping the federal budget in check and lowering taxes on workers.

“‘We see climate-protection measures as a meaningful opportunity for justice as well as sustainable development of the economy and jobs in Austria,” read the document. “Austria can achieve its goal of climate neutrality by 2040 at the latest and become a pioneer in Europe for climate protection.”

Pending approval by Green party members at a conference Saturday, Austria will become a test bed for some of the most ambitious policies to combat climate change. The new government plans to raise the price of carbon pollution, offer financial incentives to boost energy efficiency and expand nationwide public transportation.

Greens have gained traction around the world as climate change climbs the agenda of voters. Some four decades after the movement emerged as a global political force, it’s active in more than 90 countries.

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen became the first politician from the party to be voted head of state in a national election in 2016. Joschka Fischer was previously the highest profile Green politician to serve in office, as Germany’s Foreign Minister from 1998 to 2005.

Austria’s coalition offers a potential template for politicians across the continent searching for a formula to repel the threat of populism. German conservative Ursula von der Leyen took charge of the European Commission last month and unveiled a plan to decarbonize the European economy. The next government in Berlin could see a similar alliance as the Greens supplant the ailing Social Democrats as the natural partner for Angela Merkel‘s Christian Democrats.

A government focus on climate change could help Austria get back on track to achieving its Paris Agreement targets for cutting harmful emissions. Despite its wealth of renewable hydropower resources, the country’s efforts to tackle global warming rank only 38th worldwide, according to this year’s Climate Change Performance Index.

Austrian steelmaker Voestalpine AG and oil refiner OMV AG could be among the companies most effected by higher prices on carbon-dioxide emissions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at, Iain Rogers, Chris Reiter

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