At present, there is no uniform Austrian environmental code of law. Instead, environmental protection is based on various laws.
Below is a list of key Austrian environmental legal provisions arranged according to subject:
The Environmental Control Act and the Environmental Information Act govern transparent environmental controls and the public right of access to environmental information.
The right of unrestricted access to environmental information is set out in the Austrian Federal Environmental Information Act and in similar laws of the provinces of Austria.
Various obligations apply with regard to waste management, for example in relation to the disposal of waste materials.
The Chemicals Act regulates any potential impact caused by manufacturing, circulation, purchasing, use or disposal of substances, preparations or processed goods.
Water is the number one requirement for life. Its uses include drinking and hygiene in all areas of life. Agriculture, industry and households need water. Water protection provides sustainability for future generations.
Climate and air
Climate change caused by humans is generally considered to be the most serious global environmental problem. Its long-term effects can only be mitigated by concerted action by the international community. Austria has made an international commitment to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 13 %. In order to achieve this, the Federal Government has laid out a national climate protection programme which is to be implemented over the next few years.
The objective of a national sustainable clean-air policy is the permanent protection of human health, the animal and plant populations, their habitats and the precautionary reduction of immission loads. In order to achieve these objectives, laws and regulations set limits, trigger values and targets on the exceeding of which measures are to be taken to prevent future violations.
Forests are Austria’s green lungs. Constant management and care is needed to ensure that future generations inherit healthy forests.
The following laws in particular are intended to protect human life and health as well as the environment from harmful radiation:
The aim of this decree is to inform people who may potentially encounter a hazardous incident about hazards, safety measures and the correct procedure during a hazardous incident.
Projects that are expected to have a significant impact on the environment when implemented must undergo a systematic inspection (the Environmental Impact Assessment) before approval and must be evaluated as part of an approval process.
Businesses are free to go beyond the minimum environmental legal requirements at their own initiative.
The three basic principles of waste management in Austria are prevention, recycling and disposal of waste. The legal foundation for this is the Waste Management Act (AWG). Producers of waste must fulfil various obligations. including:
A further series of obligations applies to producers of hazardous waste.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management makes it possible to fulfil these obligations online. Exporters of waste that plan shipments requiring notification can register here:
Special notification requirements apply to preparations which are toxic, highly toxic or corrosive and are sold to the general public.
Due to their particular hazard to consumers (acutely harmful to human health and easily obtainable by private individuals without restriction), such preparations must be declared to the Federal Environmental Agency within two weeks of the substance entering circulation.
Every substance classed as highly toxic or toxic which is being circulated in Austria for the first time must be declared to the Federal Chancellery. This must be done via the submission of specific documentation within two weeks of the substance entering circulation.
Anyone circulating a highly toxic or toxic new substance which has been declared to the appropriate authority in another EU Member State and is not contained in the list of toxins in Austria for the first time must declare this substance, referring to the declaration made in another EU Member State, to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management within two weeks of the substance entering circulation for inclusion in the list of toxins.
Climate and air
Owners of waste (co-)incineration plants have to submit an emissions declaration for each calendar year retrospectively.
Permits and licences
In most cases, it is necessary to obtain authorisation before constructing or converting industrial facilities. This means that companies wishing to do so must first apply for an authorisation for facilities.
The relevant authority is the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, which provides a range of online services via the electronic data management portal (EDM portal). These services include requesting forms for information on waste or registration forms, searching for registered persons and declaring of shipments for which notification is required.
Any use of a public water body outside the scope of common use as well as the construction or alteration of a facility for the use of the water body requires authorisation as set out in the Water Protection Act 1959. Applications must be directed to the relevant water authority.
This inspection incorporates a declaratory procedure, a preliminary procedure and the actual Environmental Impact Assessment. An application for a permit must be submitted to the relevant authority. This must include the documents specified in the administrative regulations (e.g. layout plan, approval of land owner).
The Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) is the special department for environmental affairs in Austria. The UBA publishes the results of its work in studies and reports. The UBA also provides an online database covering various topics.
Useful information for people living and working in Austria is available from HELP, the Austrian government help service, or the Business Service Portal USP.
Services of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management:
Various institutions offer environmental subsidies.