High-level discussion: Business location and climate policy
Binder Grösswang invited to a panel discussion with Elisabeth Köstinger, Wolfgang Anzengruber, Herbert Eibensteiner and Christian Reisinger.
Numerous interested participants followed the invitation of the law firm Binder Grösswang, which invited to a panel discussion on Wednesday at Sterngasse 13 on the occasion of the beginning of the new year and the start of the new federal government.
Elisabeth Köstinger, Federal Minister of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism, Wolfgang Anzengruber, Chairman of the Management Board of Verbund AG, Herbert Eibensteiner, Chairman of the Management Board of voestalpine AG, and Christian Reisinger, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Rosenbauer AG, discussed "Business Location and Climate Policy - Opportunities and Challenges for Companies", moderated by Kurier Editor-in-Chief Martina Salomon.
As Managing Partner and speaker of the law firm Michael Kutschera explained in his welcome address, the reduction of climate-damaging emissions, especially CO2, is hardly ever questioned as a central goal, at least in our latitudes. The pursuit of this goal, however, raises many questions: "How does a small, highly industrialized country, whose economy, due to its very high technical standards, emits few greenhouse gases compared to many international competitors, but perhaps not so few in absolute terms, deal with this requirement?
Environmental protection versus climate protection
In his opening statement, Christian Reisinger, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Rosenbauer AG and a long-standing member of the Lenzing AG Board of Management, addressed the differences between environmental and climate policy: "Their goals are often contradictory.
Since the eighties, Austria has developed into a model country in the field of environmental protection and has played a pioneering role in the areas of waste separation and waste disposal, waste disposal, landscape and cultural conservation, as well as in the emissions policy of the transport and industrial sectors.
The concept of sustainability at the end of the 1990s was followed by the climate protection debate, which was initially launched in the industrial sector with the introduction of the European
emissions trading system (ETS) as a result of the Kyoto Protocol started in 2005. After the Climate Change Convention in Paris in 2015, the debate became more public.
As Reisinger notes "a certain disillusionment set in in Austria due to the fact that we are a leading nation in environmental protection, but are listed behind in climate protection. Greenhouse gases have been at similar levels since the 1990s and per capita CO2 emissions are at best in the European midfield."
Green business location
Elisabeth Köstinger, Federal Minister of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism, emphasises that decisions must be made in the interests of the business location.
"The government programme has established that it is important to make the right decisions for the location. It would be of no benefit to anyone if industrial companies in Austria did not see a future and possibly had production carried out elsewhere. That does neither help the climate nor the location."
Köstinger calls on Europe to show more courage. "I believe Europe must show more courage - not only in the energy sector. "For example, plastic is a valuable material, but it must not be a disposable product. The recycling economy represents a huge opportunity for Europe. We have to counteract plastic pollution, and here we could also be drivers of innovation," says Köstinger.
Köstinger believes that considerations relating to a European Green New Deal are more effective than going it alone at national level. If the European Union provides clear rules, this will promote competition. The Minister also emphasized the good conditions Austria has with regard to green hydrogen: "Hydrogen will be an important storage medium in the future. Temporary surpluses from solar or wind power can be stored in this way".
Successful model in Europe
Wolfgang Anzengruber, Chairman of the Managing Board of Verbund AG, is convinced that we are on the verge of a green technological revolution and calls for Austria to once again become a showcase model in Europe.
"Let us understand climate protection as a modern innovation and economic program that offers opportunities for the location and can become a successful model in Europe! We have the knowledge, the financial resources and the technical possibilities to do so - more than that: we have the obligation to do the right thing now for future generations!
Compensation for additional costs
As Herbert Eibensteiner, CEO of Voestalpine AG, emphasized, Voestalpine is clearly committed to global climate goals.
"We are constantly investing in existing technologies and have been able to reduce CO2 emissions per ton of crude steel by more than twenty percent over the past three decades. From today's perspective, we have exhausted all the technical possibilities of the existing technology. For this reason, we are working flat out on technical scenarios for driving forward the decarbonization of steel production and are also breaking new ground worldwide. We are currently examining the partial conversion of the existing blast furnace route into a hybrid electric steel route."
Compared with the technology currently in use, this would be a massive step and could avoid around three to four million tons of CO2 emissions in Austria. At the same time, voestalpine is also pursuing the longer-term approach of successively increasing the proportion of hydrogen in order to be able to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 80 percent by 2050.
"However, this transformation requires the sufficient availability of renewable energy sources.