4. English Summary
The first article describes the contents of the so-called Environmental Monitoring Report (Umweltkontrollbericht, UKB), which is issued every three years by the Austrian Federal Environmental Agency (Umweltbundesamt). Generally the assessment of the environmental quality and recent developments affecting the situation of the environment in Austria is positive. Renewable energy sources, water quality and waste management are areas where progress has been made. However, in other sectors such as air quality, noise and biodiversity a lot of work remains to be done. Climate protection is a sector which receives a particularly negative evaluation. Industry and transport for example still observe a significant growth in greenhouse gas emissions. The estimation is that Austria will fail to comply with its international obligations if no additional measures are taken. The UKB notes that only one third of the measures contained in the Austrian Climate Strategy have been implemented. The main reason for this lies in the fact that the strategy is not binding.
The second article concerns a package of measures presented by the European Commission regarding the cultivation of genetically modified plants. The package does not contain any fundamental changes of the licensing system for GMOs. However the member states will, according to the proposed changes to the system, be given more flexibility as regards the prohibition of the cultivation of GMOs. They will be able to introduce such bans more easily. However, environmental NGOs remain sceptical. Even though the licensing system for GMOs would formally remain unchanged, the increased flexibility regarding prohibitive measures could be traded against GMO-sceptical states consent to an accelerated licensing procedure for GMOs. This trade-off is also indicated in an unpublished document available to the NGOs Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Europe.
The last article deals with the entry into fore of the SEA Protocol to the Espoo Convention in July 2010 after the ratification of the Protocol by Estonia. The Espoo Convention deals with trans-boundary effects of specific activities and foresees information and participation possibilities for the public of the affected state. The SEA Protocol adds provisions on the plans and programs for which an SEA will have to be carried out if they are likely to have significant environmental effects and set the framework for specific projects subject to the EIA regime (e.g. a water management plan containing specifications relevant for the construction of hydropower plants). What is particularly special about the Protocol is that it is very detailed; more detailed than for instance the SEA Directive of the EU. This is true in particular as regards its provisions on the involvement of the public. It is therefore likely that its entry into force will make concrete legislative adaptations on the national level necessary.
geändert am 30.09.2010