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11 November 2021

Aviation, Climate Protection & Technology: The winning trio for Austria’s economy

Dr. Magnus Brunner, is Austria’s State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology. He doubles as the Deputy Minister of Transport and is responsible for air transport matters within the Austrian federal governement.
Here, Dr. Brunner discusses the environmental targets and steps the Austrian government is taking to achieve its aviation, climate protection, and sustainability goals. 

Magnus Brunner, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology. ©Jakob Glaser

  • Austria is taking the lead on Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) production by bringing together the energy, aviation, and technology/science sectors. What next steps can we expect from this collaborative approach?

The Corona crisis has changed the aviation industry. Companies and employees have faced and continue to face unprecedented challenges. In addition to dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, aviation faces another major challenge - climate change.

For me, one thing is clear. Aviation is Austria's gateway to the world, our connection to family and friends, and a key economic factor. If you put the brakes on aviation, you also put the brakes on the economy and growth. Therefore, my approach is: let's see the great potential of aviation for Austria as a technology location! We want to take advantage of this opportunity. Then aviation, climate protection and technology will become a winning trio for Austria. After the Corona crisis, we now need an economic upswing. Aviation is an important lever for this to happen.

Now that the aviation industry is picking up again, we must not forget the aspect of sustainability. In the government program, we made a commitment to developing climate-friendly fuel alternatives for aviation. That is why we also support the EU's "Fit for 55" package of measures on a mandatory blending of alternative fuels in aviation. By 2050, the share of alternative fuels in aircraft tanks should be 63%, 28% of which should be e-fuels*. This blending of alternative fuels is very sensible and necessary. E-fuels have enormous potential in this area because they can be used to operate aircraft in a CO2-neutral manner.
(*Electrofuels – e-fuels – are distinct from other forms of SAF in that they are produced from renewable energy)

The aim is to establish a production plant for e-fuels in Austria. We want to discuss and initiate this at a kick-off on November 11, 2021 with experts from the energy and aviation industries. Of course, this process does not end with this first event. We are joining forces and efforts to ensure that we achieve this goal and produce SAF in Austria and in sufficient quantities as quickly as possible

  • The aviation industry has outlined SAF as the key element in its emission reduction strategy. How will the Austrian government and the aviation ecosystem collectively ensure SAF is produced and distributed at sufficient levels to materialize the carbon net zero target?

My goal is for the aviation sector to exist with a clear conscience. Because one thing is certain: Sustainability and flying are not mutually exclusive! I therefore do not agree with demonizing airplanes or banning flying. We can't and don't want to tell people, especially after a year and a half of pandemic, that flying is evil, that you can't travel the world or go on vacation at the beach. That is why we are making flying more sustainable!

With Austro Control's measures, we are already saving 100,000 tons of CO2 per year, the equivalent of 2,000 Mediterranean flights. And we are pushing ahead with the blending of alternative fuels. Some people are only interested in banning flying. Let's talk about how to get more alternative fuels into the plane instead of getting people off the plane. I started this initiative and discussion series to push the issue of alternative fuels in aviation. My goal is to produce alternative fuels for aviation in Austria.

I am convinced that our climate targets can only be achieved through innovation. In this way, we can achieve climate-neutral flying in the long term with technologies from Austria. Through our Ministry’s Takeoff funding program, we provide around €10 million annually for innovation, climate protection and sustainability in aviation. In total, we have already invested more than €200 million in innovations in aviation.

The millions in funding are well invested. Because Austria's companies are innovative, I am convinced that we can do even more. As an example, 100 components from 10 Austrian companies are currently installed in the Airbus A380. We are working to ensure that 200 components from 20 Austrian companies will be installed in the other aircraft manufacturing companies.  

Additional Information: 

  • How does Austria plan to achieve its environmental targets, and are these any different from the EU’s plan?

Austria has ambitious energy and climate targets which is why we must get started now. This is the only way to create 100% clean electricity in, and from Austria. We aim to achieve climate neutrality in Austria by 2040 – 10 years ahead of the EU target. We can only achieve our goals with more photovoltaics, more biomass, more wind plants, and more hydropower. That is why we in the federal government have passed the Renewable Energy Expansion Act (EAG).

The EAG is a huge investment package for and in the domestic economy. We are investing €1 billion per year for the next 10 years and triggering an investment volume of €30 billion. That is €30 billion that will flow into regional value creation.

We can only achieve the energy turnaround if as many people as possible join in. It is important for companies, the regions in Austria, and communities to contribute. The EAG forces cooperation through its centerpiece which are the energy communities, and it enables each locality to implement an energy community, a subsidized photovoltaic or biomass plant itself. This is how we create the energy transition.

  • Transport and Climate Change are increasingly being integrated into one government ministry, as we see in Austria, France, and quite possibly, Germany. What opportunities do you see in this new trend?

Transport is responsible for one third of Austria's CO2 emissions. This of course explains why we are facing major challenges, especially in the logistics sector, bearing in mind that as the federal government, our goal is to become climate-neutral by 2040. 

It is for this reason that we assign to rail transport what can be assigned to it. But there are still too many barriers in rail freight transport, particularly in the case of international rail transport. The cumbersome bureaucracy at the border needs to be abolished and a joint strategy developed with our neighboring countries. In addition, it must also become easier for small freight forwarders to shift shipments to rail. It is therefore valuable if transport and climate protection are thought of and dealt with in one government ministry. After all, climate protection is one of the central tasks of our generation.

As the State Secretary in the Ministry, the expansion of public transport is particularly important to me. To this end, the Austrian government is investing more than €17 billion in the renewal and expansion of the rail infrastructure by 2026. But rail cannot be laid everywhere. We must also keep the rural population in mind. For individual transportation, this means that the problem is not with the internal combustion engine, rather the problem lies with its CO2 emissions. We must therefore focus on clean forms of propulsion such as e-fuels, hydrogen, and e-mobility, as well as enable more innovation and live more practicality. Because I don't want to dream about the energy transition, I want to implement it faster.

For Austria to achieve its climate targets, we need investment, innovation, and cooperation. There is no one big solution; we need to be open to technology, especially in the mobility sector. We will need all clean technologies: synthetic fuels, biofuels, electric mobility, and hydrogen. And we are working very hard as a federal government to ensure that Austria remains an attractive business location. That is why we are taking important measures with the eco-social tax reform to stimulate the economy and enable investment. The reduction in the corporate income tax rate from 25% to 23% will relieve companies of up to €700 million. And we are providing incentives for environmentally friendly behavior: In this way, we are helping our economy to make the ecological transition, strengthening Austria's position as a location in global competition, and easing the burden on people.

I see intelligent climate protection policy and an innovative energy transition as an opportunity. The gradual CO2 price creates the necessary planning security. Because we can only achieve the ecological turnaround together with the people and the economy - and with incentives rather than prohibitions.

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