A new vision for Austria: From Too Little Too Late to a Giant Leap for sustainability

08 July 2024 – A new report shows that by simultaneously implementing “five extraordinary turnarounds” poverty and inequality could be significantly reduced in Austria, while transforming the economy to promote the wellbeing of Austrian society and the health of our planet.

The report, coordinated by the Austrian chapter of the Club of Rome, with input from 100 experts and decision-makers, looked at two scenarios. The Giant Leap scenario shows that almost all sustainability goals could be achieved in Austria by 2050 if five extraordinary turnarounds are implemented in the areas of inequality, food, energy, poverty and empowerment. The alternative scenario, Too Little Too Late, demonstrates likely outcomes if the country continues on its current path and shows stagnation at all levels, providing a breeding ground for further crises.

A survey of 1,000 Austrians conducted by Ipsos shows strong support for change: 65% of Austrians recognise the need for rapid action this decade to protect people from climate change and other environmental risks.  To fund this transformation, according to the survey results, Austrians strongly support wealth taxation for the richest in society and higher corporation taxes.

The report was produced after a series of workshops with stakeholders, public events and interviews with experts, and the resulting input has been combined with scientific modelling to provide policy levers in the areas of inequality, food, energy, poverty and empowerment that are specific to the Austria context. The participants agreed that a new vision of an “Earth for All” is necessary to inspire sustainable action, and measures to increase the acceptance of policies will be crucial to their success.

Austria is a high-income country with an above average level of consumption. It is also one of the European countries most affected by climate change. It is among the leaders in Europe in terms of income and wealth inequality, with 1% owning more than 55% of Austria’s net wealth. While a leader in terms of sustainable agriculture, people consume twice as much meat per year than the global average. The Too Little Too Late scenario demonstrates the dangerous social and ecological consequences of high inequality and unsustainable consumption on Austrian society if the country remains on its current path.

However, the report shows that enacting the five turnarounds and implementing new socio-ecological models will result in increased productivity, reduced poverty and inequality, and significantly reduced CO2 emissions. This will require strict guidelines on the phasing out of fossil fuels, and rapid expansion of renewable energies, allowing for the electrification of many sectors.

Other policy levers include:

  • Redistribution of wealth and progressive taxation
  • Improving participation and equal opportunities in terms of workers’ rights and citizen’s assemblies
  • Changing diets, reducing overconsumption and waste and transitioning to sustainable food
  • Restructuring the education system
  • Significantly higher prices for fossil fuels.

The suggested measures are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. It is only by implementing them simultaneously that their systemic impact will be felt – making a Giant Leap possible.

The report also explores the impact that Austria could have in eradicating poverty on a global scale by contributing to efforts to curb the debt of low-income countries, establish new growth models and transform the global financial architecture.

Tax reform would make resources available for the transformational policies recommended in the report, and new polling demonstrates high support among Austrians for reform. 63% support a wealth tax to fund changes to economies and societies, while 72% support a pollution tax and 67% back higher corporation tax.

“Strong and predictable policies increase the effectiveness of political change, and in the Austrian context, social partnership plays a key role. Transparency of measures and effective monitoring of their effects increase acceptance among the population,” explains Friedrich Hinterberger, Vice President of the Austrian chapter of the Club of Rome, who provided scientific support in the preparation of the report.

“It is also crucial that climate, economic and distribution policies can and must work together in order to achieve the necessary changes,adds Hannes Swoboda, President of the Austrian Chapter. 

Better governance with more rigour and transparency increases the effectiveness of policy change. However, the survey shows that this could become a challenge for Austria: Only 23% of people in the country trust the government to make decisions for the good of all, and only 18% trust it to make decisions that have a positive long-term impact. This is far below the average of the G20 countries. The survey also showed support for a number of proposed policies, for example there was significantly high agreement (69%) that the government should strengthen workers’ rights.

The two scenarios – Too Little Too Late and the Giant Leap – were first introduced in the book Earth for All: A Survival Guide for Humanity, published in September 2022. The book concludes that there is still time to act to substantially reduce risks to societies and ensure economic security and wellbeing for all – and the five extraordinary turnarounds are the minimum actions needed to achieve this.

“The Giant Leap scenario offers a way out of the current planetary emergency and a pathway for inequality and poverty alleviation by 2050. However, we recognise that policy solutions must be tailored to the unique circumstances of each country and locality. That is why Earth4All has embarked on national engagement strategies to champion and establish locally relevant policies aligned with their core challenges and needs so that we transform our Earth4All policy proposals into tangible actions on the ground,” comments Sandrine Dixson-Declève, co-president of The Club of Rome, co-author of Earth for All and executive chair of the Earth4All initiative. 

The report will be presented at the Klima Biennale Wien on 8 July 2024.

Read the report


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