UN Climate Change Conference: “The economy can be part of the solution.”


At the 24th UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland, the United Nations is trying to stop climate change. Ulrike Rabmer-Koller, Vice-President of the Austrian Economic Chamber (WKÖ), on the balancing act between growth and environmental protection.

SCC: From 03 to 14 December, the United Nations will meet in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th Climate Change Conference. A number of studies have warned that the world is deliberately heading for a catastrophe. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks of a question of “life and death”. Ulrike Rabmer-Koller, what do you expect from the climate conference in Katowice?

Rabmer-Koller: The fight against global warming is an undisputed mega challenge also from the point of view of the Austrian Economic Chamber. We therefore welcome the EU’s leading role at the global level. The economy can be part of the solution. Europe’s mission is to deliver the blueprint of a climate-friendly economic model capable of globalisation. This is the only way to achieve the leverage required by the Paris Climate Agreement. Unfortunately, there are hardly any signs at present that other economic areas want to move closer to the already lonely European position. The aim of this climate conference must be for Europe’s ambition to be demonstrated by other important players in the world. Unfortunately, Brazil and Australia are taking a different path. The challenges that the negotiators of the contracting states have to face are enormous.

Worldwide focus on Austria

SCC: Before the UN climate conference COP 24 in Poland, everyone was talking about Austria. Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is on the cover of the current Time magazine. Federal President Alexander van der Bellen has launched a European appeal for climate protection. Together with him you opened the Austria Pavilion at the conference. How will you deal with this increased attention for Austria?

Rabmer-Koller: The aim of Austria’s appearance at COP 24 is to present the innovative strength and wide range of products and services of the Austrian economy in the field of environmental technology, renewable energies and sustainable use of resources, together with important institutions and research institutions. It is also very important for us to show that the economy is not the problem, but the solution through innovative technologies.

Businesses promote climate protection

SCC: The Foreign Trade Office of the Austrian Economic Chamber will be represented with a pavilion at the conference. The focus will lie on the energy sector and climate protection. Which Austrian ideas will you present at the climate conference COP 24?

Rabmer-Koller: A total of 43 Austrian companies and institutions will present versatile solutions for climate protection, energy and the environment on an exhibition area of almost 150m². During the two-week conference, an extensive programme of presentations and interactive specialist lectures from business, research and science as well as the public sector is planned. Innovative environmental technologies are the key to achieving climate targets. In addition to Austrian companies, institutions such as the Climate and Energy Fund, klimaaktiv, TU Vienna, Graz University of Technology, the Austrian Energy Agency, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology and the Vienna Business Agency will present important projects for climate protection at the Austrian Pavilion.

A trend towards re-polonization

SCC: A report of the Foreign Trade Office points to a trend towards economic nationalism or “re-polonisation” of important sectors of the Polish economy. One example is the exit tax, which will come into force in 2019. This tax is intended to be levied on companies or wealthy private individuals when they withdraw capital or production capacity from the country. What is your current assessment of the situation for Austrian business in Poland?

Rabmer-Koller: The situation for business in Poland remains good, there is a good economy with GDP growth of between 4.5% and 5% p.a. “[“per year” editor’s note]. The only brake on the economy at the moment is the low unemployment rate, with 1.5 million Ukrainian citizens already working in Poland. Austrian exports to Poland grew by 17.5% in the first 8 months of this year, making Poland the eighth most important export market.

Sustainability and economic success

SCC: You were elected to the European Commission’s “Industry 2030” Expert Group in February this year. The aim of the group is to make Europe’s industry more competitive globally. How do you link your goals to climate protection?

Rabmer-Koller: Europe can do the most for climate protection if it becomes a global technology leader and at the same time remains a prospering business location. Our handling of energy should become a role model for a sustainable and innovative approach that is emulated by other economic regions of the world because it is also economically particularly successful. For this, however, the appropriate framework conditions must be created. This means that in addition to climate protection, special attention must also be paid to security of supply, competitiveness and suitably trained employees. The quality of the location is therefore crucial if we are to be successful in climate protection.

The Austrian Economic Chamber (WKÖ) represents over 500,000 member companies. It represents the interests of entrepreneurs and advocates a business-friendly policy, advises entrepreneurs and tries to strengthen Austria as a business location.

Ulrike Rabmer-Koller was appointed Vice-President of the Austrian Economic Chamber in 2015. In 2016 she took over the presidency of the European Association of SMEs SMEunited. In February 2018 she was accepted into the expert group “Industry 2030” of the European Union. At the UN Climate Change Conference COP 24 in Katowice, Poland, she opened the “Austria Pavilion” of Austrian Foreign Trade together with Federal President Alexander van der Bellen.

Foto Title: szewo.com / Shutterstock.com

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