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Climate change worries halt Vienna airport’s third runway

A court has blocked Vienna airport's plans for a third runway saying it would have resulted in greater greenhouse gas emissions, in a verdict described by lawyers as a first.

Climate change worries halt Vienna airport's third runway
View of Vienna airport. Photo: Hansueli Krapf/Wikimedia

Austria's Federal Administrative Court said in a ruling published late on Thursday that the “positive aspects of the project cannot justify the high extra carbon dioxide pollution.”

A third runway would result in a “significant” rise in greenhouse gas output, contravening the country's domestic and international undertakings to reduce emissions, a statement said.

“The airport's possibilities to reduce CO2 emissions through its own measures (such as the installation of solar panels and changing its vehicles to electric cars) were insufficient,” it added.

“As far as I know this is unique that climate protection is used as an argument to block a concrete plan,” Christian Schmelz, a lawyer for the airport, told the newspaper Die Presse.

Erika Wagner, head of the Environmental Law Institute at Linz University, called it a “landmark ruling”.

The airport, which handled 23 million passengers in 2016 and which has wanted to construct the runway for a decade, said it would appeal, possibly at Austria's highest court.

VIENNA

‘Best quality’: What you should know about Vienna’s drinking water

As Europe suffered its worst drought in centuries, residents in Austria's capital were feeling fortunate for their plentiful water supply that courses from streams in the green forests of the Alps.

'Best quality': What you should know about Vienna's drinking water

A rarety in the EU, the two million inhabitants of Vienna get their tap water from dozens of springs — the main one some 655 metres (2,150 feet) above sea level.

It’s a serious subject in Vienna, where access to clean drinking water has since 2001 even been guaranteed in the constitution — a world first, according to the city’s website.

“Vienna is in the fortunate position that, as a city of millions, firstly, we have enough water and secondly, that it’s water of the best quality,” Juergen Czernohorszky, Vienna councillor in charge of the environment, told AFP.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Austria’s world-class drinking water

The summer of 2022 was the hottest in Europe’s recorded history, as climate change drives ever longer heat spells and the drought parching the continent was the worst in at least 500 years.

Yet at the main Klaeffer spring feeding Vienna, some 150 kilometres (90 miles) outside the capital, the underground source bears water that is less than six degrees Celsius (43 degrees Fahrenheit) in temperature.

Some 10,000 litres (2,600 gallons) per second flow out from the Klaeffer spring alone, feeding a river named Salza that coils down a steep uninhabited valley.

The water system was set up about a century and a half ago under the Austro-Hungarian Empire to provide the city with fresh water to overcome diseases such as cholera.

READ ALSO: The best lakes and swimming spots in Austria

Today, the city’s sanctuary still encompasses 70 sources in untouched mountains south-west of the capital with a system of 130 aqueducts.

A pipe that connects Vienna through a 90-meter long tunnel with the Klaeffer spring is pictured near Gusswerk. The water system was set up almost a century and a half ago under the Austro-Hungarian Empire to provide the city with fresh water to overcome diseases such as cholera. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Thirty-one reservoirs in and around the city store the water, drawing officials from as far away as China to marvel at them, municipal water company Wiener Wasser spokeswoman Astrid Rompolt told AFP.

Each Viennese consumes around 130 litres of running water per day for some 30 euro cents ($0.30) — 15 cents cheaper than the same amount in Paris.

In Vienna, there is also enough to feed fountains, swimming pools, 1,300 drinking water fountains and even 175 mist showers that allow passers-by to cool off in the light spray.

READ ALSO: What makes Vienna the ‘most liveable city’ and where can it improve?

The growing city plans to renovate 30 kilometres of pipeline per year to prepare for increasingly hot summers expected as the impacts of climate change intensify.

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