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ENVIRONMENT

Why Austria is lagging behind its EU climate targets

A report by the European Union Commission states that Austria is not on track to meet its 2040 carbon neutral targets.

Wind turbines in the rape seed field in Austria
Bureaucracy affects Austria's capacity for increasing its renewable energy sources such as from wind farms. (Photo by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash)

Austria has an ambitious plan to become carbon neutral by 2040, but the EU Commission claims the country is not on track to meet its climate neutrality target.

“So far, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are not on a trajectory compatible with Austria’s binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in sectors outside the EU Emissions Trading System by 36 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005”, the report claims.

READ ALSO: How will climate change impact Austria?

Even when accounting for additional measures, the country still risks falling short of its goal by 9 percentage points, the Brussels authority announced on Monday as part of the European Semester.

One of the major challenges for Austria is reducing transport-related emissions, as the country serves as a significant transit point for transalpine road freight, the EU says.

Therefore, it recommends Austria develops further mobility solutions and alternatives to car use, citing “local buses, car sharing, soft mobility”.

This includes solutions to connect remote and rural areas to public transport networks, a particularly crucial movement in a country that has several rural villages and towns – and many commuters to larger cities.

READ ALSO: How Austria plans to become carbon neutral by 2040

“Efforts to further decarbonise and electrify heavy-duty vehicles could also be stepped up to curb emissions”, the Brussels commission added.

Bureaucracy halts investments

According to the report, lengthy permitting procedures and underinvestment in the electricity grid are also critical challenges for reaching renewable energy targets.

The commission mentioned that “investment in renewable energy is hampered by complex spatial planning and permitting procedures”.

READ ALSO: How Vienna plans to expand its tram and park & ride systems for commuters

The process of acquiring the necessary licences for wind power projects, for example, typically takes 6.3 years, according to the report.

This is due to the bureaucracy involved in the division of powers between the federal and regional governments and partly due to staffing problems.

According to the EU commission, the country needs to invest an estimated € 18bn in accommodating the planned expansion of renewable power generation.

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TECH

What you need to know about the EU’s plan for a uniform phone charger

The European Union has approved a new regulation that would force tech companies to use a standard charger for mobile phones and electronic devices. What does this mean?

What you need to know about the EU's plan for a uniform phone charger

The European Parliament has approved an agreement establishing a single charging solution for frequently used small and medium-sized portable electronic devices. The law will make it mandatory for specific devices that are rechargeable via a wired cable to be equipped with a USB Type-C port.

The rules have been debated for a while, and the announcement of the agreement has caused controversy, especially among tech companies and enthusiasts. US giant Apple has repeatedly lobbied against the standardisation, saying it halts innovation.

The EU says that the new rules will lead to more re-use of chargers and “help consumers save up to €250 million a year on unnecessary charger purchases”. Disposed of and unused chargers are estimated to represent about 11,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, the bloc says.

So, what exactly are the changes?

Which products will be affected?

According to the European Parliament, the new rules are valid for small and medium-sized portable electronic devices. This includes mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers that are rechargeable via a wired cable.

Laptops will also have to be adapted, the EU says.

Those devices will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port regardless of their manufacturer.

When will the changes come?

For most devices, the changes are set to come by autumn of 2024. However, the date is not yet set because the regulations need to go to other proceedings within the EU bureaucracy.

After the summer recess, The EU’s Parliament and Council need to formally approve the agreement before publication in the EU Official Journal. It enters into force 20 days after publication, and its provisions start to apply after 24 months, hence the “autumn 2024” expectation.

Rules for laptops are a bit different, and manufacturers will have to adapt their products to the requirements by 40 months after the entry into force of the laws.

Where are the rules valid?

The rules will be valid for products sold or produced in the European Union and its 27 member countries. But, of course, they will likely affect manufacturers and promote more considerable scale changes.

The USB-C cable, with the rounded edges, will be the standard for charging in the EU (Photo by مشعال بن الذاهد on Unsplash)

Why the uniform USB Type-C?

The bloc said the uniform charger is part of a broader EU effort to make products more sustainable, reduce electronic waste, and make consumers’ lives easier.

“European consumers were frustrated long with multiple chargers piling up with every new device”, EU Parliament’s rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba said.

USB Type-C is a standard of charging that has been around for a while but still is one of the best options currently in the market. Also known as USB-C, it allows for reliable, inexpensive, and fast charging. A USB-C port can also be input or output, meaning that it can both send and receive charges and data.

Unlike other ports, it can be the same on both ends of the wire (making it easier and more universal in its use). It can also power devices and sends data much faster.

USB-C can also be used for video and audio connections, so some external monitors can charge your laptop and show your screen simultaneously with the same cable.

What criticism is there?

The project is not without criticism, most vocally from US tech giant Apple, a company that famously has its own charging standard, the “lightning” connection.

Apple claims that forcing a standardisation will prevent innovation, holding all companies to the same technology instead of allowing for experimentation. Still, Apple itself has been swapping to USB-C. Its iPads have already dropped the lightning standard. Its newer laptops can now be charged with the MagSafe proprietary connector and USB-C.

Apple iPhones are still charged with the company’s lightning ports – or wirelessly (Photo by Brandon Romanchuk on Unsplash)

The company’s popular earbuds and peripherals (including keyboards and mice) all charge with lightning. And, of course, the iPhone, Apple’s smartphone, also uses the company’s connection for charging.

While there have been rumours that Apple is working on new iPhones with USB-C connection (though definitely not for the next launch this year’s), the company could go away with wired charging altogether. Instead, like many tech manufacturers, Apple is improving its wireless charging solutions, even creating products dedicated to its MagSafe charging.

It won’t be completely free from the EU regulation if it does that, though. This is because the rules approved by the EU also allow the European Commission to develop so-called “delegated acts” concerning wireless charging. The delegated acts are faster processes that can be applied directly without being put to the vote.

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