Following a European Court of Justice decision concerning the air quality measurement criteria set out in the EU Air Quality Directive, individuals in affected areas and non-governmental organisations can now take direct action in Austria against wrongfully installed air quality measuring points. The Austrian Higher Administrative Court recently addressed this matter and explained how those concerned in Austria should proceed.
The Constitutional Court recently dealt with a complaint by an electric vehicle owner who had exceeded an Air Immission Protection Act speed limit. The driver claimed that his vehicle emitted no air pollutants and that the emission-dependent speed limit did not apply to him. The court disagreed. In response to this decision, the federal government created a legal exception for electric cars. However, whether all federal states will introduce an exception to the act's speed limit for electric cars remains unclear.
Parliament recently adopted a new comprehensive environmental package comprising the Aarhus Participation Act, an amendment to the Environmental Impact Assessment Act and an amendment to the Federal Environmental Liability Act. With the new package, the legislature has attempted to manage the difficult act of balancing the necessary legal adaptations of administrative procedural law with EU law and creating a business environment that is nevertheless competitive.
The Constitution provides so-called 'state targets', which are broadly diversified and include state targets on sustainability. The approval procedure for the third runway at Vienna International Airport has prompted the government to strengthen Austria as a business location. This should be achieved by amending the Federal Constitutional Law on Sustainability which, among other things, contains a state target on creating comprehensive environmental protection.
In general, the Austrian legal system does not give individuals the right to force the legislature to act in a specific way or pass concrete laws. Normally, only political pressure can combat inaction. However, when it comes to air quality, things are different. The Austrian Higher Administrative Court has declared that individuals who live in a territory where the air pollution limits are exceeded have the right to demand that measures under the Air Immission Protection Act be enacted or amended.