Land use - National responses
What are the policy responses?
Soil legislation. It should be noted that within the scope of this chapter only an overview can be made. (see notably NORER Roland Bodenschutzrecht im Kontext der europäischen Bodenschutzstrategie, 2009) Soil protection is understood to be cross-cutting issue of multiple pieces of legislation both at the federal level and at the level of the nine provinces. According to the constitution, the federation has no overall power on soil issues except on forests and therefore no specific regulation on soil protection exists at a federal level.
- Agricultural soils are protected by the Soil Protection Acts of the Austrian Federal Provinces. Five out of nine provinces have passed Soil Protection Acts (Bodenschutzgesetze), which are mainly targeted at the maintenance of productivity of agricultural soils.
- Forest soils are protected by the Forest Act (Forstgesetz).
- The Federal Law for Financing the Remediation of Contaminated Sites regulates the financing of remediation measures at historically contaminated sites and furthermore the identification and assessment of such sites.
Indirect regulation. A large range of other regulations and instruments address soil protection directly and indirectly. These are usually driven by implementation of EU policy or were adapted to comply with EU legislation and include, inter alia the Compost Ordinance, the Fertilizer Ordinance, the Pesticides Act, the Act on Ambient Air Quality, the Air Pollution Control Act, the Water Act, the spatial planning acts of the Federal Provinces, the Federal Law and corresponding provincial laws on Waste Management, the Federal Law on the Use of Chemicals, the federal and provincial laws on environmental liability, and the Federal Trade Regulations.
National objectives and targets for soil conservation have been established in the following legal instruments:
- Sewage Sludge and Waste Compost Ordinances of the Federal Provinces;
- Soil Protection Protocol of the Alpine Convention that entered into force in December 2002;
- Austrian Strategy for Sustainable Development: Protection of Environmental Media and Climate Protection.
More details can be found in the soil chapter of the Austria's State of the Environment Report (Umweltbundesamt, 2004; 2007a).
Soil policy targets. Several targets for soil conservation have been established at various administrative levels. Overall, soil protection was declared a national goal by the Federal Constitutional Law on Comprehensive Environmental Protection (Federal Legal Gazette No 491/1984). This was recognized in the Austrian Strategy for Sustainable Development (BMLFUW 2002) and translated into several soil related quality targets monitored by means of indicators (BMLFUW 2007). These targets include, in particular:
- the prevention of further soil sealing;
- the maintenance of soil fertility through erosion protection measures and organic farming;
- the prevention of the input of toxic substances (heavy metals, organic pollutants) into the ecosystems and the food chain; and
- the limitation of risks posed by landfills by means of the mandatory treatment of waste.
As an example, a quantitative target was established to reduce the annual amount of sealed soils to 10% of the rate observed in 2002 of 10 ha/day by 2010.
Specific targets have also been established in the framework of the Soil Protection Protocol of the Alpine Convention ratified by Austria which entered into force in December 2002. In this protocol, general qualitative and quantitative targets were established.
Finally, though soil protection is mainly determined at the provincial level, several standards have also been established at a national level. Although not binding, they are used as the basis for national soil assessments and rehabilitation obligations. The standards cover, for example, the procedures for the evaluation of the content of certain elements, as well as trigger values for intervention and action (ÖNORM 2000 - 2004).
Additional instruments (incentives). Additional instruments have been established in the framework of the agri-environmental programme (ÖPUL) and the national law for the remediation of contaminated sites (Altlastensanierungsgesetz).
Funding of explicit erosion control measures such as soil cover in vineyards and orchards or conservation tillage on farmland and for implicit measures for example, organic farming, cover crops or maintenance of small agricultural structures, is available to farmers through the Austrian rural development program via ÖPUL. The results of the 2008 survey reveal that erosion mitigation measures increased considerably from 2002 to 2006. Agricultural land subject to erosion mitigation measures increased from 15,000 hectare in 2002 to 180,000 hectare in 2006. In terms of funding, 17% of the ÖPUL budget for 2002-2006 was spent on erosion and flood mitigation, corresponding to €744 million (BMLFUW 2008c).
According to the Cross Compliance Regulation (EU Ordinance No 73/2009) EU farmers are obliged to conserve their soils to a good agricultural and ecological status. In Annex III the requirements are defined, for example, for erosion protection and conservation of soil organic matter. Compliance with these requirements is a prerequisite for direct support schemes under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). These requirements are implemented by the Austrian ordinance on an Integrated Administration and Control System (Invekos-Vo BGBl. Nr. 31/08).
Public support for the management of remediation activities - monitoring, registration and clean-up of contaminated sites - is available to local and regional authorities, private enterprises and private owners through a special fund. The fund is financed by the revenues from a tax on waste management and amounted to €60 million in 2009. The total amount of funding in the period 1990-2009 was €970 million. In 47% of all projects, the applicant for funding was a community. Funding is mainly provided for sites were the polluter could not be identified or made liable, including war induced contamination.