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Arnold Schwarzenegger: Austria can be 'model' in climate policy, says ex-governor of California

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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Ronald Zak   -   Ronald Zak
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Austria can become "a model" for climate policy, Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Thursday in a message to the leaders of the country's new government.

The actor-turned-politician, 72, praised the conservative-green coalition for putting both business and environmental protection at the heart of its agenda.

Schwarzenegger, who was born in Austria in 1947, posted a video message [in German] on social media addressed to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, from the conservative People's Party (OVP), and Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler, from the Green party.

The two formations struck a power-sharing deal on January 1, which saw the Greens enter Cabinet for the first time.

The former California governor said in his message delivered in German that the "new government shows that business and environmental protection are not a contradiction, but two important building blocks for climate and environmental protection".

He added that 2020 "must be a turning point in climate policy" and stressed that "the next few years will be of decisive importance for the protection of the climate and, therefore, for all of us".

"In California, for example, we have the strictest environmental laws, but at the same time the most successful economy in the US," he went on

"Austria can do the same and also be a model," he added, also announcing that he would travel to Vienna in late May to attend Austrian World Summit, an initiative he set up to promote climate protection.

Austria's new government has vowed to offer the "best of both worlds" by combining policies favoured by Kurz's OVP including a tough line on migration and a reduction of the tax burden with improved environmental protection wanted by the Greens.

The coalition agreement thus pledged that the country would become carbon-neutral by 2040 — a decade earlier than the European union's target — and that 100% of the electricity is to be produced by renewable energy by 2030. To do this, it vows to phase out fossil fuels, lessen reliance on nuclear energy and launch a "one million photovoltaic rooftops" programme.

Transport will also be overhauled to become more environmentally-friendly with billions to be invested in the public transport system to benefit more people, including in rural areas. Taxes on polluting vehicles are to be revised so that it becomes more expensive to drive them and the flat tax on air travel tickets is to be raised.

The deal also calls for "fair taxation on kerosene and an effective ETS [emissions trading system] emissions trading system at EU level for air travel and shipping".

Tax breaks could also be introduced for services that repair products or sell second-hand products.