Preserving the environment and protecting natural resources is one of three primary objectives of the Austrian Development Cooperation, the other two being combating poverty, and ensuring peace and human security. An intact environment with fertile soils, clean water and air is a fundamental prerequisite for a healthy life without hunger, as well as for every kind of economic progress. Natural disasters such as droughts, floods or landslides cause great harm and foremost where the environment is already degraded and can no longer provide a protective function.

Environmental degradation and pollution especially harm the poorest and most vulnerable groups in developing countries who directly depend on the use of natural resources, and who lack resilience and adaptive capacity to climate related hazards and natural disasters. On average, their risk of suffering health impacts from negative environmental conditions is ten times higher than for Europeans. Limited or at times no access to natural resources such as water, land and minerals is the most common source of conflict in developing countries.

It is important to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in light of global climate change and to ensure that progress in sustainable development is not compromised by the effects of the latter. Any consequences of climate change have to be factored into all strategies, programmes and projects to promote the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, take into account the expected impacts of climate change, and include respective adaptation measures. Effective environmental protection requires the full commitment of national institutions and the local population. The global dimension of environmental degradation calls for increased global cooperation. The basis for this is a series of Multilateral Environmental Agreements such as the three “Rio conventions” on Biological Diversity (CBD), Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Combatting Desertification and Land Degradation (UNCCD).

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations include the protection of ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, drylands and mountain regions. In addition to supporting specific environment and climate change endeavours  in partner countries, the Austrian Development Agency takes care to ensure that all financed activities are screened concerning their environmental impacts (i.e. on soil, sir, water, biodiversity and biosphere, greenhouse gas emissions and resilience towards climate change), in order to avoid any negative repercussions and impacts.