Preserving the environment and protecting natural resources is one of three primary objectives of the Austrian Development Cooperation besides reducing poverty and safeguarding peace and human security. An intact environment with fertile soils, drinkable water and clean 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 especially where the environment is already degraded and can no longer provide a protective function.

In the light of global climate change, it is crucial to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to ensure that the negative impacts of climate change do not compromise progress in sustainable development. Likewise, it is important to factor expected consequences of climate change into project planning. In the special report on the impact of global warming of 1.5°C published in 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls for immediate measures to reduce green house gas emissions that cause a temperature rise below 1.5°C. This is the only way to avoid the serious consequences outlined in the report, which result from global warming of 2°C.

Environmental degradation and pollution especially harm the poorest and most vulnerable groups in developing countries as they are the ones who directly depend on natural resources. 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 water, land and minerals is the most common source of conflict in developing countries.

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 Rio Conventions on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation (UNCCD) and the Paris Agreement.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations include the protection of ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, drylands and mountain regions to enable sustainable development and secure the livelihood of future generations and of all other living beings. In addition to supporting specific environment and climate change endeavours  in partner countries of Austrian Development Cooperation, the Austrian Development Agency takes care to ensure that all financed activities are screened concerning their environmental impacts to avoid any negative repercussions and impacts.