Ambition must have a realistic basis, Havlíček reacts to the new emission target of Brussels • RESPEKT

After eight months of preparation, the European Commission has another plan together to tackle climate change. Document leaked before Wednesday’s speech by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to the European Parliament. It builds on last year’s commitment, which the Czechia joined after the initial protests: to transform the EU into an emission-free economy by 2050 and to end greenhouse gas emissions. But 2050 is a long way off – and to keep the vision from distant visions, Brussels is proposing a binding intermediate step for 2030. “A balanced, realistic and prudent path to climate neutrality by 2050 requires a 55 percent reduction in emissions by 2030,” the document said. .

The reduction is measured compared to 1990. So far, 40 percent has been calculated. That is what the EU promised at the UN five years ago when signing the global Paris Agreement on Climate Protection. Recently, however, the prevailing view among climatologists is that a 40 percent reduction will not be enough and that humanity must add – otherwise it risks setting in motion irreversible processes leading to a global ecological crisis.

The excavation in the form of a common target of 55 percent will now be assessed by individual Member States. Most are for; and states such as Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands or Austria promise to go even further in the next decade. On the contrary, the Czechia is one of the more skeptical countries. Reducing emissions means mainly a shift away from fossil fuels, which complicates the country’s dependence on coal for electricity and heat production, but also the inefficiency of buildings, a steady increase in car traffic or deforestation in recent years. Moreover, climate ambitions in the Czech Republic do not bring any political points, on the contrary, and so Babiš’s government is holding back.

Have a real foundation

In 2017, the last cabinet approved the document by name Climate protection policy, according to which it would be desirable to achieve a 50 percent reduction in emissions between 1990 and 2030, but this goal is not reflected in practice. Longer time series showthat the decline in emissions in the Czech Republic stopped around 2013 and since then the country has been releasing around 130 million tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases steadily into the atmosphere, which is, by the way, per capita one of the highest numbers in the world.

Havlíček: It must be balanced

For the year 2030, the Czechia has so far officially adhered to the 40% target, although much of this decline has long been behind the country due to a large decline in the 1990s due to economic transformation and a slowdown in heavy industry. Now emissions are 35 percent lower than thirty years ago, but it is not possible to go much further. “We said we would be 40 percent lower in 2030. And we follow this timetable. Now we say that by 2030, we might have managed 43 or 44 percent, maybe 45 with abraded ears. We will not play any more, “said Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlíček in an interview with Respekt this June.

Now he speaks similarly. “It simply came to our notice then. It is good to have bold ambitions, but it must have a real basis. Otherwise, a well-meaning vision becomes only a well-valued diploma thesis, “said Havlíček. “We still count it, there are a number of variables. While maintaining energy self-sufficiency and a sober view of clean mobility, we get it to a maximum of 45 percent, “the minister added in response to the question of whether there will still be a need to adjust ambitions after a new 55 percent excavation from Brussels.

According to Jiří Koželouh, a member of the government’s coal commission and climate expert from the RAINBOW Movement, however, the deputy prime minister is holding the ground unnecessarily. “It simply came to our notice then. We are able to achieve much more and, truth be told, we will have to, “says Koželouh in response to Havlíček’s 45 percent. According to him, the biggest contribution would be the closure of coal-fired power plants, which would reduce local emissions by 22 percent. RAINBOW also has studies to show such a step it should also be technically possible – in other words, the usual objections that without coal there will be nothing to light in the Czech Republic, according to these documents, they are out of place.


Average annual temperature in the Czech Republic by the author O klimatu fact, licensed under CC BY 4.0.

According to the European Commission, the announced target of 55 percent does not necessarily mean that every country must reach this number. The new plan envisages that it is a Union-wide goal to which some countries can contribute more than others. This gives poorer states more freedom, on the other hand mathematically, the most fossil states like the Czechia have the greatest room for improvement in percentage terms. If the common 55% target passes, it will be a question of how it will be divided between the individual states.

Where dependence on fossil fuels is high, the Union counts on massive financial assistance – in addition to standard EU funds, the Czechia should have around 120 billion crowns available from the so-called modernization fund, designed for economic transformation towards decarbonization, then 35 to 40 billion under the “just transition” fund for coal regions and another up to 180 billion for the so-called national recovery plan, a new program negotiated in the EU hastily due to the economic recovery after coronavirus.

Do not heat with coal

At the beginning of the pandemic, Havlíček and Babiš proposed to Europe back away from climate goals and instead focus on supporting traditional industry. However, the EU trend is exactly the opposite. The very first page of the new strategy says that the restart of the economy and climate change are not going against each other, but that, on the contrary, it is necessary to combine both goals and understand green investment as an economic impetus. In this respect, Babiš and Havlíček have already turned around, among other things with a vision of the inflow of additional billions from EU funds. And also in the hope that the cooperative approach of Brussels will repay the local government by not blocking its intention to build in Dukovany and in the future also in Temelín other nuclear units.

According to Havlíček, the Czech contribution to the elimination of the carbon footprint will consist primarily in the fact that will stop drowning in big coal. According to Havlíček, the heating industry is to switch from coal to gas, biomass and waste by 2030. This plan, which was officially announced by the Ministry of Industry in September, is to be facilitated by the EU’s billions. Another impetus to move away from coal is to gradually increase the price of emission allowances, which large issuers such as power plants or industry must buy across Europe, and the allocation will be gradually reduced until 2030.

Karel Havlíček
Karel Havlíček • Author: Matěj Stránský

In addition to the sectors included in the allowances, where national governments have already transferred their powers to Brussels, pressure to continue reducing emissions will continue in other areas, especially transport, where the carbon footprint of Czechs and other Europeans due to cars is similar to energy. The Czechia has committed itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent between 2005 and 2030 in sectors other than allowances, but so far emissions in these areas are rising.

According to Koželouh, the negotiations with Brussels are likely to lead to both parties using the already agreed reduction in the allocation of emission allowances for power plants and heating plants, a process that is already beyond the influence of national governments. In the Czech Republic, the reduction in the allocation of allowances should lead to a gradual pressure to disconnect coal sources and replace it with gas, where emissions are not so high, or the production of electricity and heat from biomass and waste, as Havlíček talks about.

Given that the Czechia has a large margin in this regard on how to reduce emissions, the government can use this when negotiating commitments in other areas. Whether a total of 45 percent of Havlíček’s will be enough should be clear in about a year. The European Commission’s newly published plan envisages a “public debate” on the new targets in autumn 2020 and the preparation of “detailed legislative proposals by June 2021”.


The potential of selected ways to reduce emissions in the Czech Republic by the author O klimatu fact, licensed under CC BY 4.0.

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