Despite the latest UN report on climate change, which warns that global warming will be far greater than expected, surveys suggest Czechs don’t feel personally responsible for the problem. But, as Czech Radio reported on Tuesday, the Czech Republic is in fact the fifth biggest polluter in Europe and the 20th in the world in terms of CO2 emissions.
Under the Paris Agreement, the Czech Republic has pledged to lower greenhouse emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and according to the minister of environment, Richard Brabec, the country is on its way to fulfilling these commitments.
Nevertheless, the Czech Republic continues to be one of the biggest polluters in Europe, releasing nearly ten tons of greenhouse gases per person into the environment last year. Vojtěch Kotecký is an expert on environmental issues from the think-tank Glopolis:
“Czechia is one of the leading European polluters when it comes to carbon emission and the key reason is coal power. The Czech Republic still produces about half of its electricity from coal and most of the power plants contribute heavily to the massive pollution in some parts of the country.”
The country’s heavy reliance on coal has been highlighted by the Carbon Majors report for 2017, which listed Czech coal-fired power plants and heat plants among the world’s 100 biggest environmental polluters.
Under rules approved by EU member states in 2017, power plants in EU countries will have to significantly cut the amount of toxic pollutants released into the air. However, according to Mr Kotecký, this is not enough to improve the situation:
“We need a clear long-term government policy, something in the line of the British Climate Change Act, which set long-term targets for emissions reduction and reduced the reliance on fossil fuels. Doing so gave a clear perspective for both the government policy and business investments.
“At the same time we need specific, targeted interventions in individual sectors, such as pro-active legislation that would lead to the closure of coal power plants, and government policies that would speed up the introduction of electric vehicles so that we don’t rely on fossil fuels in transport.”
According to a survey by the European Commission’s Eurobarometer agency, only around six percent of Czechs see climate change as the biggest global threat, which is the third lowest figure in the EU.
But according to Kotecký, public awareness of the problem has definitely improved in recent in recent years, with the effects of global warming being more and more visible.
“While it has not been the major topic of public conversation in Czechia, unlike in Western Europe, I think that the public is generally aware that this is a major problem we have to deal with.
“The recent droughts, especially the dry summer with low precipitation, reinforced that impression and gave a sense of urgency across the society. It also created an understanding that we need to deal with the problem.”