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It cannot be said that the Czechs are among the most exemplary nations with their carbon footprint. Rather the opposite. When greenhouse gas production is calculated per individual, the bigger outliers are hard to find.
According to the latest data for the year 2022, the Czech Republic made its way into the top thirty polluters in the world in per capita emissions. If only states with a population of over ten million are compared, the Czech Republic is the tenth and worst in the entire EU.
To some, the per capita calculation may seem like demagoguery, after all, what can the small Czech Republic do in the global climate game? But if the footprint of one Brazilian is half and in the case of Indians a quarter, it is hard to ask these countries to start reducing emissions first. Especially when they can argue that it is not fair to evaluate not only the current production, but also who has stuffed how many harmful molecules into the atmosphere during the past decades and centuries.
Few people profited from the industrial revolution earlier than the Czechs. And few continue exhaling to a greater extent. The way to deal with this score is twofold.
Either throw the numbers behind your head in the belief that the fate of the planet does not depend on the efforts of one small country anyway. So why bother raising the cost of living with things like fines for burning coal, when you can still find plenty of people who disagree that CO2 exhalations have any effect on the climate?
Or to look at what is happening in nature and think about whether a passive approach is permissible at all. Maybe the climate will miraculously figure itself out – but what if it doesn’t? Do we want to risk it, or is it better to do something to be safe, in the hope that someone else will join, and with any luck the cost of prevention will be less than the subsequent damage?
Green pioneer Babiš
Although Andrej Babiš doesn’t say much about it today, it was he who directed the Czech Republic to path number two. And he did well. In exchange for the promise of generous financial aid, three years ago, as prime minister, he nodded to an EU-wide commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030 (compared to 1990) and then to zero by 2050.
In the opposition, Babiš forgot about his commitments. However, the 55 percent goal is now a binding EU standard, something like a climate law, for the implementation of which the Czech Republic has already started drawing solidarity EU contributions. In time, it will also have to show some activity, the inventory of which is to be used in the climate-energy concept mentioned in the introduction.
On Wednesday, the current government approved it and the rest of the EU did or will do the same. If someone’s document was not up to the standard, the commission has a mandate to return it for revision, so that when everything is added together, the 55 percent target can be reached. By the time of the European elections, this control procedure will end and the national proposals will become obligations, which can only be discounted after mutual agreement in the EU, or at the cost of heavy fines.
Windmills, grandma and hidden fines
The Czech Republic promises to reduce emissions by 60 percent. With the help of experts, even a layman will understand how it should happen. But it’s not an easy read.
The documentary is not trying to convince or excite anyone politically. It is written in a technocratic and long-winded way, is full of filler to inflate the volume (to 463 pages), and the government preferred not to promote it in any significant way after its approval (you can read the full version here).
The key to reducing emissions should be savings in consumption, the end of electricity exports and the transition to cleaner sources. That is, familiar things, but to a much greater extent than before. The method of implementation sounds surprising – the main part of the task is to be ensured somehow automatically by what has already been agreed in Europe within the framework of climate protection or what is currently being negotiated.
The document does not address whether the public knows about these things and whether they will accept them, while in many respects these will be massive changes. The reduction of allowances for large emitters, such as industry and energy, is to continue. So that the emission burden is also a financial burden, which is supposed to push dirty resources out of the market and accumulate reserves to support cleaner solutions. But the catch is in the Czech practice, where everything has been running as it was for years, and coal-fired power producers are now threatening to close their operations within a few years without anything to replace them.
The planned expansion of allowances into everyday life looks similarly wild. Maybe even Babiš doesn’t know it yet, or maybe he’s hiding this card until the election campaign, but the Green Deal is not just about the gradual reduction of internal combustion engines.
In the directives approved last year, a carbon tax of 45 euros per ton of CO2 is required for domestic consumption of fossil fuels. In practice, according to the estimates of the Ministry of the Environment, from 2027 it comes to roughly two crowns per liter of gasoline or 200 crowns per megawatt-hour of gas for home heating.
The vision is that money will flow from such measures for building windmills or for people’s things, such as heat pumps or home insulation (where a tightening of standards is expected at the same time, albeit in an unclear form).
The Czech Republic is to have a trillion crowns, of which only part will be allowances collected at home – the other part will be paid by the richer states in order for the poorer and more backward EU countries to keep up. But how they deal with the help will depend a lot on the domestic skills. Maybe it will turn out better the second time than the Polish lesson on how to build more highways with EU money.
In short, a colossal change awaits the Czechs, and the new climate plan only subtly reminds them of the train they have unknowingly found themselves on.
Considering the emission ranking, this expedition appears to be highly desirable, but it is not yet possible to say that someone would defend it politically and play an open game with the public about what awaits it. So let’s see where the train goes.
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