Czech Coal Commission restarts negotiations after COVID-19 hiatus
After several months of complete inertia caused by the coronavirus lockdown, the Czech Coal Commission’s activities have restarted again - and so did the negotiations over Czechia’s final coal phaseout date and the steps leading to it.
On June 5, the Coal Commission met in Prunerov on the occasion of the closing ceremony of the coal power plant Prunerov I, which is one of the most polluting coal power plants still operating in Czechia. NGOs and other activist groups had been asking for years for the closure of Czechia’s greatest polluters: Prunerov, Chvaletice and Pocerady. Their demands had been met with lack of interest and motivation from the responsible stakeholders and legislative bodies, but this is no longer the case.
The closure of Prunerov I was inevitable - its exemption from the EU air pollution standards expired June 30 - so it serves as an indicator of what is necessarily going to happen with the entire coal sector in the years to come.
On the occasion of the Prunerov closure, the Coal Commission representatives reaffirmed their intention to come up with the best possible scenario and timetable for mine and power plant closures, which would allow Czechia to meet the EU’s commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
The outcomes of the June meeting are pivotal since the members agreed that a roadmap for the closure of coal power plants will be designed, based on how polluting they are, not on who their owners are and who is profiting from them.
This is good news, but the Commission should still come up with a coal phaseout date and set solid foundations for post-coal planning. The just transition of coal regions is conditioned by the application of participation principles and systematic civic and stakeholder engagement in both decision-making and planning processes. The greatest concern regarding the regions’ ability to prepare for what’s to come is the lack of will in the governmental circles to consider the voices of the municipalities and communities who are going to be affected the most.
A recent survey commissioned by Hnutí DUHA indicates that there is very strong public support for a coal phaseout and reaching the UN Paris agreement goals in Czech coal regions. According to results of the survey, 52 % of the participants from Usti and Karlovy Vary coal regions (two main coal regions in the country) would welcome the end of coal before 2035.
Czechia has a great opportunity to make use of the resources from the the currently negotiated EU Just Transition Fund. But it is very important to make sure the right projects will be developed and supported, i.e. projects which will minimise the negative socio-economic impacts on the regions affected by the transition to a carbon-neutral economy and which will create new jobs for the coal-dependent workers.