The Czech government has recently started discussing the establishment of a coal commission similar to Germany’s. While the thought is new and details are still unknown, green NGOs cautiously welcome the idea and at the same time warn that the commission must be set up in the right way if it is to have the expected effects.
In March 2019, the Czech Minister for Environment, Richard Brabec, announced that he was aiming to establish a Czech coal commission, after the model of the German one, by the end of October 2019. Although this announcement came in the context of the school climate strikes, it does seem that the minister is taking this idea seriously and even considers it one of his political priorities.
According to Brabec, the main goal of the commission is to conduct a national debate on the transition from fossil fuels towards renewables and nuclear. The minister also said that the commission, as an advisory board, should include experts appointed by relevant stakeholders including industry, labour unions, NGOs and local communities. The role of the experts would be to assess the needs for coal for the next 20-30 years and propose ways to phase out the coal industry.
Some unwanted pressure may come from the newly appointed Minister for Trade and Industry, Karel Havlíček, who is, along with many other important Czech politicians, known to the public as a nuclear supporter. A too strong pro-nuclear stance might harm the future expansion of renewable resources.
According to the latest information, Havlíček does support the idea of the coal commission and he and Brabec have recently met to discuss the structure and work of the commission, though no conclusions have been publicly announced yet.
The scope of the commission is likely to be coal and its phaseout – and not so much planning how to increase the use of other energy sources.
While events are developing very fast around the creation of the new coal commission, Czech NGOs have put forward a set of proposals to ensure the new commission really does have a constructive role to play in Czech society.
Czech green NGOs think setting up the commission and enhancing the debate about the fair phaseout of coal is a step in the right direction.
The NGOs, however, stress that:
1. The commission must have clear and properly defined objectives:
-Coal phase-out: the main goal should be to come up with a concrete course of action and a timeline for coal consumption decrease leading to the phaseout
-Real solutions: the assignment and objectives of the commission should not pre-determine any solutions in advance (for example, to favour the nuclear sector from the start, as there seems to be the risk)
-The existence of the commission can’t shield political inaction: politicians can take plenty of steps in the direction of a coal phaseout already now – some of those steps can be taken in parallel to the commission’s action, so that the commission is not used as an excuse for inaction.
2. The commission must have balanced membership both in terms of the target groups represented and of the expertise contributed.
3. The commission must be transparent and inform the public of its progress, by publishing materials and updating on the outcomes of negotiations.
4. The commission must have a realistic schedule and work intensively – the commission should be able to meet its obligations in a meaningful period of maximum one year and it should be answerable to the government.