bneGREEN: New Czech government plans to exit coal by 2033

bneGREEN: New Czech government plans to exit coal by 2033
According to its programme, the new government sees expanding nuclear power plants such as Dukovany as a pillar of Czech energy policy.
By bne IntelliNews January 12, 2022

The new Czech five-party government led by Petr Fiala (Civic Democrats) has announced its plans for responsible climate policy in the government programme statement, including an exit for coal by 2033 (exceeding the UN Paris climate agreement by three years) as well as unprecedented support for solar energy.

The coal exit date is five years earlier than the plan advocated by former Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlicek, but environmental groups argue it is still not ambitious enough, and they are strongly critical of the government's proposals for building more nuclear power capacity and expanding motorways.

“It’s momentous that the Czech government understands that we are in the end game for European coal, but its 2033 coal phase-out commitment means it’s getting off on the wrong foot,” said Mahi Sideridou, Europe Beyond Coal’s Managing Director, as quoted by online Europe Beyond Coal.

“The Czech government knows all too well that climate science tells us that European countries need to phase out coal by 2030. It must accelerate the plan,” Sideridou added. 

Greenpeace also strongly criticised the coal policy and called the government climate policy a profound mistake, particularly over the plans for transportation and nuclear energy. 

“We see country-level coal exit plans accelerating across Europe and believe that the Czech Republic will phase out coal before 2030 in the end like the other responsible and developed European countries. But even the inadequate coal phase-out date in 2033 sends a clear signal to the Czech energy industry that the plans to expand Bilina mine or to retrofit old coal power plants have to be abandoned now,” said Lukas Hrabek, press officer at Greenpeace Czech Republic.

According to its programme, the new government sees the nuclear energy sector as a pillar of Czech energy policy. “We see the future of the Czech energy sector in a combination of nuclear energy and decentralised renewable sources with an emphasis on technological neutrality and scientific knowledge,” the programme reads, stressing that these principles must also be respected in the EU's regulatory framework for sustainable financing (taxonomy). 

“We will not abandon our efforts to recognise nuclear energy as a sustainable activity and natural gas as a key transformational fuel in the decarbonisation process,” the government claimed. 

"As for nuclear energy, we see the commitment … as downright negative, since it supports the construction of a nuclear unit at Dukovany without any other conditions,” the analysts from the environmental organisation Hnuti DUHA and the association Zeleny Kruh said.

“At the same time, the coalition of Pirates and Mayors and Independents promised to consider the economic and safety benefits of developing nuclear power plants on the basis of a thorough analysis. While, now the government started talking, without any economic assessment, about a new unit in Temelin and about bringing nuclear power up to the level of other low-carbon sources," they noted. 

The environmental organisations also complain that on the one hand, the transport ministry wants to improve the quality of railways and to increase the number of passengers in public transport. On the other hand, it plans to massively expand motorways with up to 200 kilometres, as well as to create a "parallel runway" at the Vaclav Havel Airport.

Nevertheless the environmentalists see potential for improvement under the new government, at least compared to its predecessor.

"The government's programme could be an opportunity for climate protection, which we have been neglecting in the Czech Republic for several years. I am curious about the first steps we will take for the environment, but we must remain active and not leave the goals just on paper," Klara Belickova, spokesperson for the climate movement Fridays for Future, told Denik Referendum.