The Czech Republic’s Coal Commission – an advisory body to the government established a year ago to set out an exit date for coal production – recommended withdrawing from coal mining by 2038. The final decision rests now with the Czech government.
Other deadlines were also on the table. The Commission considered scenarios of an earlier (2033) and later (2043) coal-exit as well. The recommendation of the multi-stakeholder Commission comprising of representatives from ministries, Parliament, industry, business, regions and environmental associations would put the Czech Republic on a similar pathway as its neighbour, Germany, which set the same deadline for its departure from coal-burning power production.
The Coal Commission stipulated conditions for the gradual phase-out of coal, which include the replacement of coal resources by other sources and the securing of the Czech Republic’s energy security.
The Czech Republic is also betting on nuclear energy as a replacement. The Commission also mentioned the completion of new nuclear energy sources according to the current timetable and the successful transformation of the heating industry.
Coal and lignite provided 43 per cent of gross electricity production in the Czech Republic in 2019. As the largest source of carbon emissions, coal production pose a substantial threat to local air quality. Besides, the Czech Republic exports coal-generated electricity, amounting to 13 terawatts-hour (TWh) last year.
Although Industry Minister Karel Havlicek described the decision on the 2038 deadline as a compromise and a so-called conceptual scenario, many experts suggest that coal phase-out could concretely happen within ten years and the 2038 deadline risks locking in high-cost coal power that will undermine climate targets.
According to independent climate and energy think tank Ember, the 2030 coal phase-out would allow the Czech Republic to achieve new EU climate targets and can even save an additional 32 megatons of CO2 on top of plans outlined in the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP). These additional savings would allow Czechia to reduce total GHG emissions by more than 60 per cent from 1990 levels, meeting 2030 targets proposed by the EU Green Deal.
The Europe Beyond Coal coalition is also calling on the Czech government to reject this recommendation. According to Mahi Sideridou, Managing Director of the organisation the Coal Commission is in danger of making the same mistakes as its German counterpart.
“The coal industry is collapsing all across Europe, and improvements to EU climate policies underline that a 2030 coal phase is now unavoidable,” added Ms Sideridou.
Industry Minister and co-chair of the Coal Commission, Karel Havlicek underlined that the recommendation should be reviewed again at least once in the next five years. The final decision will be made by the government.