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Czechia’s EU presidency made “insufficient progress” on climate issues, says EEB

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a pan-European environmental membership organisation, recently published an assessment of Czechia’s six-month Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The assessment praised the Presidency for making key progress on biodiversity and tackling air pollution and for overall effort on climate issues, however, it pointed out that “the EU’s Green Deal did not progress sufficiently towards a just transition”. More broadly, the EEB assessment identified poor effort and outcomes on agriculture, water, chemicals, and the rule of law, and insufficient progress on climate.

“Czechia focused on getting political agreements at the global climate and biodiversity COPs and invested political capital in advancing on air pollution, biodiversity and climate files in the European Green Deal. However, it failed to make enough progress in agriculture, water, chemicals and the rule of law. And even where it advanced, it was too little too late to face up to the unprecedented and growing challenges of the triple climate, biodiversity and pollution crisis,” said EEB Secretary General, Patrick ten Brink. “One promising development was that the Czechs recognised that the European Green Deal is a peace project and that increasing ambition can help with the EU’s future resilience and security.”

“10 Green Tests”

The assessment was based on 10 main climate areas – listed as “Green Tests” – ranging from ensuring energy security while addressing the climate emergency to mainstreaming a transformative Green Deal, fostering social, environmental and economic justice and improving governance.

Indeed, a top priority of the Czech presidency was an immediate and short-term response to the energy crisis. As the assessment noted, while the Presidency was able to steer Council discussions on emergency legislation, it was unable to secure an agreement on the compulsory nature of energy consumption reduction measures.

The assessment’s verdict was particularly negative on the ninth “Green Test”: strengthen accountability and the rule of law and promote environmental justice. This “rule of law” test praised the Presidency for making “significant progress” on key elements of the Environmental Crime Directive. However, it predominately focused on highlighting the Presidency’s neglect of legal environmental projection whilst pushing through major legislative projects. “In advancing the REPowerEU package, the Presidency failed to secure the continued application of the Do No Significant Harm principle as a criterion for spending under the Recovery and Resilience Fund, thereby undermining the EU’s commitment to climate protection,” the report read.

Separately, a lack of ambition in the revision of both the Renewable Energy and the Energy Efficiency Directives was a “clear” missed opportunity for progress, according to the assessment.

“Good effort” on biodiversity

In terms of biodiversity, the Czech EU Presidency secured a major victory late last year following the adoption of the regulation on deforestation-free supply chains and made progress with Council discussions on the Nature Restoration Law. In addition, together with the European Commission, the Presidency played an important role in securing a major biodiversity agreement at COP15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, Canada.  

However, the assessment noted that a “holistic approach to the biodiversity crisis was
missing, as evidenced by the poor integration of biodiversity in the efforts to accelerate permitting for renewables and poor outcomes on the agricultural policy”. Nonetheless, the verdict of the “Green Test” in this area was – overall – “good on effort, mixed on the outcome”.

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