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A Second Chance for the Environment

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Economic transformation in the Czech republic also affected a transformation of attitudes towards the environment.

In the former Communist States high levels of pollution were caused by long term policies such as over-concentration on industry and high energy subsididies. This situation began to worsen in the 1950´s and continued right through to the 1980´s. As a result of the overuse of cheap energy sources some areas are still polluted today (for example the so-called Black triangle(1)).

Past mistakes

This situation was criticized by the public in 1989 and accession to the EU in May has been one of the main motivations for current efforts to protect the environment in the Czech Republic.

The transformation was affected by a government Commission created in 1994, since 1999 the Ministry for the Environment. The main issue of the negotiations was how to implement Directives and advance them. This was discussed in detail in the “Implementation plan” which was definitively established in 2003. The approximate cost of the plan is 8.6 billion euro. Its implementation is now under the full competence of Ministry of the Environment since the EU accession agreement was signed. The Ministry’s work is guided by EU environmental law.

Taking all that into account, let’s now focus on the area of renewable energy sources. One of the White Paper’s targets is to achieve a 12% use of renewable sources by the end of 2010. The Czech Republic is trying to reach this target by implementing the national programme which was based on the plan laid out in 1991. In that programme, the priority was to reduce the energy requirements of industry to the same level as EU states. Energy consumption in the Czech republic had been as much as two times higher than in the EU. Today, the target is to cut demand from 2 to 3% per year. By reaching this target it is hoped that the economy will become more competitive and will become more independent of foreign energy resources.

Renewable energy sources

This can be achieved in several ways which can be divided neatly into two groups: economic (price liberalisation and the removal of energy subsidies, direct subsidy projects, ecological tax cuts); and administrative (efficiency and effectiveness targets, certitfication and labelling of appliances). The foreseen cost of such targets is at most 73 milion Euro.

The ALTENER I and II programmes were used to support renewable energy resources. This led to an increase in the implementation of EU directives, which were established in order to increase the use of renewable resources. The programme gave life to some of the aims. But those projects were also enormously important because nearly all of the aims established through ALTENER I and II will remain extremely important in future. The Czch Republic must continue to improve its ability to be an equal partner in the industrial sectors, and to develop information resources, and international and trans-regional partnerships. Although the projects mentioned above have come to an end and no other project has been set in place to replace them, it is still to be hoped that a similar project will be established in the near future. While recognising how much has already been achieved, it is clear that such a project is urgently needed in the Czech Republic.

The environmental situation in the Czech Republic will continue to improve as long as we can identify the right priorities and discover how to implement directives effectively. Certain economic activities which bring short-term benefits need to be prevented because ultimately they might also damage the environment and thus our own lives.

(1) The Black Triangle was named for the large lignite deposits and industrial plants in the region covering Northern Bohemia (Czech Republic) as well as parts of Lower Silesia (Poland) and Saxony (Germany).