Czechs look to exit coal by 2033 despite calls to move faster

Turów coal-fired power station in the Czech Republic. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

The Czech Republic plans to “create conditions” to stop coal burning in just over a decade, but fell short of a concrete pledge to phase out the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

The government plans to create an environment so that ending coal-fired power generation “could be possible by 2033,” it said in a policy program released on Friday. The nation’s coal commission had previously recommended a 2038 phase-out.

The ambition might not be soon enough to support global climate goals to keep temperatures warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. The world is still burning more coal than ever to keep the lights on as high natural-gas prices make the dirtier energy source relatively cheaper, the International Energy Agency said in December.

“The Czech government knows all too well that climate science tells us that European countries need to phase out coal by 2030,” said Mahi Sideridou, managing director at Europe Beyond Coal. “It must accelerate the plan.” 

Those comments support analysis by research group Climate Analytics, which says OECD nations should end coal use by the end of the decade. The fuel accounted for 41% of Czech energy generation in 2020, according to the IEA — among the highest proportions in Europe.

Czech utility CEZ AS said last year that it plans to reduce coal from its power and heating operations, lowering the amount of electricity it produces from coal to 12.5% by 2030 from 39% in 2019. EPH, another Czech utility, said in August it would stop using coal in most countries by 2030. 

In terms of alternatives to coal, the nation has limited access to renewable energy sources because of its geography, and plans to rely on nuclear production in the future.

Coal has been a heated issue for the Czech Republic in recent years. The country has been locked in a quarrel with Poland over coal mining at the Turow mine, close to the Czech border. The Czechs have complained about the operation’s adverse impact on the environment and surface water reservoirs in nearby village. 

The European Court of Justice ruled that Poland should immediately stop mining at the site last year. Poland has defied the decision and also refused to pay daily penalties ordered by the court.

(By Todd Gillespie and Lenka Ponikelska, with assistance from Peter Laca)

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