The Czech coal commission has today voted to recommend the Czech government close all of its coal plants by 2038, rejecting the opportunity to join fourteen other European countries that have already phased out coal, or are set to by 2030 or earlier. The Europe Beyond Coal coalition is calling on the Czech government to reject this recommendation, and ask the coal commission to come up with a 2030 exit timeline that reflects the needs of the climate, the economy and citizens.

The decision comes at the end of a year-long process that saw commission members choose between three self-imposed coal exit scenarios: 2033, 2038, and 2043. All overshoot the UN Paris climate agreement-compatible 2030 deadline highlighted by UN Secretary-General António Guterres earlier this month, which is backed by climate science. They are modelled on an unrealistic Emissions Trading System price, modest growth in renewable energy production, and an assumption that no coal plants will be closed between 2021 and 2029.

Climate Banner at Lignite Pit in Czech Republic. © Greenpeace / Ibra Ibrahimoviç
© Greenpeace / Ibra Ibrahimoviç

“We need to phase out coal in the Czech Republic in the next decade if we’re to play our part in tackling the climate crisis,” said Jiri Koželouh Head of Climate and Energy at Hnuti DUHA (Friends of the Earth Czech Republic) and Czech coal commission member. “The coal commission, which I am part of, could have been instrumental in this, but it’s wasted the opportunity by bowing to the coal lobby. A 2038 coal phase out is sold as a compromise, but you can’t compromise with reality. Several respected studies show that a Czech coal phase out by 2030 is possible. The government must reject the recommendation and tell the commission to come back with a socially acceptable, economically viable, climate respecting alternative.” 

The Czech coal commission’s recommendation could be seen as reflecting the sluggish coal phase out law passed by neighbouring Germany earlier this year. A few days ago, Germany’s first hard coal plant closure auction was oversubscribed with energy companies queuing up to cash in on their uneconomic coal plants. Among the approved 2021 closures were two of Germany’s newest, most efficient, coal plants: Vattenfall’s Moorburg and RWE’s Westfalen. Commissioned in 2015 and 2014 respectively, their closures highlight how even the most advanced coal plants are uneconomical in today’s power market. 

“This week’s scramble to close two of Germany’s youngest, most modern coal plants should set off alarms in the minds of Czech coal commission members,” said Zala Primc, campaigner at Europe Beyond Coal. “A 2038 coal exit timetable is nonsense. The market’s appetite for cheaper renewables is accelerating coal’s demise by the day. Denying that reality hurts coal workers, who are denied a just transition, and leaves taxpayers footing the bill for compensation to coal companies whose businesses haven’t been viable for some time.” 

Reports by Bloomberg and the think tank, Ember, show that the Czech Republic could exit coal by 2030 if economics are left to determine the energy mix, and investments in renewable energy production are made at a rate similar to other EU countries. This argument will be further strengthened if EU leaders approve the bloc’s new, more ambitious, 55 percent by 2030 emission reduction target at a summit later this month, which Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has already intimated he supports.