Czech EU Presidency ready to conclude on key climate legislation

Czech environment minister Anna Hubáčková (L), with Barbara Pompili, French minister for the ecological transition. [Copyright: European Union]

Despite not being known for its ecological ambitions, Czechia wants to make climate and the environment the drivers of its upcoming EU Council presidency.

Priorities include pushing forward the so-called ‘Fit for 55’ package of EU climate laws, biodiversity, the circular economy, as well as preparing to restore Ukraine’s environment after the war.

Czech Environment Minister Anna Hubáčková (KDU-ČSL, EPP) presented her EU priorities on Monday (20 June) under the heading: “Energy independence, climate neutrality, resilient landscapes”.

“These are the fundamental tasks of our ministry,” she told reporters at a briefing.

The Czech Republic is assuming the six-month rotating EU Presidency amid Russia’s war in Ukraine. Its priorities are therefore impacted by the need to reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels, combined with bloc-wide green objectives, Hubáčková said.

“The European Green Deal cuts across the key priorities of the Czech EU Presidency,” the minister emphasised.

Ready for trialogues

The Czech Republic does not feature among the staunchest defenders of green policies at EU level. In the past, Prague has often defended the concerns of carbon-intensive industries. 

During its presidency, it will seek to find compromises between the EU’s 27 member states on key climate and energy legislation under the bloc’s ‘Fit for 55’ package, which aims to halve EU emissions by 2030. It will also oversee passage of measures proposed under the European Commission’s REPowerEU plan aimed at cutting the EU’s reliance on Russian gas by two thirds before the end of the year.

The most pressing files under ‘Fit for 55’ include the revision of the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, the new Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, and legislation to cut emissions from car and vans as well as the so-called Effort Sharing Regulation. Supportive measures such as the proposed Social Climate Fund are also on the agenda. 

The outgoing French Presidency wants to reach a “general approach” on these files on 28 June. In case the French succeed, the Czech Republic will seek to conclude a final agreement between EU member states and the European Parliament during ‘trialogue’ talks involving the European Commission.

“We hope the French Presidency will be able to conclude the general approaches. However, we are ready for all options,” Hubáčková said. 

The European Parliament will vote its position on ‘Fit for 55’ legislation during this week’s plenary session in Brussels. 

Light pollution and Ukraine’s nature restoration 

Apart from the climate and energy agenda, the Czech Environmental Ministry wants to focus on deforestation and soil protection, a topic that will be discussed at an informal meeting of ministers in Prague on 13 and 14 July.

But as the Environment Ministry revealed, it also wants to draw attention to light pollution. 

“Light pollution has an impact on human health and biodiversity. The impacts are diverse and serious. We want to raise awareness. We want to exchange experiences with the EU Member States and hopefully come up with a common solution,” Deputy Environment Minister Jan Dusík pointed out. 

Besides the energy sector, the war in Ukraine also reshaped the Czech Presidency’s priorities in environmental protection. 

“We will also dedicate part of our programmes to the strategy of restoring the damaged environment in Ukraine,” Czech Environment Ministry Hubáčková explained. 

Among the top priorities of the Czech Presidency in the second half of 2022, there will also be the forthcoming EU law setting binding targets for nature restoration. The European Commission is expected to publish the proposal on Wednesday, 22 June. 

Ukraine, energy security top priorities for the Czech EU Presidency

The Czech government presented its priorities for its upcoming EU Presidency on Wednesday (15 June), foregrounding the issues of Ukraine’s EU candidate status, alongside energy security. EURACTIV Czechia reports.

[Edited by Alice Taylor and Frédéric Simon]

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