Centre for Climate Law and Sustainability Studies (CLASS) Centre for Climate Law and Sustainability Studies (CLASS)
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Illegal logging on Pirititi indigenous Amazon lands with a repository of round logs on May 8, 2018 Felipe Werneck/Ibama via Flickr via AP (Creative Commons 2.0)On Ecocide

By Hana Müllerová

26 March 2021

This past January, a request for a preliminary examination of the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. He is accused of crimes against humanity over his destructive environmental policies, which account for a surge in the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

The Brazilian President is reportedly a notorious climate change sceptic. Since he took office in 2019, the deforestation of the rainforest has soared as high as nearly 50%. Scientists have warned that such destructive policies could push the Amazon rainforest to an irreversible tipping point, turning it into a savannah. As the tropical rainforest significantly helps to balance the climate of the planet, its destruction is adversely impacting not only Brazil, but also the rest of the globe. The submission was referred by Indigenous leaders, whose territory is diminished and destructed by the deforestation, and who argue that the environmental damage amounts to crimes against humanity in its nature and intensity. Such argumentation aligns with the current trend of calls for the crime of ‘ecocide’ to be recognised as an international crime at the ICC.

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Credits: Wikimedia CommonsThe Czech Constitutional Court has confirmed the limited participation of environmental organisations in administrative proceedings

By Alena Chaloupková

16 February 2021

At the end of January 2021, the Czech Constitutional Court issued an important decision relating to the participation of environmental NGOs in proceedings concerning the environment. In its judgment No. Pl. ÚS 22/17 of 26 January 2021, the Constitutional Court confirmed the constitutionality of the amendment of Section 70 of the Act on the Conservation of Nature and Landscape by a narrow majority of eight judges confirming to seven opposing. The amendment limited public participation in the proceedings carried out under other acts – in particular under the Building Act – as of 1 January 2018.

To fully understand the significance of this judgment, we need to briefly summarise the public participation in administrative proceedings relating to the protection of the environment, thus far. Environmental organisations (i.e. groups that seek to protect nature, the environment or human health) can now participate in the administrative proceedings and defence of environmental interests in proceedings pursuant to four different acts.

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Photo: Martina Janochová at PixabayThe end of coal in 2038: What the decision of the Czech Coal Commission entails

By Zuzana Vrbová

21 December 2020

On Friday, December 4, the final decision of the Coal Commission was made. The role of the Commission is to advise the Czech government in the process of coal phase-out, both in the form of coal mining and its use for energy purposes. According to its recommendation, Czechia should abandon coal in 2038. In the final stage of its decision-making, the Commission was deciding between the years 2033, 2038, and 2043. Unsurprisingly, 2043 was promoted by industry interest groups, while ecologists, as well as some scientists, recommended the earliest date. It is mainly environmental organizations that are now criticizing the decision, especially concerning the distribution of power in the debates within the Commission. Two representatives decided not to continue being involved in the work of the Commission as a form of protest against the decision-making processes within the body in which the Minister of Industry and Trade had a leading role.   

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Photo: Marcin Jozwiak at UnsplashCourts to decide the future of the Czech climate change policy: Preparation of the first Czech climate litigation

By Zuzana Vrbová

17 September 2020

Almost a year and a half ago, a group of concerned citizens decided to establish an association called Climate Action (in Czech: 'Klimatická žaloba'). Its main objective is to prepare and file a petition (administrative action) with the court, which should then decide whether the Czech Government is doing enough to fulfill the ultimate objectives of the Paris Agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Following lawsuits in the Netherlands and, more recently, Ireland, the Czech Republic will then be another country with its own a climate change litigation case. Climate litigation has grown in importance, especially over the past decade.

The Association was registered in spring 2019 and currently has around 150 associates. In order to file the petition, Klimatická žaloba approached an established environmental law firm, Frank Bold, which conducted an analysis regarding the lawsuit’s prospects. A year later, in spring 2020, the work on the draft petition began.   

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Photo: CC Creative CommonsPreparation of the new Czech Building Act causing outrage in green circles

By Hana Müllerová

30 August 2020

On 24 August, the Czech Government pushed through the draft new Czech Building Act that now moves to the Parliament. The new legislation is to replace the law in force of 2006. The main aim of the recodification is to simplify and speed up the planning and building permitting processes. Due to an international comparison report in 2019, the periods in Czechia usually needed before construction work can begin, covering spatial planning processes and permit procedures, are extraordinarily long, placing the country in the 156th position out of 190. In ordinary cases, handling the building permit can take up to five years, while for big transport infrastructure constructions it can last over ten years. The causes lie in a combination of factors, including extensive, complicated and often-changing legislation (there have been more than 20 amendments to the Building Act since its adoption in 2006), inadequate resources in public administration (personnel, financial, expertise) and high demand for building new premises, both dwelling and commercial.   

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Photo: Analogicus at PixabayThe Czech government to compensate big industries for higher electricity prices caused by the climate measures – a vicious circle of the EU emissions trading scheme

By Zuzana Vrbová

15 July 2020

The Czech Republic has to protect its industry, no matter what it costs. For a long time, this has been the Czech politicians’ rhetoric with regard to ever-tightening environmental regulation. During the Covid-19 crisis, concerns about the future of domestic industry grew even more. It is probably no coincidence that, during that time, the Czech Ministry of the Environment produced two legislative proposals providing financial support to some Czech industrial sectors. However, state aid will only be provided to the biggest enterprises.

Not only electricity and heat producers have lately been concerned about the rising price of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) allowance. The system was introduced by the European EU ETS Directive 2003/87/EC (‘EU ETS Directive’). It is one of the main EU climate policy instruments; its purpose is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a market mechanism.   

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Photo: Zbynek Burival on UnsplashA new wave of solar disputes on the Czech horizon?

By Monika Feigerlová

18 June 2020

On 27 April 2020 the Czech government approved a draft bill amending the Act on Promoted Energy Sources (Act no. 165/2012 Coll). If approved by Parliament, the proposed amendments that are planned to take effect from 1 January 2021 will bring significant changes to the support provided by the State to producers of electricity from renewable energy sources (RES). The proposal would primarily affect support for photovoltaic installations, which, according to the statement of the Czech Minister of Industry and Trade, will bring savings of up to ten billion Czech crowns.  

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Photo by Freddie Marriage on UnsplashCzech climate policies: are they enough?

By Zuzana Vrbová

2 March 2020

The Czech Republic is currently experiencing the consequences of climate change on an unprecedented scale – an increasing number of extreme weather events, such as droughts, heat waves and floods, to which climate change contributes, has over time become a regular annual occurrence. The Czech Republic is located in Central Europe with a population of 10.5 million. The average annual temperature has risen by 0.8 °C in the last 50 years and it is expected that it will grow further by approximately 0.24 °C every 10 years. The frequency of the summer and tropical days increased over the previous decade as well. Regarding water sources, the country is fully dependent on precipitation, since there are no rivers entering the country from neighbouring states. Changes in rainfall patterns cause ongoing long-term droughts and impair water retention in the soil. Partly because of these facts, Czech society is becoming increasingly interested in climate change issues. Greater media coverage and student protests also play an important role in building public opinion. According to the April 2019 Eurobarometer 71% of Czech respondents consider climate change to be a very serious problem (compared to the EU average of 79%) – which constitutes a growth of 14% between 2017 and 2019 (while among other EU states this growth it grew by only 5%).

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Photo by  L.W. on UnsplashThe Centre for Climate Law and Sustainability Studies Launched

 By Hana Müllerová

27 February 2020

There has been a long tradition of environmental law studies in Czech legal scholarship. The branch was established as soon as it was made possible after the 1989 breakdown of the communist regime (which had side-lined environmental protection as incompatible with centrally planned economic development). In the 1990s, several key environmental laws were prepared and approved, some of them even in force to this day. I remember the first Czech environmental law textbook of 1995 that I used during my Master’s studies: it was a thin paperback containing the texts of the fundamental environmental laws, with an introductory chapter explaining the main terms, principles and rules of the new field. Since then, the branch has consolidated and increased in both quantity and structure, partly due to implementing EU environmental legislation. However, in the last few years, climate change has posed qualitatively new challenges that may only be partially covered by environmental legislation, whether at the national, EU or international level. Environmental laws do not appear to offer the complete range of suitable instruments to tackle the complex issues that climate change presents to society.

It seems that the 1990s’ situation regarding environmental law is now present in climate law. At the theoretical level, climate law has not yet been considered a separate law branch in the Czech legal scholarship.  

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Opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in this section are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute of State and Law CAS.