Country profile (Czech Republic)
What distinguishes the country?
The Czech Republic is a land-locked country in the temperate zone of central Europe. Covering an area of 78 867 km2, it is the 15th largest of the 27 EU Member States. It has a population of 10 381 130 and its population density of 132 inhabitants per km2 is the eighth highest in Europe. Almost half of the Czech population lives in small settlements of around 10 000 inhabitants. The Czech Republic shares borders of 810.3 km with Germany, 466.3 km with Austria, 761.8 km with Poland and 251.8 km with Slovakia.
In total, 67 % of the country’s surface area lies below 500 m and 32 % lies between 500 and 1000 m above sea level. Only 1 % lies at altitudes above 1000 m. The average altitude in the Czech Republic is 430 m above sea level.
Climate conditions are driven by inter-penetration and inter-mixing of oceanic and continental forces and are characterised by westerly winds and intense cyclonal activity, causing frequent exchanges of air mass and relatively high precipitation. The oceanic influence is felt primarily in Bohemia, while continental weather forces predominate in Moravia and Silesia. The weather depends to a great extent on the altitude and relief of the landscape. The average annual temperature ranges from.-2 °C on Snezka, the highest peak in the Czech Republic, to almost 10 °C in the warmest south-eastern part of the country (Hodonín, 9.5 °C). Annual precipitation totals, which are also highly dependent on altitude, range from 400-1500 mm.
The Czech Republic is part of the main European drainage basin, separating the watersheds of the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. The principal rivers in Bohemia are the Labe (Elbe) (370 km) and the Vltava (Moldau) (433 km); in Moravia the Morava (245 km) and the Dyje (306 km) and in northern Moravia and Silesia the Odra (135 km) and the Opava (131 km). The Czech Republic is sometimes referred to as the ‘roof of Europe’ since almost all water runs out of the country. It therefore takes pollution prevention responsibilities very seriously, both within and beyond its borders.
Forest covers approximately 24 % of the Czech Republic, placing it eighth in the ranking of forest share in Europe. The share of arable land is also above the European average (38 %).
Population density is imbalanced, with the majority of the population concentrated in Prague, northern Bohemia and industrial Silesia, while the southern part of the country and northern Moravia are less populated, with scattered settlements (see Fig.at http://issar.cenia.cz/issar/core/images/generate_image.php?idimage=240, source: The Czech Statistical Office).
In terms of economic structure, according to data for 2008, the service sector held the largest share (58 %) followed by industry (39 %), of which the manufacturing industry represents 27 % and construction 7 %. In contrast, agriculture generates only 3 % of GDP.
Further information on the Czech Republic is available online at http://www.businessinfo.cz/en/section/about-the-czech-republic/1001015/.
Environmental governance and policies
For the last 15 years the conceptual framework for Czech environmental protection was based on five environmental policies adopted by the Government in 1990, 1995, 1999, 2001 and 2004. As the environmental situation improved, the emphasis shifted from the protection of human health to nature conservation and biological diversity. The latest policy mirrors the Sixth Environment Action Programme of the European Community 2002-2012.
Public administration of environmental affairs is shared by the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Interior.
The Ministry of the Environment (MoE) was established on 1 January 1990 by Act No 173/1989 Coll. to function as the central state administrative authority and supreme inspection authority in environmental affairs.
The MoE is the central state administrative authority for:
• protection of natural water accumulation
• protection of water resources and the quality of ground and surface water
• air protection
• nature and countryside protection
• conservation of agricultural land
• operation of the National Geological Survey
• protection of the rock environment, including mineral resources and groundwater
• geological works and environmental supervision of mining
• waste management
• environmental impact assessments including transboundary issues
• fishery and forestry in national parks
• National environmental policy.
The Ministry of Environment is supported by several subordinate organisations in charge of environmental monitoring and research. For instance, the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (http://www.chmi.cz/, in Czech), the Czech Environmental Information Agency CENIA (http://www.cenia.cz/, in Czech) and the Water Research Institute T.G.M. (http://www.vuv.cz/, in Czech), etc. Further information is available online at http://www.mzp.cz/en/ministry.
The Ministry of Agriculture is a central authority for the administration of agriculture, water management, the preservation of water sources and water quality and the management of the food industry. It is also the central state authority responsible for administering forestry, hunting and fisheries outside of national parks. The Ministry of Agriculture administers the Czech Agricultural and Food Inspection Board, the State Veterinary Administration, the Central Institute for Supervision and Testing in Agriculture and other organizations.
The Ministry for the Interior plays an important role in the implementation of European regional and structural policy and the administration of regional development. Further information is available online at resolveuid/c6012a4e5650d0db37820b9ed2636e73.
What have been the major societal developments?
After 1945, economic, social and environmental conditions in the Czech Republic were influenced by the geopolitical situation in Europe. Czechoslovakia, one of the most developed countries in the world, with a strong manufacturing industry before WWII, was forced to shift its orientation within the Soviet bloc towards heavy industry, in particular metallurgy, steel chemicals and mechanical engineering. The enormous energy demands of heavy industry were satisfied by electricity, produced mainly from coal-fired power plants which used brown coal and emitted extreme amounts of pollution. During the socialist era farming had a similarly adverse impact on the agricultural landscape as a result of excessive use of fertilisers and chemicals for pest control. Although there was some formal environmental protection, the development of industrial and agricultural production was always a priority. The adverse effects became very apparent during the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in terms of air quality, water and landscape (forests).
Before 1989, the Czech economy was centrally-planned. To all intents and purposes, there was no real market and this situation resulted in an ever-widening economic and technological gap. From 1989 to the present, the economy has been successfully transformed into a market economy.
Since the ‘Velvet revolution’ in November 1989, environmental protection has become a recognised priority in society. During the period 1989–1992, new regulations were passed and institutions set up to support environmental protection. The first wave of environmental legislation contained a number of short-term objectives to improve the inferior environmental conditions in the country. As a result of protracted ethnic and political conflicts, Czechoslovakia ceased to exist on 1 January 1993 and was replaced by two independent states: the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. The second generation of regulations was adopted after 1998 to bring legislation in line with the EU.
During the 1990s, there were many positive changes to the state of the environment and some indicators improved dramatically (e.g. emissions of particulate matter and sulphur dioxide). Significant funds were also invested in the environment, amounting to around 2 % of GDP between 1993 and 1998. In total, over EUR 10 billion was spent on the environment between 1990 and 1998.
During the period 1995–2008, GDP grew by almost 50 %, the unemployment rate fell to approximately 5–6 % and inflation was kept low. However, growth in GDP decelerated in 2008 and was even reversed by the end of 2009, reflecting the outbreak of the global economic crisis. The subsequent decrease in industrial production and electricity generation has had a positive effect on environmental pressures, reducing emissions to air and water for example.
What are the main drivers of environmental pressures?
Although the Czech Republic still has an above-average material and energy intensity compared to EU-15 and EU-27 countries, this is currently declining. Czech industry has recently seen a change in production structure towards ‘lighter’ industries, i.e. branches that produce more technologically-demanding products with higher added-value and a lower energy and emission intensity (such as the automotive and electronic industries and computer technology manufacturing).
Over the past four years (2005–2009), the year-on-year decline in the energy intensity of Czech GDP was more than 5 %. While the energy intensity of industry has been declining since 2000, the energy intensity of transport continues to rise (see Fig. at http://issar.cenia.cz/issar/core/objects/generate_graph.php?id_document=1534&id_object=Podpurny_graf_1, Source: The Czech Statistical Office, Ministry of Industry and Trade). Transport currently represents the second-highest source of energy consumption (approximately 25 % of total energy consumption).
Consumption of primary energy sources and final energy consumption has risen slightly since 2000, but in 2007 and 2008, there was a slight year-on-year decrease. The rapid growth of GDP during this period indicates that the energy intensity of GDP generation has decreased (see Fig. at http://issar.cenia.cz/issar/core/objects/generate_graph.php?id_document=1534&id_object=Hlavni_graf, Source: The Czech Statistical Office), otherwise known as relative decoupling.
Between 1995 and 2007, there was also a relatively sharp decline in the material intensity of GDP. This decrease occurred during 1997–99, 2000–03 and 2004–07. In the first of these two periods, the decline was mainly due to a decrease in the Domestic Material Consumption (DMC) indicator rather than economic growth. However, during the last period the decline was caused exclusively by economic growth. In comparison with both EU-15 and EU-27, the material intensity of the Czech economy remains very high, similar to other countries of the Visegrad Group. The unfavourable position of the new EU Member States results from the fact that while their DMC per capita is comparable to EU-15, their GDP per capita is several times lower. The low material intensity in western European countries is also attributable to production being moved eastwards.
Further information is available online via the Information System of Environmental Statistics and Reporting - ISSaR (currently only in Czech):
http://issar.cenia.cz/issar/page.php?id=1589 (Energy intensity)
http://issar.cenia.cz/issar/page.php?id=1587 (Energy consumption)
http://issar.cenia.cz/issar/page.php?id=1620 (Material intensity of HDP)
http://issar.cenia.cz/issar/page.php?id=1618 (Domestic Material Consumption)
The most dynamic driver of the state of the environment in the Czech Republic is transportation. The steady increase in passenger transportation volumes since 1990 has mainly been due to a dynamic growth in both air and passenger vehicle transportation. As regards freight transportation, although the overall performance values have changed very little since 1990, the structure of both transported goods and freight transportation has changed considerably.
Nowadays, environmentally harmful means of transport are prevalent. In 2008, approximately 63 % of all passengers opted for vehicle transportation. In 2008, the road freight transport share of total transport capacities in freight transportation accounted for 73.8 %, which is 1.9 % more than in 2007. However, automobile transport capacities per capita (approximately 6 940 pkm/capita) continue to be much lower than in EU-15 (usually over 10 000 pkm/capita).
In 2008, transportation was the largest producer of both carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides and the second-largest producer of dust particles. Transport’s share of total emissions for almost all pollutants is increasing Source: Transport Research Centre
Moreover, transport is an intensive producer of GHG emissions. In 2007, its share in the total GHG emissions reached approximately 13 %.
Further information is available online from ISSaR (in Czech) at:
http://issar.cenia.cz/issar/page.php?id=1587 (Transport volumes)
http://issar.cenia.cz/issar/page.php?id=1589 (Vehicle fleet characteristics)
Following a marked decline in the early 1990s the consumption of inorganic fertilisers and plant protection products has been gradually increasing. This trend is not favourable. Fertiliser consumption depends mainly on climatic conditions and the intensity of agricultural activities, but also on the financial means of farmers.
The importance of organic farming has been growing in the Czech Republic. In 2008, there was a further increase in the number of organic farmers and producers of organic food. By the end of the year, there were 1 946 farmers working according to a set of organic farming principles and 422 entities producing organic food. Throughout 2008, the number of organic farmers almost doubled, as did the number of organic food producers. The area under organic farming increased by 29 000 ha to reach 341 632 ha, representing 8.04 % of the total agricultural land area. The proportion of organically-farmed land in the Czech Republic is higher than the average for European countries. Further information is available online (http://issar.cenia.cz/issar/page.php?id=1606, in Czech).
The composition of land use is typical of countries with a high proportion of arable land and forests. Forests occupy 33.6 % of the land area in the Czech Republic, while the average for Europe is 28 %. Bodies of water occupy 2.1 % of the area, while the figure for the rest of Europe is 3 %. Arable land accounts for 38.4 % of land use in the Czech Republic and 33 % in Europe. Between 2000 and 2005, the growth rate of urbanised areas increased considerably compared to 1990–2000. Further information is available online (http://issar.cenia.cz/issar/page.php?id=1598, in Czech).
Nowadays, one of the key issues of territorial development and an important driving force for pressures on the environment in the Czech Republic is suburbanisation. This is the expansion of the residential and commercial functions of urban areas into the surrounding landscape. In the Czech Republic, the current development around Prague is typical of suburbanisation. It is also taking place less intensively around Brno and other large towns. Suburbanisation causes urban sprawl, fragmentation of the landscape, the creation of new transport infrastructure and an increase in transport volumes.
What are the foreseen developments?
A new Czech environmental policy is currently being developed which is expected to enter into force in 2011. The policy adopts a cross-sectoral approach in order to ensure compliance with other sectoral policies. The objective of the new policy is to meet commitments to EU environmental policies, national and European strategies for sustainable development, and other obligations under international treaties and conventions. The policy encompasses the following priorities and aims.
1. Protection of climate, minimising the negative impacts of climate change
This priority includes either mitigation or adaptation aims. The main aim is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 20 % against levels for 2005, by 2020.
2. Minimising negative impacts (on public health and environment) of ambient air pollution
This priority deals with emissions to the air and ambient air quality improvement, especially in terms of particulate matter pollution.
3. Protection and sustainable use of natural resources
There are many areas which come under this priority. It refers to water pollution and quality, soil protection, reduction of waste and effective use of renewable energy sources. The aim is to achieve a 13 % share of energy from renewables out of the total energy consumption by 2020.
4. Protection of biodiversity
This priority concentrates on protection of species diversity and support of natural processes and ecosystem services
5. Landscape protection, environmentally friendly use of land
This priority deals with the provision of coordinated care for the natural, cultural and historical values of the landscape, sustainable forestry, renewal of the natural retention capacity of the landscape, improvement of the environment in urbanised landscapes and careful management of agricultural landscapes.
6. Environmental safety, risk prevention and crisis management
This is a cross-cutting priority, including risk prevention, prevention and mitigation of crisis situations (e.g. industrial accidents, floods), hazardous waste handling and disposal and restoration and decontamination of contaminated sites.
More detailed aims and subsequent measures will be identified and implemented for each of these priorities and these will be added to the diversity profile as soon as they are finalised.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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