Government report highlights alarming state of Czech forests

Photo: archive of Radio Prague

The impact of global climate change in the Czech Republic can be felt more strongly than ever before, suggests a newly-released government report on the state of the Czech environment for the year 2017. One of the most pressing issues highlighted by the report is the alarming state of Czech forests.

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
More frequent and more severe periods of drought, torrential rains and wind-storms, these are just some of the weather fluctuations registered in the Czech Republic in 2017 as a result of climate change.

According to the annual report on the Czech environment, set to be debated by the government on Tuesday, global climate change is no longer a vague concern but a pressing reality the country needs to start adapting to. Jiří Koželouh is the programme director of Friends of the Earth Czech Republic:

“Climate change is already strongly affecting our lives in the Czech Republic. That is the main finding of this year’s report on the environment. Among the specific impacts are droughts, heavy rains and storms, but also summer smog related to heatwaves and air pollution.”

One of the most serious issues highlighted by the report is the catastrophic state of Czech forests, which is by far the worst in Europe. According to the report, over 70 percent of the country’s coniferous forests are threatened with defoliation or loss of needles.

Jiří Koželouh,  photo: Jana Přinosilová / Czech Radio
According to Friends of the Earth, the main source of the problem are the prolonged periods of drought, bark beetle infestation, and devastating wind-storms, but most of all the lack of effective action on the part of state organisations and ministries to adapt the forests to global climate change, mainly by switching to mixed forests.

On the upside, the annual report on Czech environment shows that the long term trend in the gradual reduction of toxic emissions continues. Nevertheless, air quality still remains a major problem in the country.

According to the report, more than two thirds of Czechs were affected by increased amount of dust particles and other toxic pollutants in the air in 2017 and air pollution led to 5.7 thousand premature deaths, compared to 4.4 thousand in 2016.

Jiří Koželouh again:

“The main positive conclusion is the fact that consumption of raw materials has dropped by around 40 percent compared to the year 2000 and energy consumption has dropped by around 30 percent. That is proof that the Czech industry and Czech economy are more effective than before.”

Photo: František Tichý / Czech Radio
“The Czech Republic nevertheless remains one of the biggest producers of carbon emissions in Europe. We currently produce around 11 tonnes of emissions per person each year, compared to around 19 tonnes before 1989. So the situation is improving, but it is still very problematic in terms of the Paris agreement.”

According to Mr. Koželouh, the negative trend can only be overturned with focused ecological policy. Among the first measures that need to be adopted by the government is the phasing-out of coal-powered plants and the adoption of a new law on forest management.