Greenpeace activists urge PM Babiš to sign carbon neutrality agreement

Photo: ČTK/Michal Krumphanzl

As the European Commission prepares to outline its Green Deal on Wednesday, the Czech branch of Greenpeace has staged a protest in Prague against Prime Minister Andrej Babiš who looks like he might be the only European leader to block the EU’s decision to become carbon neutral by 2050. On Monday evening, Greenpeace activists symbolically set the government building on fire, screening images of flames on its façade.

Photo: ČTK/Michal Krumphanzl

I spoke to the group’s spokesman, Jan Hrábek, and asked him to outline the main idea behind the protest:

“We chose the building because there was a government meeting in session. We also projected several appeals to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, and we used the words he himself used in the past in his election campaign.

“He said he wants a strong Czech Republic, a country our children will want to live in. So we projected a message that Czechia will only be strong if it supports carbon neutrality and that we need to save the climate so that we have a place where our children are even able to live in, not only willing to live in.”

So what measures should be taken here in the Czech Republic?

“The main problem right now, ahead of the European Council meeting, is that the Czech Republic is one of the four countries that blocked carbon neutrality in Europe earlier this year.

“We know that now, some of these countries are willing to change their position after they had some negotiations with the European Commission and other member states.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: ČTK/Ondřej Deml
“So right now, Prime Minister Babiš is the only loud opponent of the plan and he publicly threatens to sabotage the deal for the whole of the EU.”

“If you want to talk about concrete measures to cut greenhouse gases in the Czech Republic, I think the biggest problem is coal and the combustion of coal in old power plants so we need to plan a coal phase-out as soon as possible.”

Do you think it is likely that the prime minister will change his mind and support the carbon neutrality agreement?

“We definitely hope that the prime minister will change his mind and decide not to block or water down the carbon neutrality agreement. It would be extremely shameful if he was the only European politician to block this important step.

“It would also send a very bad message to the countries outside of Europe. If the European Union doesn’t act like a climate leader, we cannot expect other big polluters, such as China, India and the United States, to be active in the field of climate protection.”

And finally, is the Czech branch of Greenpeace planning to take some other steps to protest against the prime minister’s policy?

“I think it’s not very likely that we will do something else before the start of the meeting because there is simply no time for any action or activity.

“But we also have a petition asking for climate protection called United for Climate. So we will at least communicate to the prime minister that almost 40,000 Czechs have now signed the petition and want him to act on the climate issue.”