New survey looks into how Czechs contribute to carbon emissions

How do Czechs contribute to carbon emissions? And how would different social groups be affected by measures adopted against climate change, such as climate taxes? These are just some of the questions which Czech Radio tried to answer by commissioning a large-scale sociological survey across the Czech society.

The poll carried out by the agencies PAQ Research, STEM and CVVM, followed on another large scale survey carried out for Czech Radio two years ago, which established six social classes within the Czech society, based on their social, economic and cultural capital.

This time sociologists asked the same people about their attitudes towards climate change, focusing on their consumption behaviour and use of resources. It shows that an absolute majority of Czechs, regardless their social background, consider climate change a serious problem.

It also reveals that different social classes contribute to carbon emissions in a different way and most importantly, that the lower classes would be more affected by possible measures against climate change, such as carbon taxes.

Daniel Prokop | Photo: Elena Horálková,  Czech Radio

Sociologist Daniel Prokop, who worked on the study, explains:

“The established middle class and emerging cosmopolitan class, the two types of upper middle class in the Czech Republic, have a higher carbon footprint by one tonne per person per year.

“This is quite a substantial difference - around 20 percent more than the other classes. However, it is not as big a difference as one might have expected.

“They produce a bigger carbon footprint by car travel, in case of the established middle class, and plane travel, which is case of the younger, cosmopolitan class, which has a higher cultural and social capital.

“However the lower middle classes and the lowest class have a higher carbon footprint in energies. They tend to use more heating and more electricity, because they live in households which are not as efficient.”

While the difference in the amount of CO2 emissions may not be that striking in terms of different social classes, the structure of the carbon footprint may have significant policy implications, says Mr Prokop:

Photo: Jerzy Górecki,  Pixabay,  CC0

“You cannot expect the lower classes to reduce their carbon footprint substantially. They would have to reduce it by insulating their houses, which they lack resources for. So it kind of limits the individual potential of the lower middle class to reduce their carbon footprint.

“It also reveals that possible ecological taxes have big implications because they would hurt the lower classes more. So when you plan on introducing ecological taxes and carbon tax, which I think will be necessary in the future, you also have to change income taxes and create space for these taxes in the lower middle classes. That, I think, is one of the main findings of our survey.”

Although the Czech Republic is a relatively small country, it has one of the highest CO2 emissions in the European Union. However, as Daniel Prokop points out, only about half of the carbon footprint per capita is created on an individual level. The remaining emissions are created by the country’s industry and other areas.

That means the possibilities of reducing the carbon footprint individually are quite limited. At the same time, the two problems are closely interconnected, says Mr Prokop:

“What is interesting is that people who are aware of climate change and people who support a change in the system are willing to restrict themselves more. So I think individual responsibility and public pressure on a change of policies and the energy system actually go hand in hand.”