Brussels – For the good of Prague and its inhabitants; on behalf of the success of the European agenda; for the need to be a model and a driving force; in reason of a changed context that makes everything even more necessary. The capital of the Czech Republic looks to the future, a future made up of green spaces and sustainability. Zdeněk Hřib is crystal clear about this: there is no going back. In the interview given to Eunews, the mayor of Prague talked about the green transition of his city, a true challenge to be won.
EUNEWS: Mr Mayor, the EU needs to urgently implement a real green transition now more than ever. How the city of Prague is contributing to this historic process?
Zdeněk Hřib: “In 2019, we adopted the climate pledge to reduce CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to the 2010 levels and to reach climate neutrality by 2050. Last year, the city assembly has adopted the Climate Plan for Prague with 69 specific measures which will lead toward fulfilling the pledge by 2030. This is motivated not only by the idea of an ecologically and environmentally friendly local policy, but also by the increased potential of Prague as a city whose inhabitants enjoy the best quality of life, and the overall restructuring of Prague’s economy, where green and sustainable technologies are becoming prevalent.
E: Can you give us some examples of what you already did and what you are planning to do?
ZH: “Sustainable mobility and electrification of the public transport sector through electric vehicles, biomethane or various forms of non-motorised transport are at the core of Prague’s transition to the green economy. In the last few years, Prague has seen a record expansion of tram lines and has started building the 4th metro line, with more plans worth €300 million for the upcoming 5 years. In addition, the city is actively promoting electromobility, walking and cycling, which are the most beneficial in terms of reducing the impacts of climate change. Then, changing the structure of the energy resources used by the city and transitioning from coal to low and zero-emission power is a key factor to reduce Prague’s energy performance and support the adaptation of buildings in the city. Recently, Prague has launched a new project of installing solar power plants on the roofs of townhouses. Another step toward energy self-sufficiency in Prague is its water purification plant, which can collect heat for up to 30% of Prague’s households. We are also testing the model of Prague’s Renewable Energy Community that has been created by the city and offers a complete service to households, families and apartment building owners and energy communities created bottom up. Moreover, as part of the climate plan, we are preparing several projects to support green roofs, facades or so-called vertical greenery. Furthermore, between 2018 and 2022, the City of Prague has planted over 500,000 trees. We are planning on plant another 500,000 trees by 2026 in order to fulfil our target of 1 million trees for Prague within 8 years. Massive tree planting is essential for improving the quality of life in the city. Trees can help in reducing heat islands in the city, they significantly cool the surroundings, trap dust, absorb CO2 and generally make the environment more suitable for life”.
E: What about the new project of trolley line from Palmovka metro station to Miškovice? Is the roadmap going to be respected?
ZH: “Yes, the new trolleybus line from Palmovka to Čakovice represents another step towards electrification of Prague public transport, the construction started in January and should be in operation by the end of 2022. The trolley overhead line will be built in three sections: between Palmovka and Kundratka stop, between Kelerka and Prosecká stops and between Letňany terminal and Čakovice shopping centre, and some services will continue to Miškovice. Altogether, the total length of the new trolley line is more than 11 kilometres”.
E: Is the Czech presidency of the EU the best moment to push for the implementation of a strong green agenda?
ZH: “I think there is no time to lose and the whole European Union must act without hesitation. I consider the fact that the Czech Republic currently holds the Presidency of the European Council to be a great opportunity for smaller EU members to make their voices heard on such important issues”.
E: Do you fear that the energy crisis could undermine the green agenda of the EU?
ZH: “On the contrary, I strongly believe this situation will only accelerate the process of making our cities more sustainable and self-sufficient. The Russian aggression and subsequent disruption of the global energy market have only highlighted the need to transform the EU’s energy system and end its dependence on fossil fuels, specifically gas from Russia, to tackle the climate crisis”.
E: Does Europe still have money to finance the green transition? The aggression of Ukraine and the financial assistance to cope with this crisis is driving to the reallocation of a lot of EU funds…
ZH: “The European Commission has already allocated funds under the REPowerEU Plan to help its members to coordinate the planning of energy projects and reforms to strengthen economic growth, security, and climate action in Europe. As a part of this plan, €225 billion is already available to the EU Member States in loans under the RRF and additional funding in form of grants, cohesion funds or additional investments has been proposed”.
E: Are you confident that the other EU institution will listen to the European Committee of Region in October, once the COR’s opinion on green mobility will be adopted by the Plenary?
ZH: I believe that cities are absolutely vital for the implementation of the European Green Deal and need direct EU funding. One of the priorities of the Czech Presidency is to strengthen the voice of regions and cities in the EU and make it easier for regions and cities to secure EU funding to speed up the transition towards fair, sustainable and secure energy. Therefore, I am very optimistic. The cities have shown the readiness of the local authorities to take the lead in climate action and implement ambitious action plans for a sustainable future”.