EU funds for Czech incinerators in the balance thanks to local opposition
Bankwatch Mail | 13 March 2012
The European Commission is considering financial support for three new major municipal waste incinerator projects in the Czech Republic. The total cost for these projects is EUR 520 million and the projects have also requested a subsidy from the current Operational Programme for Environment (OPE) totalling EUR 184 million.
This article is from Issue 51 of our quarterly newsletter Bankwatch Mail
In preparing its national waste management plan (WMP), in 2002 the Czech Ministry of Environment commissioned economic analyses of two possible solutions. One solution permitted the construction of municipal waste incinerators and the second was based on a combination of waste prevention, a high degree of sorting, recycling, composting and mechanical biological treatment of residual mixed municipal waste. A study prepared at Charles University in Prague concluded that the recycling option would require between EUR 64-260 million more than the investment proposal based on the construction of incinerators (EUR 400-596 million).
The eventual 2003 WMP aimed at increasing the Czech Republic’s recycling rate and featured the intention to no longer invest in municipal waste incinerators. However, the necessary changes in national waste legislation to ensure meeting these targets in the WMP have not been realised over the last nine years. In 2009, indeed, the caretaker Czech government updated the WMP without debate or assessment of the environmental impacts. The main reason for doing so was to cancel point No. 4.i.: “not to support construction of new municipal waste incinerators from state funds.” The aim was to allow the regions to apply for EU grants for municipal waste incinerator projects.
They may now be legitimately seeking EU funding assistance, but three major incinerator projects are facing strong local opposition and a range of problems.
The territorial permission for the Karvina incinerator published by the Moravian-Silesian Regional office has already been judicially challenged by the municipality in Horní Suchá and environmental groups. Under a preliminary court decision the territorial permission has been deemed to be non-valid until the final decision of the court. In the Czech legal system, an outcome could take years, and the project is legally halted until the final decision of the court. Thus it is most likely that there will be no chance for the Karvina incinerator project to be financed for construction from the current 2007-2013 EU funds programming period.
The territorial permission for the Chotíkov incinerator, provided by the Touškov municipality, has been stopped by the investor. The granting of the permission has been deemed to be biased by the Region office in Plzen, though the investor is thought to be preparing to obtain another territorial permission in the near future. Whether the Chotikov incinerator project will be able to rely on EU funds from the current programming period is still up in the air.
The project to build an incinerator in Most is currently undergoing an appeal related to territorial proceedings. The proposed incinerator is located in the Ustecký region that has the highest ratio of municipal waste production in the Czech Republic. Environmentalists argue that decreasing the region’s waste generation to the level of the national average could prevent the same capacity of waste as the planned incinerator.
Politicians in the Czech Republic appear intent on seeking out the ‘easiest’ solution to fulfil EU waste directives, namely mass burning without prior sorting. What this means of course is that full waste bins will be emptied not in landfills but instead in incinerators.
If these plans are realised the waste system will essentially stay the same, with waste prevention taking a back seat. In fact, current predictions foresee a two percent rise in waste volumes per year. The target of a 50 percent recycling ratio of municipal waste, as included in the WPM, appears to have been overly ambitious. The decisive factor for the future of these incineration plans remains the financing, and the European Commission surely has some serious thinking to do about whether it will green light Czech landfilling in the sky, also known as incineration.