The EU Cohesion Policy Commission is partnering with the government of Czechia for new renewable energy projects from 2021-2027. These projects have the potential to tackle many issues that make life more difficult for Roma people living in poverty, including changing weather patterns, unemployment and unsanitary conditions in public facilities.
How Changing Weather Patterns Makes Conditions Worse for Roma People
Changing weather patterns bring extreme weather events like floods, wildfires, droughts and heat waves. In August 2010, flash floods left thousands of Czech citizens without electricity or gas. In 2021, a tornado in South Moravia left 70,000 households powerless and destroyed 1,600 homes. These events have been devastating to people living below the poverty line, leaving many homeless, including a Romani widow with six children. The tornado was an extremely rare occurrence and multiple studies have found that tornadoes from severe thunderstorms are more likely to form due to changing weather patterns.
Natural disasters such as floods, wildfires, and droughts have severe consequences for impoverished Roma communities. These events lead to population displacement, damage water and sanitation infrastructure and contaminate water sources with fecal bacteria. According to a survey conducted among Roma people living in EU countries, a staggering 80% continue to live below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold in their respective countries. Moreover, 52% of them reside in houses without proper sanitation facilities, and 22% have no access to tap water inside their homes.
The lack of proper sanitation facilities like running water and the challenges of poverty have resulted in alarming health disparities among Roma communities. Reports indicate that Roma women have an average life expectancy that is 11 years less than women in general, and Roma men have an average life expectancy of 9 years less than men overall. Furthermore, the changing weather patterns have become a significant threat to the lives of Roma people, particularly during and after extreme weather events. These challenges, combined with housing and employment instability, further exacerbate the vulnerabilities that members of the Roma community face.
New Renewable Energy Policies in Czechia and How They Aid Roma People in Poverty
The EU Cohesion Policy Commission has joined forces with Czechia to tackle its high natural gas emissions and climate-related disasters through a €21.4 billion agreement that focuses on renewable energy projects. This collaboration aims to support the green and digital transition of Czechia while promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion. The Just Transition Fund (JTF) will facilitate a New Circular Economy Plan, providing €1.5 billion to aid businesses in their shift to a low-carbon economy. The ultimate goal is to reduce Czechia’s GHG emissions by 30% by 2030.
Based on forecasts, the green and digital transition in Czechia could create more job opportunities, fostering employment and social inclusion. This will particularly benefit minority populations, including the Roma people. Moreover, the job market could become more gender-balanced, offering potential advantages for Roma women.
The new circular economy will both preserve and diversify jobs and improve the quality of education. It will also improve the integration of third-country nationals and the living standards of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion. The European Regional and Development Fund (ERDF) dedicates €3.4 billion to digitalize the economy and boost competitiveness in small and medium businesses. Additionally, environmental measures aim to reduce extreme weather events that impact the Roma people.
The clean urban and suburban transport funded by the ERDF and Cohesion Fund will reduce the number of diseases that would otherwise be spread to Czechia’s vulnerable populations via public transport, potentially addressing the health problems that disadvantaged Roma people face.
Additionally, a new program called “Environment” will directly address the environmental factor of the issue by helping Czechia restore its natural ecosystems and create more sustainable water management. This could create a cleaner and healthier environment while addressing the lack of clean water systems in many Roma homes.
The Progress So Far
According to the Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, “Under the 2014-2020 programming period, the Cohesion Policy supported investments in 11,000 enterprises, creating or retaining 10,676 direct jobs.”
The new circular economy has begun to implement several new projects, such as modular buildings, smart waste systems and several forms of recycling. These projects have been cleaning up cities and suburbs, allowing flexibility in construction with relation to how many kids wish to attend school and reducing waste and global emissions.
Room for More Progress
Although there are many positive developments ahead for the implementation of renewable energy in Czechia, Roma people continue to face discrimination in education, housing, employment and interactions with the police. Such discriminatory practices are generally motivated by racist ideals. In addition to renewable energy projects that have the potential to protect Roma’s health and living conditions, there is a need for more political measures, such as the Anti-Discrimination Act and the new Social Inclusion Strategy, that focus on protecting the human rights of Roma people.
– Sophia Holub