Renewable Energy in CzechiaThe 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
Photo: Unsplash

Changing its name from the Czech Republic to Czechia in 2016, this Central European country has recently been on the rise economically, and poverty in Czechia has improved. A current account recorded a trade surplus just under one percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015. This was an increase of more than four percent in five years, from a deficit of 3.6 percent in 2010.

In categorical comparison with other countries, the picture of the position of poverty in Czechia – a small, landlocked nation – is bright.

GDP at Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) is a sound indicator of how poverty in Czechia affects the country as a whole, as it represents the final value of all goods and services produced in a single year factored at current United States exchange rates.

Poverty in Czechia is minimal and limited, based on GDP at PPP, as the country ranked 50th out of the 230 countries, nation-states and islands evaluated by the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact Book in 2016. The GDP at PPP for Czechia was a reported $315 billion in 2016. Comparatively, China is ranked number one with a GDP at PPP of more than $21 trillion and the small New Zealand island of Tokelau ranked last with a GDP at PPP of $1.5 million.

The actual GDP of Czechia in 2015 was $185.2 billion, according to The World Bank. With a population of 10.5 million people at the time, the GDP per capita was around $32,500 in 2015. Comparatively, Czechia ranked 58th in 2016 with a GDP per capita; Qatar ranked first, at $129,700 per capita and Somalia ranked 230th, or last, with a 2016 GDP per capita of merely $400.

According to The World Bank, poverty in Czechia was at 9.7 percent in 2013, a representative decrease in the percentage of people living at or below the poverty level from a decade prior, when the figure was at 10 percent.

The statistics and graphs shown on The World Bank’s database show large amounts of fluctuation in the poverty levels in Czechia over the last decade, rising and falling almost annually. While this figure fluctuates greatly, a stabilized number in the statistics on poverty in Czechia is the percentage of the population living on less than $1.90 a day. Less than a tenth of a percent of the Czechian population survives on less than $1.90, and that number has been the same for more than a half-decade.

The World Bank predicts a 2.5 percent growth in GDP this fiscal year (2017) for Czechia and a population growth under two-tenths of a percentage point. Currently, in the small, landlocked country–less than the size of South Carolina–there are 137 people per square kilometer.

The country’s Gross National Income in 2015 was around $18,000, and the lowest 20 percent of the earnings population accounted for 9.6 percent of the income share in 2012.

The average life expectancy in the country was 79.5 years in 2015, with 100 percent of the population having access to improved water systems. More than 99 percent of the people used improved sanitation facilities that year.

Poverty in Czechia is on the decline as the Central European member of the European Union saw a 4.5 percent growth in GDP in 2015. Compared to other countries being studied, Czechia is a stably improving country of prosperity, with its auto and manufacturing industries supporting internal growth.

Shaun Savarese

Photo: Flickr