Scientists and physicians in the Czech Republic have come together to urge the country’s lawmakers not to allow any exemptions from new European Union norms on pollution that should come into force in 2021.

According to the head of the environmental group Hnutí Duha, it is essential that such exemptions are prohibited by law. “It is important to deal with the situation in advance and secure the terms by law,” said Jiří Koželouh. “The state should make clear which plants can be granted exemptions and which should definitely fulfil the norms.

“We believe these are mainly large coal-fired power plants, which, according to the state energy policy, should phase out their production in any case.”

As reported by Radio Praha online, 60% of Czech’s reside in regions where pollution levels exceed the norms.

According to Hnutí Duha, pollution in the country causes 11,000 premature deaths each year. Harmful pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, mercury and dust particles are one of the major causes of respiratory diseases.

Among the scientists appealing to the government is Michal V. Marek, director of the Global Change Research Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences. “The changes to emission limits are still so minor, that any exemptions will only be for the worse,” he warned. “The increase of greenhouse gas emissions is so significant that any effort to limit them is positive.”