Czech scientists appeal against exemptions to EU emission norms

Leading Czech scientists and physicians have appealed to lawmakers not to allow any exemptions from new EU norms on pollution that should come into force in the year 2021. The appeal, initiated by Hnutí Duha, points out that pollution in the Czech Republic causes 11,000 premature deaths each year.

Jiří Koželouh, photo: Jana PřinosilováJiří Koželouh, photo: Jana Přinosilová Under the new rules approved by EU member states in 2017, power plants in the EU will have to significantly cut the amount of toxic pollutants.

Harmful pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, mercury and dust particles are one of the major causes of respiratory diseases.

In the Czech Republic alone 60 percent of people live in regions where pollution norms are frequently exceeded.

However, individual countries will have the right to ask for a number of exemptions and Czech environmentalists, such as Hnutí Duha, say coal power plants and other big polluters have already made clear that they will try to get them.

According to the head of Hnutí Duha, Jiří Koželouh, 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. 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.”

Among the signatories of the appeal is Professor Michal V. Marek, director of the Global Change Research Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences, who says he signed without hesitation:

“The changes to emission limits are still so minor, that any exemptions will only be for the worse. The increase of greenhouse gas emissions is so significant that any effort to limit them is positive.

Illustrative photo: Nikola Belopitov, Pixabay / CC0Illustrative photo: Nikola Belopitov, Pixabay / CC0 “I also think this pressure can force those who are affected by the new legislation to start looking for different solutions. Getting an exemption is not one of them. A solution is to look for new technologies.”

The Czech Republic, along with other countries heavily reliant on coal, such as Poland, Bulgaria and Germany were opposed to restricting the EU pollution norms. Jiří Koželouh hopes the Czech Environment Ministry will take a different stand in the future:

“So far, the Ministry of Environment has opposed these binding limits and sided with the polluters. We hope that they will take a more positive stand and support the change in the law.

“We believe it would be an adequate reaction for a department whose first and foremost role is to protect the environment.”

The law that would prohibit exemptions to EU pollution regulations has been proposed by the Pirate Party and is also supported by a number of Christian Democratic and TOP 09 deputies. The proposal is set to be debated in the lower house later this week.