New policies are being introduced as air pollution from solid fuel burning is estimated to cause more than 1,300 deaths in Ireland every year.
Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan, TD, announced today (7 September) that Ireland is introducing new standards for domestic solid fuels to be implemented within a year. These policies aim to address air pollution and the public health impact of smoky fuel burning.
The new policies include regulations on smoky fuel sources such as coal, peat and wood. Under the new rules, coal and peat will be required to have a smoke emission rate of 10g per hour, reduced down to 5g per hour by 2025.
The sulphur content allowed for all fuels will be reduced from 2pc to 1pc over time. Wood sold in small volumes will be required to have a reduced moisture content, while wet wood sold in large volumes will also need instructions on how to dry the fuel.
These changes are set to be implemented by 2022.
The new standards come after more than 200 health journals came together to warn of the global health risk of the climate crisis and the need to reduce emissions.
The Irish Heart Foundation welcomed the measures in Ireland, calling them a “huge step” in reducing the impact of toxic air pollution. It highlighted the negative health impact of these smoky fuels, particularly in relation to cardiovascular health.
Air pollution is responsible for more than 1,300 deaths every year in Ireland, according to the European Environment Agency report Air Quality in Europe 2020, with the vast majority of these due to heart disease and stroke.
“These measures will have a significant impact on this largely preventable loss of life as well as improving overall levels of public health,” said Mark Murphy, advocacy officer with the Irish Heart Foundation.
“There is simply no safe level of exposure to air pollution, and while these updated domestic solid fuel regulations still permit the burning of some solid fuel with stricter standards, they are a huge step in the right direction and will reduce the number of lives lost to dirty air.”
None left behind
The Irish Heart Foundation also emphasised the need to support the thousands of households in Ireland that are currently reliant on these smoky fuels. It suggested a Green Transition Fuel Allowance be introduced to support those moving towards more sustainable forms of heating.
“It is imperative that the Government, in this upcoming budget, allocates significant additional funding to the department and local authorities to monitor, enforce and police these new domestic solid fuel regulations so that we can all enjoy the benefits of cleaner air,” Murphy added.
The Government said the new policies recognise “those with the rights to harvest sod peat” and so no ban on its burning will be included. A regulatory regime will be examined to reduce its impact on urbanised areas, however.
Ryan said that when the Government was formed, it gave a commitment to addressing air pollution from domestic solid fuels and that it remains committed to doing so.
“We took a major step earlier this year, with a public consultation on the development of new solid fuels regulations for Ireland. We received more than 3,500 responses across all strands of the consultation, with a wide variety of suggested regulatory approaches for solid fuels,” he said.
“In the meantime, I trust that people will take note of the messages in the forthcoming public awareness campaign I am announcing today, and take these simple steps to bring about better air quality and improved health for all. During this period, people are being empowered to make a conscious, personal choice to contribute to cleaner air and a healthier environment.”