friday, 21 february of 2020


England bans sale of coal and wet wood to improve air quality

A ban on the sale of coal and wet wood for domestic use will be rolled out across England next year, the government has announced, as it seeks to tackle worsening air quality caused by the popularity of wood-burning stoves.

While ministers are not banning wood or coal-burning stoves, they called on the public to move to “cleaner alternatives”, such as seasoned wood and smokeless solid fuel, as they launched a two-year phase-out of the sale of the most polluting fuels.

The government is under pressure to meet its target of cutting emissions to close to zero by 2050. It also wants to be seen to take action against air pollution ahead of the UN climate change conference, COP 26, which will be held in Glasgow in November.

About 40 per cent of harmful "particulate matter" emitted in the UK comes from the burning of wood and coal in homes, according to the government — more than double the amount from diesel cars. The ban will only apply to England because the legislation on air pollution is devolved.

These microscopic pollutants, known as PM2.5, have been linked with a range of medical conditions, including asthma, heart disease and cancer, because the particles pass into the lungs and bloodstream.

"Cosy open fires and wood-burning stoves are at the heart of many homes up and down the country," said George Eustice, the environment secretary.

"But the use of certain fuels means that they are also the biggest source of the most harmful pollutant that is affecting people in the UK."

Sales of all bagged house coal will be phased out by February 2021, while the sale of loose coal will removed from the market by February 2023.

In contrast, sales of wet wood below two cubic metres, roughly equivalent to a small van load, will be "restricted" from sale from February 2021, to allow existing stocks to be used up. Wet wood in larger volumes would only be sold after that date with advice on how to dry it before burning, the government said.

The government said manufacturers of solid fuels would need to demonstrate evidence that they had a “very low sulphur content” and only emitted a small amount of smoke, "with all manufactured solid fuels needing to be labelled as compliant".

The announcement comes after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs launched a consultation on how to introduce tighter restrictions on burning for heating in homes.

Professor Stephen Holgate, the Royal College of Physicians’ special adviser on air quality, said: “We know that air pollution causes significant health issues across the life course. It is key that the government does everything it can to improve the air we all breathe. Today’s announcement on domestic burning is a welcome step forward, and will in time, play a role in reducing the pollution associated with PM2.5.

"Inhaling combustion particles from any source is harmful, but more so than ever when it’s directly within your home."

"Burning coal for heat and power has to stop and strong guidance is needed to insist that if wood is burnt in approved stoves, it is non-contaminated and dry."

(Published by Financial Times, February 21, 2020)

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