Monday, 22 February 2021
Ábhair Ghnó an tSeanaid – Matters on the Business of the Seanad
It is great to be back in the Seanad Chamber for a little while. As The Hollies sang in 1974, "All I need is the air that I breathe". Last week the Government announced a consultation on solid fuel regulations because it wants to reduce deaths from air pollution and ensure a better quality of life for those with breathing difficulties.Last week, the Government announced a consultation on solid fuel regulations because we want to reduce deaths from air pollution and ensure better quality of life for those with breathing difficulties. The Government is committed to delivering a clean air strategy.
Unfortunately, people have no choice about the air they breathe. Anyone who goes out on a still winter's evening in an area with high levels of solid fuel burning cannot help but notice the smoky air. Smoke contains tiny particulates which damage our lungs and bodies. I encourage everyone to read the consultation document before jumping to conclusions about it. It is not about banning solid fuels but the transition to better quality solid fuels - for example, swapping smoky coal for smoke free coal and wet wood for seasoned wood and improving the standards for peat briquettes. It is not about stopping people from cutting and burning their own turf. Turbary rights will be protected. It is about reducing harm and cleaning our air.
However, there are some genuine concerns. People are worried about the increased risk of fuel poverty. I refer in particular to my county of Offaly, where there is a high reliance on solid fuel. People are anxious about where supplies of alternative fuels might come from. Those who rely on supplying solid fuels for their livelihood are also concerned. It is why we are consulting. We want to hear about these concerns. These submissions will help inform us as we make decisions on the regulations. There are no ultimatums.
The homes of the future will not need solid fuel, as we embrace higher quality, energy efficient homes, which use electricity generated from renewable sources for heat. We need to make this transition in a fair and just way. As a Government, we need to support that transition. Have no doubts we are moving forward to a greener future, with cleaner energy, homes and air.