Friday, 30 April 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business to take No. 12 on the Order Paper before No. 2. It is a Bill, entitled Clean Air (Smoky Coal Ban) Bill 2021, and it seeks to introduce a full ban on the sale of smoky coal. We are all well aware that smoky coal is a major factor in air pollution. The sale of smoky coal was banned in some parts of the country as early as the 1990s in an effort to address this issue. Winter smog, at the time, was a growing problem in urban areas due to the widespread use of bituminous coal. This, in turn, had given rise to serious health effects in the population. Smoky coal affects sulphur dioxide levels and these levels showed considerable improvement once the ban was introduced. The policy was gradually rolled out to several other large towns.
Since 2013, we have been hearing from successive Ministers that they intend to introduce and are committed to a nationwide ban on smoky coal. Unfortunately, nothing has happened in that regard notwithstanding the fact the European Commission gave approval for a full nationwide ban in 2017. When you look at the evidence that exists, the European Environment Agency report on air quality across Europe in 2020 indicated that in 2016 there were 1,410 premature deaths arising from air pollution in Ireland, approximately 1,300 of which were attributed to the fine particle matter which in Ireland is primarily associated with domestic solid fuel burning, in particular, smoky coal. The same report indicated significant earlier mortality for those deaths. While people may have had some complications prior to engaging with the level of particle matter in the air, they would have lived for a considerable period longer were it not for the concentration in the air. Research indicates that the introduction of the ban in Dublin in the 1990s resulted in approximately 350 fewer mortalities per year, reducing cardiovascular and respiratory mortality in the population generally. The main effects of air pollution include stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma. It is incumbent on us to move on this issue. I would hope that the Bill would get a fair hearing in due course.