Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Roderic O'Gorman (Dublin West, Green Party)
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935. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if there is legislation addressing emissions from the domestic burning of wood in open fires or in stoves; if not, his plans to bring forward legislation on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6324/20]

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael)
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Successive Governments have committed to substantially reducing air pollution and achieving significant improvements in ambient air quality.  For example, the ban on the sale, marketing, distribution and burning of bituminous coal (the "smoky coal ban”, as it is commonly known) – which was first introduced in Dublin in 1990 and now applies to another 26 areas which are know as "low smoke zones" - has been very effective in improving air quality and public health within these areas.  An additional group of 13 urban areas are due to be designated as "low smoke zones" from September 2020.

Regulating the sale and use of wood for domestic heating is challenging because of the wide range of sources of wood available and the considerable variation in the quality of the wood itself. It must also be considered in tandem with other sources of solid fuels used in homes across the country, to ensure that any measures introduced would be effective in reducing emissions, as well as being fair, reasonable and enforceable. Stakeholder engagement will, therefore, play an important role in any such process.

A number of measures to improve air quality and reduce emissions from wood burning have already been adopted. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has taken steps to raise the standard of wood used through the voluntary Wood Fuel Quality Assurance Scheme, as better quality wood with a low moisture content tends to have lower emissions.  

Meanwhile, the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) has developed standards for solid biofuels, including wood biomass, under Technical Committee (TC) 335 Solid Biofuels, which Ireland has adopted. Although it is not a legal obligation for fuel suppliers to apply this standard, it is strongly recommended that consumers look for fuels meeting the standard when purchasing wood fuels.

Also at EU level, Ireland supported the introduction of stringent emission standards from solid fuel space heaters under the Eco Design Directive (2009/125/EC). These standards will apply to all new stoves, and must be introduced by the year 2022. A number of manufacturers have already placed a range of “Eco Design Stoves” on the market.

As regards the broader issue of Ireland's overall air quality, significant air quality gains will be realised as a consequence of many of the actions contained in the Climate Action Plan. The Department is also currently developing an all-of-Government Clean Air Strategy which will provide an overarching policy framework within which clean air policies can be formulated and given effect in a manner consistent with national priorities, as well as EU and other international policy considerations.

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