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Defra proposes ending house coal sales in clean air shake up

Additional consultation has now been launched on proposals that would push use of clean solid fuels for domestic burning as part of Clean Air Strategy

A consultation on pushing use of cleaner fuels within domestic burning and curbing sales of house coal has been launched by The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The proposal is part of the government’s response to a wider consultation that just closed around its Clean Air Strategy. This clean air plan is intended to identify national objectives to reduce air pollution and tackle associated health concerns such as through new approaches to building and heating functions.

Feedback is now being sought until October 12 on proposals that would limit the sale of solid fuels to encourage use of cleaner alternatives. The measures are intended to address concerns about the level of particulate pollution generated from domestic burning.

Defra has argued that there was a lack of public awareness about the availability of low-sulphur smokeless fuels as a replacement for coal, as well as the environmental benefits of burning dry wood over wet wood in stoves.

The department said in a statement, “The burning of wood and coal in the home is the largest single contributor to particulate matter pollution - identified by the World Health Organisation as the most damaging air pollutant.”

“Particulate matter is formed of tiny particles that can get into the body, lodging in major organs, causing short- and long-term health problems. Domestic burning contributes 38 per cent of particulate matter pollution, compared with 16 per cent from industrial combustion and only 12 per cent from road transport.”

It is hoped that measures such as the restriction of sales of wet wood in domestic burning will allow the UK to reduce the amount of harmful particulate matter entering the atmosphere by about 8,000 tonnes.

Other proposals include introducing sulphur standards and limits on smoke emissions from solid fuel, as well as phasing out traditional house coal.

Environment minister Thérèse Coffey said burning solid fuels at home was viewed as a significant contributor to harmful emissions entering the atmosphere.

She said, “While we will never be able to eliminate all particulate matter, by switching to cleaner fuels, householders can reduce the amount of harmful pollution to which they unwittingly expose themselves, their families and the environment, while still enjoying the warmth and pleasure of a fire.”

Defra said that its own research found that the majority of individuals it surveyed did not consider health impacts of burning solid fuels in the home.

The department said that it did not wish to prevent the domestic use and installation of wood-burning stoves, yet it would be pushing for greater uptake of so called cleaner fuels.

A focus on Domestic heating is just one of the components for the Clean Air Strategy with transportation also being reviewed around methods for curbing nitrogen oxide emissions.

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