New Clean Air Strategy to crack down on wood burners

22nd May 2018

Web woodburner istock 470059956

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  • Health ,
  • Fossil fuels ,
  • Air ,
  • UK government


Sarah Lynch

The UK government has today published its Clean Air Strategy outlining plans to crack down on the burning of wood and coal in homes as it aims to tackle the country’s illegal air pollution levels.

The strategy includes a commitment to introduce new legislation ensuring only the cleanest domestic fuels are available for sale in the future, while local governments will be given new powers to improve air quality.

It is hoped that the proposals will halve the number of people living in areas breaching World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for air pollution, and save the UK £1bn in health costs every year by 2020.

Environment secretary, Michael Gove, said: “Sixty years on from the historic Clean Air Act a clear truth remains – air pollution is making people ill, shortening lives and damaging our economy and environment.

“Our strategy sets out how we will work with businesses, farmers, industry and households to develop innovative new solutions to reduce emissions.”

Air pollution is thought to be the fourth biggest threat to public health after cancer, obesity and heart disease, with the problem responsible for 29,000 premature deaths in the UK every year.

It is estimated that burning wood and coal to heat homes contributes to 38% of emissions of damaging particulate matter, with the new plans aiming to cut 8,000 tonnes entering the atmosphere each year.

The strategy also includes proposals to tackle ammonia from farming for the first time, requiring farmers to invest in the infrastructure and equipment needed to reduce emissions.

In addition, the government said it would work to develop new standards for tyres and brakes that are less polluting, and introduce an air quality messaging system for residents concerned about pollution.

However, the strategy has been criticised by Friends of the Earth for failing to include measures to cut down on road traffic, and make available the funds needed for local authorities looking to implement their new powers.

The NGO’s clean air campaigner, Oliver Hayes, said: “Road vehicles are a key source of deadly particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide pollution – failure to properly address this shows a fundamental lack of ambition.

“Air pollution is estimated to cost the UK £20bn a year in NHS costs and days off sick, so a strategy to save just £1bn annually does not begin to approach the scale of the problem.”

Image credit: iStock


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