The government’s current draft Clean Air Strategy cannot deliver meaningful improvements to Ireland’s air quality, according to An Taisce.

The plan will guide the government’s actions to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner air.

The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications is currently seeking the public’s views on the proposed strategy, with submissions being accepted until next Tuesday (May 3, 2022).

An Taisce

Although air quality in Ireland is generally good, it is still estimated that 1,410 people die prematurely each year nationwide due to air pollution.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air pollution in Ireland causes a loss in life expectancy of 394 years per 100,000 inhabitants.

In 2019, the EPA identified an exceedance of the EU legal limit values of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions at an air quality monitoring station in St John’s Road West, Dublin.

Kevin Keane, climate advocacy officer with An Taisce, has called on the Government to increase its ambition when it comes to the draft clean air strategy.

“Urgent and transformative action is necessary to bring our air quality in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline limits.

“Failure to do so will have catastrophic impacts on biodiversity, climate action, and human health. The risk posed to human health should not be underestimated.

“The department’s current draft clean air strategy cannot deliver meaningful improvements to Ireland’s air quality. We need legislation, which commits Ireland to achieving WHO clean air limits by 2025,” he said.

Draft strategy

Keane urged members of the public to share their views on the draft plan.

“We also need radical interventions on transport, agriculture and home heating, underpinned at all times by the principles of Just Transition,” he stated.

An Taisce has called for subsidised public transport is needed along with low-emission zones in cities and investments in alternatives to air travel.

“The draft strategy contains no commitment to the implementation of low-emission zones.

“There is no reference whatsoever to aviation emissions, and there is no credible pathway outlined to achieving a modal shift away from the private car and towards subsidised public transport, walking and cycling.

An Taisce said there is an urgent need for a “triage model” in our home heating transition.

“The National Retrofitting Scheme needs to ensure that those most impacted are put at the top of the list for retrofitting, and not left to wait out in the cold to fend for themselves.

“We’re talking about households most impacted by energy poverty, those most dependent on smoky fuels and those whose health is most at risk.

“The elimination of solid fuel burning in Ireland is clearly a crucial target, but it must be achieved by providing realistic and timely alternatives,” Keane concluded.