Eamon Ryan announces first step towards nationwide ban on smoky coal

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan has today (Thursday, February 18) taken the first step towards a nationwide ban on the sale and burning of smoky coal and the regulation of other fuels.

The minister has launched a public consultation to seek views on the further regulation of solid fuel use for domestic home heating, and is inviting the public, health professionals, other experts, NGOs and those involved in the industry to give their views on how Ireland “can design and implement rules that will save lives”. 

The public consultation aims to:
  • Assess the merits of a national approach to regulating solid fuel;
  • Determine which solid fuels should be regulated;
  • Consider how these fuels should be regulated;
  • Set out an appropriate timeline for implementation of any new regulations.

AgriLand understands that along with the consultation informing the future development of regulations, the government wants to find out more about public attitude and behaviour in relation to solid fuel, and that findings will inform the approach taken to public education and awareness activities.

A social media campaign will take place during the consultation period, illustrating how people can ‘breathe the difference’ by choosing to not use solid fuel.

Current regulations

The minister said that clean air is “fundamental to our health and quality of life, and is essential for the health of the environment on which we depend”. 

“People have no choice about the air they breathe. We, as government, have an important role to develop the policies that will deliver cleaner air,” he said.

It is my intention to bring in a nationwide ban on smoky coal and regulate other fuels as soon as possible.

Under current regulations, the sale, marketing, distribution and burning of bituminous (smoky) coal is not permitted in specific low smoke zones (LSZs) across the country.

These zones are in cities and all towns with populations in excess of 10,000 people. 

There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to work towards a national extension of this ban over the term of government, and the consultation launched today is the first part of that process. 

The consultation also seeks views on the regulation of all solid fuels such as peat, turf and wood which would improve air quality for the benefit of all.

National Clean Air Strategy

While it was originally intended to launch this public consultation alongside the publication of the forthcoming National Clean Air Strategy (CAS), Minister Ryan has now chosen to progress it ahead of the strategy.

This decision will allow submissions received during the consultation process to feed into the strategy.

Minister Ryan continued: “This consultation is an opportunity for everyone to consider the issues, input to the process, provide supporting information and data where possible, and make suggestions on the best manner of regulating the use of solid fuel for domestic heating.

“I am conscious that for some people, burning solid fuel is the main or only way they have of heating their homes.

“Our goal over the lifetime of this government is to provide support to retrofit many of these homes but, in the meantime, we want to ensure they can be heated in a way that improves public health.”

The consultation questions include:
  • Are you in favour of a national regulation on solid fuels, and if so, why?
  • What solid fuels should be subject to regulation and why?
  • What standards or specifications should/could be applied to each type of solid fuel?
  • What do you believe are the most appropriate, implementable and enforceable regulatory approaches for each type of solid fuel?
  • What do you think is an appropriate timeframe for the implementation of a national regulation of solid fuel?
  • Is it appropriate to use moisture content as a standard for the application of regulations to wood and, if so, at what limit should the moisture content be set?

The public consultation will close at 5:30pm on Friday, April 2, 2021.