‘Proposed nationwide ban on smoky coal is welcome – but must be poverty-proofed’

The Social Democrats has welcomed a proposed nationwide ban on smoky coal and restrictions on the sale of turf and unseasoned wood, but says that any new regulations “must be poverty-proofed”.

Last week, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan took the first step towards a nationwide ban on the sale and burning of smoky coal and the regulation of other fuels.

The minister 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”. 

‘It makes sense that we should strive for a nationwide ban’

Deputy Jennifer Whitmore, Social Democrats’ spokesperson on climate action and biodiversity, said:

“Along with emissions from transport, solid fuel is one of the main sources of air pollution in Ireland. Fine particulates from solid fuel was found to have caused 1,300 premature deaths in this country in 2018.

The ban on smoky coal had a transformative effect on Dubliners’ lives when it was first introduced three decades ago and has since been successfully extended to other urban centres.

“From a public health and environmental perspective, it makes sense that we should now strive for a nationwide ban on smoky fuels.

“However, in doing so, we must ensure that the new regulations are poverty-proofed and do not disproportionately disadvantage low-income households.

“Just transition needs to be the cornerstone of our climate action efforts. If these issues are addressed through the consultation process, I believe there will be broad political and public support for the new regulations.”

Finding out more about public attitude

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.

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.