The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, has signed the new Solid Fuel Regulations for Ireland, which will come into effect on 31 October 2022. The primary focus of these regulations is on improving air quality and improving people’s health chances and outcomes, by restricting the retail, online and commercial sale of smoky fuels, including smoky coal, turf and wet wood. These fuels are proven to be a major contributor to air pollution in Ireland.
The main health effects of air pollution include stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma. These conditions can lead to sickness and ill health, as well as premature mortality. Burning of solid fuels, is a significant contributor to poor local air quality by increasing the amount of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) and other pollutants in our homes and communities. It is also linked to increases in respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, dementia and also impacts on the central nervous and reproductive systems.
The changes, which were announced in September 2021, will remove the most polluting fuels from the market from 31 October. This will be achieved by increasing the technical standards for fuels to ensure only lower smoke products are available for sale.
These regulations have been developed following intense work over a number of years, which included a public consultation that attracted more than 3,500 responses, and significant levels of engagement with stakeholders. They represent a proportionate response to the health impacts associated with burning the most polluting solid fuels. In July, the government agreed the regulations.
The net effect of these changes is that same rules that applied in ‘low smoke zones’, first introduced in Dublin thirty years ago, will now be operational across the country, resulting in significantly cleaner air for everyone. While this will represent a change to those who have used smoky fuels up to now, a wide variety of less harmful products – such as low-smoke coal (ovoids) – are available which are cleaner and more cost-efficient.
Another significant effect is that access to turf through retail outlets and the internet will no longer be possible, while wood that is bought for domestic heating will be drier and cleaner to burn as a consequence.
People with turbary rights and all other customary practices in respect of turf will be unaffected by these regulations. They will continue to be able to cut turf for their own use and will retain the ability to gift or sell turf. However, no sale of turf may take place by way of the internet or other media (that is, advertising in local press), or from retail premises.