Nine key actions to improve Irish air quality and human health
A nationwide ban on smoky fuels, supports for ‘fuel poverty’ and heat pumps will all help
Turf on a peat bog in Connemara National Park
1 Implement a nationwide prohibition on smoky coal as soon as possible. Air pollution in the form of PM2.5 – the biggest threat to human health from burning solid fuels – does not recognise town or city boundaries.
2 As soon as feasible, proceed to a nationwide ban on smoky fuels, including peat and wet wood, in line with latest scientific evidence on premature deaths due to air pollution, aggravated asthma and heart/stroke risk.
3 Many people are in fuel poverty and reliant on fossils fuels, peat and wood to heat their homes. Scaled-up supports will be needed; part of a “just transition”. This should be placed in the context of addressing the global climate and biodiversity crises and enshrined in all energy policies.
4 Supporting initiatives could include: green taxes to make “dirty” fuels more expensive; new fuel standards such as wood moisture content (“wet” wood emits more PM2.5); support for people to transition from turf to cleaner fuels and spelling out emission standards for new stoves.
5 Transform the way we heat homes and buildings by retrofitting buildings and facilitating widespread use of heat pumps – as committed to in the programme for government.
6 Replace the Air Pollution Act 1987 with a new Clean Air Act driven by priority for health issues, and adhering to World Health Organisation pollution limits, which are stricter than current EU limits.
7 Liaise with authorities in Northern Ireland on transboundary air pollution with a particular focus on the context of Brexit and ending the smuggling of prohibited fuels.
8 Legislative reforms to enable stronger enforcement related to air pollution and smoky fuel use (with particular regard to EU legislation) including better classification of fuel types.
9 Improve air quality monitoring capacity with more robust, real-time publication of trends across the country.
An interactive online map illustrates existing low-smoke zones including those coming into operation from September 1st. The map includes an Eircode search facility, whereby a user can enter the Eircode of any particular premises, to see whether or not it falls within a low-smoke zone