Gove to restrict sale of wet wood for middle class stoves

Gove to restrict sale of wet wood for middle class stoves amid air pollution crackdown

  • Wood and coal in homes are the largest cause of particulate matter pollution
  • World Health Organisation identified them as the most damaging air pollutant
  •  Ministers propose to ensure that only the cleanest fuels are available for sale
  • A Defra consultation on the subject closes on October 12 of this year
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Middle-class users of wood-burning stoves are being targeted in a crackdown on air pollution orchestrated by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Ministers are considering proposals to restrict the sale of wet wood and phase out the sale of coal for domestic burning amid rocketing pollution levels.

The government claims the burning of wood and coal in homes is the largest single contributor to particulate matter pollution – the most damaging type, according to the World Health Organization.

Ministers propose to ensure that, in future, only the cleanest fuels are available for sale.

Mr Gove announced his clean-air blueprint in May, warning at the time that pollution shortens lives and is the fourth-biggest killer behind cancer, obesity and heart disease. 

Wood-burning stoves, which are increasingly found in middle-class homes, have been blamed for toxic air.

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Middle class users of wood burning stoves are being targeted by a crackdown orchestrated by Environment Secretary Michael Gove. Ministers are considering proposals to restrict the sale of wet wood and phase out the sale of coal for domestic burning in a bid to cut pollution (stock image) 

Around 1.5 million British homes have wood-burning stoves and 200,000 more are sold every year. 

Many are marketed as green, but wood that has not been dried out burns at a lower temperature, creating more smoke and dangerous particles. 

A government survey in 2016 found that 7.5 per cent of households in London burned wood. 

Home fires are the single biggest source of particles that contribute to lung and heart disease. They are estimated to cause 29,000 early deaths a year. 

Around 38 per cent of UK emissions of damaging particles in the air are linked to the burning of wood and coal at home.

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The new policy proposal comes from the The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

At the same time, the Government aims to ensure only the cleanest stoves are available for sale by 2022.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: ‘Everyone has a role to play in improving the air we breathe, and reducing pollution from burning at home is a key area where we can all take action.

‘While we will never be able to eliminate all particulate matter, by switching to cleaner fuels, householders can reduce the amount of harmful pollution to which they unwittingly expose themselves, their families and the environment, while still enjoying the warmth and pleasure of a fire.’

Defra stressed that the aim was not to prevent people from using wood-burning stoves, but rather to ‘encourage people to switch to cleaner fuels’.

A simple way to identify clean, quality wood fuel is to look for the Defra supported ‘Ready to Burn’ logo on fuels.

The consultation closes on October 12.

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN UNDER MICHAEL GOVE’S WET WOOD CRACKDOWN?

Environment Secretary Michael Gove first suggested in May 2018 that households could be banned from burning ‘dirty’ fuels in a bid to improve air quality.

New regulations could lay down the maximum moisture content of logs and stipulate more environmentally-friendly designs for stoves.

Councils wold also have powers to ban coal which is not smokeless.

Government officials estimate that the measures will stop 8,000 tons of ‘harmful particulate matter’ entering the atmosphere every year.

Mr Gove said that the plans will cut the cost to society of air pollution by as much as £2.5billion ($3.2bn / €2.8bn) a year from 2030. 

The blueprint also sets out new standards for tyres and brakes that disintegrate and pollute our air and water with microplastics.

This is not the first time that the move has been mooted, with the Environment Secretary suggesting in May that households could be banned from burning ‘dirty’ fuels in a bid to improve air quality.

Town halls would be given powers to prohibit the sale of highly-polluting wet wood and any coal that is not smokeless.

Wood-burning stoves, which are increasingly found in middle-class homes, have been blamed for toxic air.

Launching a strategy to crack down on air pollution, Michael Gove said at the time that it shortens lives and is the fourth-biggest killer behind cancer, obesity and heart disease.


Launching a strategy to crack down on air pollution, Michael Gove (pictured in May) said it shortens lives and is the fourth-biggest killer behind cancer, obesity and heart disease

The Environment Secretary’s blueprint includes:

  • Long-awaited powers for councils to charge drivers of diesel vehicles in congested areas;
  • A messaging system to alert the elderly and the vulnerable to the prospect of poor air conditions;
  • Moves to tackle toxic microplastics left behind by car tyres and brakes;
  • A warning that air pollution is contributing to a ‘national health crisis’.

Around 1.5million British homes have wood-burning stoves and 200,000 more are sold every year.

Many are marketed as green, but wood that has not been dried out burns at a lower temperature, creating more smoke and dangerous particles. A Government survey in 2016 found that 7.5 per cent of households in London burned wood.

Home fires are the single biggest source of particles that contribute to lung and heart disease. 

They are estimated to cause 29,000 early deaths a year. Around 38 per cent of UK emissions of damaging particles in the air are linked to the burning of wood and coal at home.

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