Oireachtas Monitor – Week ending 11th December

Oireachtas Monitor

Climate & Health

Week ending 11th December

Cathal Crowe (Clare, Fianna Fail)

To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his Department will be extending a ban on smoky coal to the entire country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42238/20]

Eamon Ryan:

The Programme for Government commits to extend the Smoky Coal Ban to new towns and over the term of Government to move towards a full nationwide ban.I have already delivered on the first part of that commitment by creating 13 new Low Smoke Zones with effect from 1 September this year and the ban now applies in all towns with populations in excess of 10,000 people.

The next step in the process will be a public consultation to assess views on the development of legislation to regulate to a broader extent the use of solid fuels in the residential sector. This is being done with a view to a national transition to lower polluting fuels for residential heating and will:

– Assess the merits of a national approach to regulating sold fuel;

– Determine which solid fuels should be regulated;

– Consider how these fuels should be regulated;

– Set out an appropriate timeline for the implementation of any new regulations.

The consultation will be launched alongside Ireland’s first Clean Air Strategy early next year and the responses received will inform the decisions to be made regarding the implementation and enforcement of a nationwide extension.

Cathal Crowe (Clare, Fianna Fail)

To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the way in which his Department and other State agencies plan to address the poor EPA air quality statistics in Ennis, County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42237/20]

Eamon Ryan:

Weather conditions are a major factor in “spikes” in levels of emissions at this time of year. Calm and foggy conditions, together with domestic burning of solid fuel can lead to a build-up of air pollutants far greater than those normally experienced. These events also serve to demonstrate how the choices we make in heating our homes can have a significant bearing on the quality of the air in the communities in which we live.   It is important that where low smoke zones have been established, such as Ennis, that there are adequate measures in place to ensure regulatory compliance.  Responsibility for ensuring such compliance rest with local authorities under Section10 of the Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations 2012 (S.I. 326 of 2012). My Department has commenced discussions with the Local Authority sector to develop a regional approach to air quality enforcement. The intention is to establish dedicated resources within regional lead authorities to provide co-ordination, expertise and advice to support effective and consistent implementation of air quality legislation across the country.

Ireland has a network of 84 monitoring stations which measure levels of air pollutants across the state.  The provision of improved data from this network has highlighted the extent to which solid fuels, such as turf, peat and wet wood, as well as bituminous coal, contribute to the emissions in our air and this must be taken into consideration in the development of new measures to regulate to a broader extent the use of solid fuels in the residential sector.

The first step in this process will be the launch of a solid fuel public consultation which will be published alongside the Clean Air Strategy early next year. The consultation will seek views on new measures to regulate the use of all solid fuels in the residential sector, while the Clean Air Strategy will set out a comprehensive cross Government programme of policies and measures that will tackle all sources of air pollution, including those from the transport, agriculture and residential sectors. 

Seanad debates

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Annual Transition Statement on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015: Statements Debate Available: https://www.kildarestreet.com/sendebates/?id=2020-12-09a.124&s=pollution#g139

Dáil debates

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh – Questions on Promised Legislation

Pauline Tully:

A number of towns and cities, or parts thereof, have been designated as smokeless zones. This seemed to be working well initially. However, there has been a recent significant deterioration in air quality, as evidenced by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, monitoring stations. Those stations confirmed that there was widespread pollution between 16 and 30 November from the burning of non-smokeless fuels or smoky coal. One coal merchant told me that he is doing everything right. He is paying his taxes, including his carbon taxes and VAT, he is only selling the correct fuel in the right area, certified by the EPA, and he is employing several people. He is in danger of losing everything, however, because people are selling coal, which is not certified by the EPA, cheaper than he can buy it. That coal is being sold door-to-door at night from vans. I asked the local authority about enforcement, but I have been told it has not been given any additional resources to deal with this issue, and it is not able to do so. More needs to be done, therefore, if we are serious about climate change and climate action and about protecting businesses which are struggling to survive.

Leo Varadkar:

There has been a deterioration in air quality recently. Some of that is down to meteorological conditions, but obviously the backdrop is pollution from cars, which has probably gone down because fewer people are travelling in their cars, and the increased burning of smoky solid fuels now that more people are at home. The difficulty is that this is not just because of smoky coal. A large and growing part of it is down to people burning other solid fuels, such as wood, turf and peat briquettes. In respect of their impact on air quality, those fuels are just as bad and arguably worse, but we have decided not to ban the sale or burning of wood, turf or peat briquettes for reasons which the Deputy will understand. It would be dishonest to claim to people that a nationwide ban on smoky coal, or enforcement of that, would solve the problem of people burning the other solid fuels which are just as bad.

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