Government’s domestic burning proposals criticised

Following Defra’s consultation on the domestic burning of solid fuels, Green MEP Keith Taylor has criticised the government’s approach to air quality and its lacklustre approach to moving away from fossil fuels.

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Green World

Green MEP Keith Taylor has written a letter to the government accusing it of having ‘no intention whatsoever of encouraging a shift away from fossil fuels’, in response to a consultation on the cleaner domestic burning of solid fuels and wood.

Taylor made the accusation in a letter to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) earlier this month, referring to the Defra consultation ‘Air quality: using cleaner fuels for domestic burning’, which ran from 17 August until 12 October 2018. The consultation, which Taylor said is ‘missing some important details’, sought to gather views on government proposals for helping householders move toward cleaner fuels for domestic burning, including only allowing the sale of cleaner solid fuels in England.

Domestic burning is a significant contributor to harmful substances in the air, including particulate matter. Around 38 per cent of UK primary particulate matter emissions come from burning wood and coal in domestic stoves or open fires, compared to 16 per cent from industrial combustion and 12 per cent from road transport.

The proposals on cleaner burning put forward by Defra in the document include restricting the sale of wet wood for domestic burning, applying sulphur standards and smoke emission limits to all solid fuels and phasing out the sale of bituminous or traditional house coal.

While the consultation document makes proposals to encourage cleaner burning from domestic sources, it affirms that the government is ‘not considering banning domestic burning. The government recognises that households have installed wood-burning stoves and the government is not seeking to prevent their use or installation’, but instead is ‘keen to encourage consumers to switch to cleaner burning’.

In response, Taylor, Green Party MEP for South East England, takes issue with several aspects of the document, stating that when talking about the reduction in air pollution emissions from transport and industrial sources, the document ‘downplays both sides of the issue’. Taylor draws attention to the 90 per cent of UK urban areas experiencing illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution, which is most often produced through industrial activity and traffic.

He also criticises the lack of a baseline against which to measure reduction targets for particulate matter, as well as a lack of evidence to support claims that the increase in emissions from the domestic sector is coming from open fires and wood-burning stoves.

The government’s approach to cleaner energy does not escape reproach, with Taylor accusing the government of not doing enough to move away from fossil fuels, highlighting its decision to support fracking in the UK. He writes: ‘The language in both the consultation overview and section 3 of the document makes it starkly clear that the government has no intention whatsoever of encouraging a shift away from fossil fuels.

‘Promoting gas and ‘cleaner coal’ does anything to eliminate the air pollution or climate change problems at hand at all and reveal the fracking agenda that the government is committed to pure and simple. Phrases such as ‘phasing out high carbon fossil fuels in the future’ are shameful; they show contempt for the people.

‘The recent IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5ºC, which was released in October 2018, stated that human activities have already caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, and that temperature rise of 1.5°C could occur as early as 2030.

‘This government has a moral obligation to protect the safety of its people and needs to halt this ridiculous pursuit of gas extraction immediately. Clean energy can be our only future if we are to genuinely tackle these environmental and health risks.’