A call for evidence on the use of coal and other solid fuels used for heating homes has today (30 January) been launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The call for evidence will feed into the governmentâ€™s Clean Air Strategy, which will be published for consultation in 2018, and has promised to address emissions from a wide range of sources.
According to Defra, the consultation will help to establish which steps should be taken to transition from using polluting fuels in the home towards cleaner technologies such as smokeless coal, and will help to understand the costs, impacts and benefits associated with any changes.
The government is considering a range of options to tackle emissions, including encouraging consumers to switch from house coal by only allowing the sale of low sulphur smokeless alternatives, switching from wet wood to dry wood, introducing sulphur limits for smokeless solid fuels and new powers for councils to take action against persistent smoke offences.
Defra has stressed that it is not considering banning domestic fuel burning, and is not seeking to prevent the use or installation of wood-burning stoves
While air quality in the UK has improved significantly in recent decades, with reductions in emissions of all of the key pollutants, domestic burning of house coal, smokeless solid fuels and wood are believed to be the single largest contributors of particulate matter (PM) emissions. These accounted for around 40% of total UK PM2.5 emissions in 2015, according to Defra.
Commenting on the launch of the consultation, Environment Minister ThÃ©rÃ¨se Coffey said: â€œWe all have a role to play in improving the air we breathe. Many of us enjoy a cosy fire in our homes, but burning dirtier fuel has a real impact on the quality of air for our family and friends around us.
â€œWe must be mindful that pollution is about more than just transport. Poor air quality affects public health, the economy, and the environment, which is why we are determined to do more. However, if we make the switch to burning cleaner domestic fuel, we can continue to enjoy burning wood and smokeless coal in stoves and fires in our homes.â€
The call for evidence will be published for a period of four weeks.