With a nationwide ban on smoky coal not yet in place, the country’s environmental watchdog has warned that the burning of solid fuel is of growing concern.
According to the EPA, the country needs to reduce its coal burning during the winter months. The former minister for the environment, Alan Kelly, said in September he was setting in train a blanket ban on bituminous coal. The Department of Climate Action and Environment says it is consulting with the European Commission, relevant departments, the public, and residential fuel industry about the ban and is also developing a clean air strategy. It said it is “committed to the earliest possible introduction of a national ban”.
The EPA has warned “levels of particulate matter in our air is of growing concern, especially during the winter months when people’s fuel choices can directly impact on air quality and on our health. Also in urban areas we face potential exceedances of nitrogen-dioxide limit values unless we move to clean transport choices”.
Last year, Ireland did not exceed any legal EU limits for air quality monitored at 31 network monitoring stations. However, particulate matter and ozone levels were above World Health Organization guideline values.
“In general air quality in Ireland is good, largely as a result of our relative lack of large cities, weather and access to predominantly clean air from the south west. Our air quality compares favourably with other EU member states, many of whom are in exceedance of EU limit values for pollutants such as particulate matter, ozone and nitrogen dioxide,” the EPA Ambient Air Quality report stated.
EPA director general, Laura Burke, said: “We all expect that the air we breathe is clean but we cannot take this for granted. With this in mind it is time to tackle the two key issues impacting on air quality —transport emissions in large urban areas and emissions from smoky fuels in our small towns around the country.”
The EPA is calling for the Government to adopt WHO guidelines on air quality as they are more stringent than the EU guidelines. While the EU has introduced and implemented a range of legal instruments to improve air quality, these standards are still not in line with the tighter WHO guidelines.
“The EPA is calling for movement towards the adoption of these stricter guidelines, especially for particulates and ozone, as legal and enforceable standards across Europe and in Ireland,” she said.
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