Government introduces restrictions on sales of wet wood and coal to combat pollution

Customers will be required to buy a ‘cleaner alternative’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Saturday 01 May 2021 06:58 BST
Today's daily politics briefing

Sales of coal and wet wood for burning in the home will be phased out from today in England, as the government brings into force new restrictions to combat harmful pollutants.

Forming part of the Clean Air Strategy, the plan to ultimately ban the purchase of the polluting fuels for domestic use was first announced by former prime minister Theresa May’s government almost three years ago.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said the new restrictions will come into effect from today, with sales of bagged traditional house coal and wet wood in units under two cubic metres banned.

The sale of wet wood in larger volumes will need to be sold with advice on how to dry while the sale of loose coal direct to customers via merchants will be phased out by 2023.

Shops will also be required to use a new certification scheme to label products to ensure they can be easily identified by customers.

Burning at home, particularly with coal or wet wood is, “a major source of the pollutant PM2.5 – tiny particles which can enter the bloodstream and lodge in lungs and other organs”, the department says.

The government is not imposing an outright ban on the use of wood or coal-burning stoves but people will be required to buy “cleaner alternatives”, such as dry wood and manufactured solid fuels producing less smoke.

It comes as the government faces scrutiny over the legally binding net zero target on emissions by 2050 and prior to a gathering of world leaders at the major climate summit, Cop26, in Glasgow later in the year.

Rebecca Pow, the environment minister, said burning cleaner fuels was “a more efficient option for households across England, helping reduce our exposure to this incredibly harmful pollutant and benefiting the environment”.

“This legislation marks the latest step in delivering on the challenges we set ourselves in our clean air strategy, making sure that both we and future generations can breathe cleaner air,” she added. “We know air pollution at a national level has reduced significantly since 2010 – with emissions on fine particulate matter down 11 per cent and nitrogen oxide 32 per cent – but there is still a huge amount to do to tackle pollution from all sources, including transport, agriculture, industry and domestic burning.”

Labour’s shadow environment secretary, Luke Pollard, welcomed the news but warned it is “still not enough”, adding: “The government needs to go further on tackling air pollution. Labour would pass a Clean Air Act which would put World Health Organisation air quality standards into law.”

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