What Michael Gove's clean air strategy to tackle air pollution could mean for wood-burning stoves

Wood-burning stoves could be under threat. Credit: PA

Rules curbing pollution from household wood burners and fires will be brought in as part of efforts to cut harmful dirty air, the Government has announced.

New legislation will mean that only cleaner fuels and stoves will be sold for domestic heating, curbing polluting smoke and soot, under plans being put out for consultation.

And councils will be given new powers to bring in “clean air zones” to tackle poor air from sources such as wood burners, for example limiting what people can burn or bringing in “no-burn days”, and from diesel-powered machinery.

  • What is the clean air strategy?

The clean air strategy is intended to cut the cost of air pollution to society by £1 billion a year by 2020, and by £2.5 billion a year by 2030.

The aim is to halve, by 2025, the number of people living in areas where tiny particles known as particulate matter or PM2.5 are above safe levels set by the World Health Organisation.

These tiny particles can be breathed into the lungs and get into the bloodstream, causing health problems including heart disease, strokes and lung cancer.

Officials say almost two-fifths (38%) of PM2.5 comes from domestic wood burners and open fires, which just 7.5% of homes have.

The strategy also aims to tackle another part of the problem, ammonia from farming, by requiring farmers to invest in equipment and measures to reduce emissions from things such as slurry spread on fields.

  • Why is the Government announcing the strategy?

Environment Secretary Michael Gove. Credit: PA

The Government is being taken to court by the European Commission over its failure to meet legal limits for harmful pollutant nitrogen dioxide, which should have been met by 2010, and has faced repeated legal action over the issue.

During a visit to Imperial College London to meet air quality researchers, Environment Secretary Michael Gove admitted the Government had to “do better” on pollution and said it was important to tackle “all sources” of dirty air.

The latest strategy comes after Government announcements on measures to tackle pollution from transport, including phasing out the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.

  • How will the new strategy help people’s health?

Under the plans, the Government will also provide a personal air quality messaging system to inform the public, particularly those vulnerable to air pollution, about the air quality forecast.

Alison Cook, director of policy at the British Lung Foundation, welcomed better monitoring and alerts for people, but warned: “Most importantly we can’t lose focus on transport as a main culprit for air pollution.”

Meeting the WHO pollution limits will require further action including a diesel scrappage scheme and investment into cleaner travel alternatives such as walking, cycling and public transport, she said.