Wood burning is set to be banned in some urban areas to reduce air pollution under proposed restrictions that would be the strongest in Europe.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, is seeking powers to prohibit all burning of wood in parts of the capital with poor air quality. He also wants tighter curbs on wood-burning stoves, with only low- emission versions allowed to stay on sale.
Wood-burning stoves are increasingly popular in middle-class homes and hotels, with 1.5 million across Britain and 200,000 sold annually. Old fireplaces have also been opened up in many houses and can cause greater pollution than stoves. Wood burning is most popular in the southeast, where it is done in 16 per cent of households compared with less than 5 per cent in northern England and Scotland.
Between a quarter and a third of all fine particle pollution in London comes from domestic wood burning. During a period of very high air pollution in January, it contributed half the toxic emissions in some areas of the city, King’s College London found.
Many people have switched to wood burning because they think it is greener than using gas boilers. A wood stove can emit billions of tiny toxic particles that pollute the surrounding area.
Mr Khan wrote yesterday to Michael Gove, the environment secretary, seeking powers to tackle sources of air pollution as soon as possible, including stoves, machinery on building sites, such as diesel-powered diggers, and boats on the River Thames. At a meeting in July with Mr Khan, Mr Gove requested details of the powers that the mayor would need to tackle air pollution, which causes 9,500 early deaths a year in London and 40,000 across Britain.
Press Release, 24 January 2017 — In response to the London smog alert, the Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) is calling on the Government to abolish all support for diesel engines and wood-burners which are posing a growing threat to the health of urban populations.
Unusually high amount of domestic wood burning, some of which are subsidised under the Renewable Heat Incentive, has been partly blamed for the latest smog alarm.
Wood-burning has been advocated and incentives by the Government as a policy to decarbonise the residential sector and has been increasing rapidly in recent years, largely due to a combination of green subsidies and climate campaigning.
As a result, there has been a deterioration of air quality in many cities which has contributed to the current smog hazard in London. Like wood-burning stoves, diesel engines have also been specifically encouraged by EU, and UK policies, in the interests of reduced CO2 emissions.
In a recent report, the Royal College of Physicians warned that ‘the increasing popularity of wood burning for heating, in part due to policies to reduce CO2 emissions, risks undoing some of the air quality improvements that have resulted from widespread adoption of gas for domestic heating.’
“The government has a responsibility to reduce the negative impact of wood-burning on health and should now abolish any support which is increasing the risk to the health and well-being of urban populations,” said Dr Benny Peiser, director of the GWPF.