Irish Government confirm nationwide smoky coal ban to be in place by Autumn 2018

The Irish Government has finalised the schedule for the rollout of a ban on the sale of smoky coal throughout the country from Autumn 2018.

Denis Naughten, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, right, confirmed that coal distributors will be allowed 12 months to sell off existing stocks before a total ban comes into effect in 2019.

The ban, which is already in place in Dublin and across large urban areas, will be extended nationally to improve air quality.

Mr Naughten has repeatedly highlighted that clean air and air quality is a priority due to the health effects of traditional house coal – one in five children in Ireland are treated for asthma while there are high rates of hospital admissions linked to poor air quality.

The burning of bituminous or smoky coal is one the worst offenders when it comes to air pollution, notably because of the generation of particulate matter and sulphur dioxide.

Europe is supposed to be one of the cleanest inhabited regions of the world but over the past decade air pollution has been increasing rather than decreasing – and the health effects are more pronounced than previously estimated, according to research.

Of particular concern is extreme pollution events that are arising in urban areas, even where there is a ban on smoky coal.

Irish research has shown that “extreme air pollution events are driven by burning of solid residential fuel (namely, peat, wood and biomass) even though less than 4 per cent solid fuel is consumed, this accounts disproportionately for 70 per cent of the pollution”, scientists at NUI Galway concluded.

The EPA has repeatedly highlighted that during winter months, when solid fuel is being burned, air quality is significantly worse in smaller towns and villages than it is in larger towns and cities where the ban is in place.

A smoky coal ban was introduced in Dublin in 1990. Research showed it resulted in 350 fewer deaths per year throughout the city. In 2013, it was extended to the next 25 largest urban areas in the country. Shortly after coming into office in 2016 Mr Naughten indicated his intention to extend the ban – the measure is due to be approved by the Cabinet today after EU clearance to extend it.

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