Thursday, 11 February 2021

Questions (8, 9)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

8. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the status of the national clean air Strategy; if this strategy will contain a ban on the cutting, selling or burning of turf for domestic heating purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7605/21]

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Darren O'Rourke

Question:

9. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his views on the fact that many households, particularly in rural Ireland, still depend on burning turf as a heating source for their homes; if the cutting or burning of turf will not be prevented for domestic heating purposes in the absence of the State providing alternatives for these households; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7606/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 9 together.

My Department is currently working to finalise Ireland’s first National Clean Air Strategy which I intend to publish in the coming months. This will provide the strategic policy framework necessary to identify and promote the integrated measures and actions across Government that are required to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner air. It will also describe the measures that will be taken to fulfil the Programme for Government commitment to move towards a nationwide residential solid fuel regulation.

The National Peatlands Strategy acknowledges that turf-cutting by citizens for their own domestic fuel needs is a traditional activity, and it is not the intention to end this practice. However, the provision of additional data from our enhanced National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme and Environmental Protection Agency funded research projects also indicates the extent to which solid fuels, such as peat and wet wood, contribute to localised high levels of particulate matter and other pollutants during the heating season.  

It is, therefore, appropriate that we consider a new approach to the broader regulation of all solid fuels, expanding our ambition with the objective of achieving greater reductions in air pollution levels.

The next step in this process will be a public consultation which will seek views in relation to the national application of the regulations currently applied to bituminous coal, as well as informing the development of appropriate regulatory controls for other residential solid fuels. This will be an opportunity for all parties - consumers, retailers, producers and industry - to consider the issues, input to the process at the earliest stage, and to consider alternatives as appropriate.

Ultimately in order to improve our air quality, we must reduce our reliance upon the burning of solid fossil fuels and assist households in transitioning to cleaner forms of domestic heating. This is being supported by an allocation of €221 million for home and community retrofitting provided for in Budget 2021. This 82% increase on the 2020 budget is being funded through carbon tax revenue and includes €109 million in additional supports for low income homes.