I propose to take Questions Nos. 192 to 194, inclusive, together.
As the Deputy will be aware, recent scientific evidence indicates that air pollution is more damaging at lower concentrations than was previously understood. With this in mind, I am committed to publishing the National Clean Air Strategy this year, which will provide the policy framework necessary to identify and promote integrated measures across Government that are required to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner air, while delivering on wider national objectives.
Given the wide range of pollutant sources, it is important that action is coordinated across various sectors. There are a number of plans under development, including the National Air Pollution Control Programme, and the National Energy and Climate Plan, which are relevant to the clean air agenda. I am keen to ensure that synergies are maximised between these plans and the National Clean Air Strategy, with a view to achieving lasting reductions in the health and environmental impacts of air pollution.
In relation to the number of deaths the Deputy quotes, I note that this figure is the global figure for early mortalities attributable to air pollution in Ireland. While domestic solid fuel burning is the primary source of particulate matter, it is not the only source, and a ban on smoky coal is not the only policy option available to reduce the amount of solid fuel burned for domestic heating within the State. For example, my Department is funding, a range of schemes, operated through the SEAI, to support households in retrofitting their homes to make them more energy efficient and reduce the use of fossil fuels in domestic heating. In addition, the National Development Plan includes a range of projects in the transport sector, which is also a source of particulate matter pollution, including: massively increasing the numbers of electric vehicles on the road by 2030 with additional charging infrastructure to cater for planned growth; transitioning to a low emission urban public bus fleet with no diesel-only buses purchased from 1 July 2019; and investing in sustainable travel measures, including improved cycling and walking networks for metropolitan areas.
My Department is also funding the Environmental Protection Agency’s roll-out of the Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme (AAMP), which will greatly improve the data available on air pollution in Ireland, facilitating the design and targeting of policy measures to tackle it.