Transitioning away from fossil fuels to more renewable, sustainable energy sources is at the heart of the climate action plan. Some 40% of our homes use coal and peat for heating, many in combination with other fossil fuel heating systems. By 2030, we will upgrade a third of all homes to at least a B2 energy standard, installing approximately 400,000 heat pumps. Over 99% of our vehicle fleet is powered by fossil fuels. By 2030, nearly 1 million electric vehicles will be on our roads. These measures will significantly improve air quality by reducing emissions of harmful pollutants. Extending the ban on the use of smoky coal would also have a positive impact on air quality, particularly in built up areas. The ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous coal, or the smoky coal ban as it is commonly known, was first introduced in Dublin in 1990, and subsequently extended to 26 major urban areas. My two predecessors proposed a national extension of the smoky coal ban, but a number of coal firms have indicated they would challenge the proposal of two former Ministers to extend the smoky coal ban.
This is disappointing. The basis of their challenge is that a nationwide smoky coal ban cannot be introduced without a nationwide ban on the burning of peat, turf and wet wood because such products produce similar levels of pollution. The legal threat is not only to take down any new nationwide ban, but to remove the ban currently in place in cities and many towns throughout the country.
In that context, it is especially important to ensure that the measures put forward will not be vulnerable to legal challenge, and I am continuing to work to finalise a legally robust way forward that will improve air quality by reducing air pollution, without jeopardising the existing ban.