The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for monitoring ambient air quality in Ireland via the national Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme (AAMP). The AAMP has undergone significant investment and expansion in recent years, with the number of monitoring stations increasing from 30 in 2017 to 93 today. All monitoring stations collect air quality data for a range of pollutants in order to provide information to the public, and for assessment against European legal limit values and World Health Organisation guideline values. Real-time data from these monitoring stations is available online at all times at www.airquality.ie, and the most recent report on Ireland’s air quality can be found at https://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/air/quality/epaairqualityreport2019.html.
The data being generated through the AAMP confirms that air quality in Ireland is generally good, and compares favourably with other European countries. While significant reductions in emissions have already been achieved through a range of policy measures, as more comprehensive, real-time, localised air quality information becomes available, it is apparent that there are key pollutants which still need to be addressed more comprehensively.
Particulate matter, from the burning of solid fuel, is estimated to cause 1,300 premature deaths per year in Ireland, and I am committed to addressing this public health and environmental challenge through a nationwide ban on smoky coal and enhanced regulation of other solid fuels.
The recent public consultation on a new solid fuel regulation for Ireland was the first step in this process. It is my intention to move now to develop a new, legally robust, and evidence-based framework for how we regulate all solid fuels used for domestic burning. This will be a central plank of Ireland’s first National Clean Air Strategy which will also identify and promote the integrated measures and actions across Government required to reduce air pollution, which I intend to publish shortly.