Michael Gove vows ban on wood-burning stoves in bid to cut air pollution

Posted On: 
14th January 2019

Heavily-polluting wood-burning stoves could be banned from sale under plans unveiled by Michael Gove to slash pollution.

The Environment Secretary vowed "strong, urgent action" on air pollution.
Credit: 
PA

The Government's Clean Air Strategy - outlined today by the Environment Secretary - says that only the cleanest types of wood and coal-burning stoves will be allowed from 2022.

According to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, burning wood and coal in open fires and stoves makes up some 38% of the UK's emissions of fine particulate matter, which has been identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the most damaging pollutants.

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Under the new plan, the Government is drawing up a target to slash particulate matter pollution in Britain in line with WHO guidelines.

Mr Gove said: "The evidence is clear. While air quality has improved significantly in recent years, air pollution continues to shorten lives, harm our children and reduce quality of life.

"We must take strong, urgent action. Our ambitious strategy includes new targets, new powers for local government and confirms that our forthcoming Environment Bill will include new primary legislation on air quality.

"While air pollution may conjure images of traffic jams and exhaust fumes, transport is only one part of the story and the new strategy sets out the important role all of us - across all sectors of work and society - can play in reducing emissions and cleaning up our air to protect our health."

The Government's plan promises to "legislate to prohibit the sale of the most polluting fuels" says only the "cleanest stoves" will be available on sale by 2022.

Ministers are also pledging to toughen up smoke control legislation, and make it easier for local authorities to clamp down on offenders.

Mr Gove's department is also promising to set up a new "personal air quality messaging system" to let the public know about the air quality forecast in their local area.

But environental campaigners questioned the lack of action on transport pollution in the plan, which reiterates an existing goal to end the sale of conventional new diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040.

Morten Thaysen of environmental charity Greenpace said: "The Government is saying all the right things about the huge cost in human lives and money, but is proposing nothing new to tackle pollution from road transport.

"A 2040 phase-out date for diesel and petrol is effectively saying that yes, your grandchildren deserve clean air, but your children will have to go on breathing toxic fumes so as not to disrupt the car industry’s sales forecasts."

Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman meanwhile hit out at what she called the plan's "lack of detail and leadership".

She added: "This strategy is typical of what we have come to expect from this government on illegal air pollution: vague targets, no detail and a chronic failure to tackle the issue of roadside pollutants.

"It is an abdication of responsibility to continue to shunt this problem onto cash-strapped local authorities, when even the process of coordinating the submission of clean air plans from councils is now in serious disarray."

Mr Gove's latest proposed ban comes after his Cabinet colleague Liz Truss took a jibe at the Environment Secretary's preference for launching crackdowns on environmentally harmful products.

Speaking last year, the top Treasury minister said: "Too often we're hearing about eating too many doughnuts, drinking from disposable cups through plastic straws, or enjoying the warm glow of our wood-burning Goves - I mean stoves.

"I can see their point: there's enough hot air and smoke at the Environment Department already."