The Government has approved Ireland’s first Clean Air Strategy. It sets out the framework needed – across Government – to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner ambient air.

This will ultimately save lives, make our towns and cities more liveable and improve our environment.

The strategy commits Ireland to achieving the new WHO (World Health Organisation) guideline values for air quality by 2040 (with progress measured against interim targets by 2026 and 2030).

It sets out a governance structure – to ensure that measures needed across Government are assigned to relevant stakeholders (and that actions are followed through, and impacts monitored).

Actions include targeted policy measures; updates to legislation; enhanced enforcement; monitoring of improvements; and communications and awareness campaigns – to promote change.

At the moment, air pollution in Ireland is estimated to cause 1,300-1,400 premature deaths every year – ten times the number of people who die on our roads.

Illnesses impacted or exacerbated by air pollution include stroke, heart disease, lung disease, lung cancer, asthma and dementia.

More recent evidence indicates that the health impacts of air pollution are even wider ranging than previously thought, with links to cognitive development and mental health.

Air pollution also has a range of impacts on our environment, including on biodiversity, water quality and wider ecosystems services.

There is an intrinsic link between the actions needed to clean our air and to deliver on climate action.

Many of the sources of air pollution are also sources of CO2 emissions.

The new Clean Air Strategy highlights measures to address these overlapping issues, like electrifying our heat systems and improving the energy efficiency of our homes or moving towards more electric vehicles and away from dirty and polluting fossil fuels, for example. This Clean Air Strategy clearly complements our Climate Action Plan (2023).

New Solid Fuel Regulations came into effect last October (2022). The primary focus is on restricting the retail, online and commercial sale of smoky fuels, including smoky coal, turf and wet wood.

These fuels are proven to be a major contributor to dangerous air pollution in Ireland. People with turbary rights, and all other customary practices in respect of turf, will be unaffected by these regulations. They will continue to be able to cut turf for their own use and will still be able to gift or sell turf.

Enforcement of the new Solid Fuel Regulations will not be focused on households.

Enforcement actions, if appropriate, will typically focus on retail outlets and online platforms and enforcement is a matter for Local Authorities.

 

 

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