The Asthma Society of Ireland is deeply disappointed and concerned by reports this morning that the government may delay the introduction of the long-promised ban on smoky coal.
Despite repeated calls by national patient representatives, climate action organisations, opposition parties and, recently, by the Environmental Protection Agency to take this fuel out of the public market. To date the Minister for Communication, Climate Action and the Environment Richard Bruton has failed to do so.
Smoky coal has been identified as a key contributor to air pollution in Ireland. The Department has acknowledged the ban, as it has been rolled out to certain towns and cities across the country, is estimated to have prevented approximately 8,000 premature deaths to date. Air pollution is responsible for an estimated 1,180 premature deaths in Ireland each year, according to the European Environment Agency.
CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, Sarah O'Connor said: “The Asthma Society is supportive of any public initiative that assists the Department in ending the use of smoky fuels which are damaging to people's health, particularly those with a respiratory illness like asthma. One person dies every six days from the condition. The dangerous emissions from these fuels are being released into the air outside and into people's homes.”
Sarah O' Connor continued: “We welcome the Minister's reported intention to hold a public consultation on ending the use of all smoky solid fuels. It is imperative that this consultation is premised on established evidence from its own Environmental Protection Agency and, indeed the World Health Organisation, showing that these fuels have extremely detrimental impacts on the climate and on public health and, ultimately, must be replaced by alternative green fuels. The consultation therefore should be used to inform the government as to public’s concerns and how best to roll out such changes in the most sensible and equitable manner.
Many people across the country, particularly those in rural areas and low income households, do not have the choice to switch from solid fuel burning to greener, healthier alternatives. Any moves to ban use of smoky solid fuels would require significant increased funding from government. The reported consultation should be preceded by a public awareness campaign to allay concerns and support the public in assessing the matter in a fully informed manner.”
Sarah O' Connor concluded: “While we would support a public consultation on how best the government would ultimately end the use of smoky solid fuels that are harmful both to people's health and to the climate, the Minister must, in the meantime, push ahead with a nationwide smoky coal ban. Any such public consultation initiative should not delay the nationwide ban on smoky coal. Any extension of the ban to additional areas does not address the problem with the current situation - the law we have is neither enforceable nor fair and it is damaging to Irish people’s health.”