No doubt you will have seen some headlines about a possible ban on wood stoves. Here, we identify the truth behind the headlines and what measures the government is undertaking in relation to domestic burning.
HETAS, the not-for-profit organisation that is working for a cleaner and safer environment looks beyond the recent headlines to identify the measures the government is putting in place and the roles we all must play in reducing the environmental impact from domestic burning, including confirmation through the recently published Environment Improvement Plan that clearly states that the government is not considering a ban on domestic burning in England, and it recognises that some households are reliant on solid fuel burning for heating, hot water, and cooking. Additionally, a ban on domestic outdoor burning would also be considered disproportionate.
Back in May 2018 the then Environment Secretary Michael Gove published the Clean Air Strategy 2018 which aimed to cut air pollution and save lives, backed up through new primary legislation.
So, what does the strategy say?
The strategy, which went out for consultation during August 2018, became a key part of Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan (25YEP) to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.
The 2023 publication of the Environment Improvement Plan represents the first such review. It reinforces the intent of the 25YEP: setting out the framework, vision, and plan to deliver. Here, we outline the actions outlined in the Environment Improvement Plan.
No ban on wood stoves | The key points
The Clean Air Strategy summarises actions to reduce emissions from domestic burning, clarifying there is no intention to ban wood burning stoves, further supported by the recent publication of the Environment Improvement Plan 2023. Here are the key points of the Clean Air Strategy:
- Legislate to prohibit sale of the most polluting fuels – legislation which is now in place
- Ensure that only the cleanest stoves are available for sale by 2022
- Give new powers to local authorities to act in areas of high pollution, bringing legislation into the 21st century with more flexible, proportionate enforcement powers
- Work with industry to identify an appropriate test standard for new solid fuels entering the market
- Ensure that consumers understand what they can do to reduce their impact from burning – find out about Defra’s Burn Better campaign
Several of the measures highlighted in The Clean Air Strategy have now been implemented through The Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards) (England) Regulations 2020 and the 2021 Environment Act.
The Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards)
This legislation was successfully passed through both The House of Parliament and The House of Lords in 2020. This was closely followed by the legislation receiving the Secretary of State’s signature, moving the regulation from draft status into law in October 2020.
HETAS and Woodsure administer the Ready to Burn certification schemes for wood and manufactured solid fuels that are intended for immediate use. The Ready to Burn certification mark helps consumers to easily identify solid fuels that are legal to burn at home in compliance with Air Quality Regulations introduced earlier this year which bans the most polluting fuels, wet wood, and house coal, from sale in England. Wales and Scotland are considering similar measures.
The Environment Improvement Plan 2023 (EIP2023)
The EIP was published by government on the 31st of January 2023. The Plan clearly states that the government is not considering a ban on domestic burning in England, and it recognises that some households are reliant on solid fuel burning for heating, hot water, and cooking. Additionally, a ban on domestic outdoor burning would be considered disproportionate.
The Environment Improvement Plan outlines further measures relating to clean air and emissions from the home. These include:
- Proposals to tighten the limits that fuels in Smoke Control Areas must meet, reducing the limit from 5g of smoke per hour to a maximum of 3g.
- Introducing a 3g limit to the calculation used for stove emissions in smoke control areas (formerly 5g now 3g plus allowances per additional kW output)
- Extend the solid fuels legislation, to include fuels burned outside. This would provide consistency in the market making it easier for consumers, improve compliance with legislation and improve air quality. This would not introduce new requirements for traditional fuels used for barbecues, such as charcoal.
- Design and implement measures to drive a shift away from older, more polluting appliances to newer appliances which meet our tough new emission standards.
Further details on these proposals were outlined in the revised UK’s National Air Pollution Control Programme (NAPCP) which was published shortly after the EIP on the 9th of February 2023 and replaces the 2019 version. The NAPCP sets out how the UK can meet the legally binding 2020 and 2030 emission reduction commitments (ERCs). These commitments apply for 5 pollutants:
- nitrogen oxides
- non-methane volatile organic compounds
- particulate matter
- sulphur dioxide
Over the last twelve months HETAS has developed its product approval scheme to better support these government initiatives, and has implemented the Cleaner Choice certification scheme for stoves (including pellet stoves), boilers, and biomass systems. Appliances listed on the scheme already demonstrate at least a 50% improvement on the current particulate limits for exemption. This highlights our commitment to identifying appliances that meet and exceed current particulate emission legislative requirements alongside safety, with a wide number of appliances now meeting the Cleaner Choice standard.
Building on previous studies like the one commissioned by HETAS in 2019 there are multiple current and planned scientific studies and investigations aimed at identifying the most polluting sources and those which are potentially less polluting. This will help the industry and government to prioritise resources and take action to reduce emissions from the most polluting sources.
Defra leads much of the scientific work with HETAS, Woodsure, and other industry and scientific stakeholders supporting them in their extensive efforts.
On the research Bruce Allen, CEO of HETAS and Woodsure, explains:
“Air quality is an enormous area of focus for us. At HETAS we help by certifying approved and less polluting appliances, fuels, and tradespeople in the industry, but there is much that is outside of our influence now.
“We really need to look at what the science is telling us about particulate pollution so we, as a country, can hit our emissions targets.
“One of HETAS’ most important roles is helping people understand how to reduce the impact of burning at home. There are practical steps that can be taken immediately to reduce carbon and particulate emissions in the home by up to 90%, compared to burning coal in an open fire.
“Using only high quality, sustainable and renewable fuel, like pellets or Ready to Burn certified wood that has up to 20% moisture content, will improve fuel efficiency, air quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Keep your wood burning or solid fuel appliance well maintained and always use a HETAS certified installer or sweep. “
There’s no doubt you will have seen the recent press coverage about wood burning and possible fines. HETAS is here to put your mind at ease. Burning low-quality fuels, such as wet wood or some types of house coal, can emit more particulates into the air which, when mixed with other emissions in your chimney, can affect your health.
Our recently published article highlights the measures Local Authorities have available to carry out enforcement and the steps people can take to ensure they are burning responsibly.