Minister Joe O’Brien welcomes first step towards regulation of smokey coal to improve air quality and protect public health

18th February, 2021

O’Brien encourages all Fingal residents to take part in the public consultation on solid fuels which is open until 2 April 2021

A public consultation to seek views on the further regulation of solid fuel use for domestic home has been launched by the Minister for Environment so that the industry and the public can give their views on how Ireland can design and implement rules that will save lives.

In a step towards improving air quality all across Ireland for all our citizens the Government intends to bring in a nationwide ban on smoky coal and regulate other fuels as soon as possible.

Under current regulations the sale, marketing, distribution and burning of bituminous (smoky) coal is not permitted in specific low smoke zones (LSZs) across the country. These apply in our cities and all towns with populations in excess of 10,000 people.[ There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to work towards a national extension of this ban over the term of government, and the consultation launched today is the first part of that process.

Welcoming the news Minister Joe O’Brien said “Clean air is fundamental to our health and quality of life, and is essential for the health of the environment on which we depend. People have no choice about the air they breathe. There are 1,300 premature deaths annually in Ireland due to poor air quality. These deaths were attributable to emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) which result mainly from the burning of solid fuels so we as Government have an important role to develop the policies that will deliver cleaner air.

“I am conscious that for some people burning solid fuel is the main or only way they have of heating their homes. Our goal over the lifetime of this government is to provide support to retrofit many of these homes, but in the meantime we want to ensure they can be heated in a way that improves public health.”

“This consultation is an opportunity for everyone to consider all these issues, input to the process, provide supporting information and data where possible, and make suggestions on the best manner of regulating the use of solid fuel for domestic heating.”

The consultation also seeks views on the regulation of all solid fuels such as peat, turf, and wood which would improve air quality for the benefit of all. The European Environment Agency report Air Quality in Europe 2020[2] indicates that in 2018, there were 1,410 premature mortalities arising from air pollution in Ireland. The vast majority of these (1,300) were attributable to emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) which result mainly from the burning of solid fuels.

The public consultation aims to:

assess the merits of a national approach to regulating solid fuel;
determine which solid fuels should be regulated;
consider how these fuels should be regulated; and
set out an appropriate timeline for implementation of any new regulations.

The SEAI publishes a Domestic Fuels Comparison of Energy Costs report every three months, and the most recent shows that low smoke coal is the most cost-efficient choice of coal in terms of heat delivered per cent.

The consultation document and submission options are available on

Tags: Energy, health