The days of polluting log burners and open fire fuels are numbered, the environment secretary has said as he outlines the government’s “ambitious strategy” to tackle air pollution.
The worst will be banned, with only the cleanest being on sale after 2022.
Michael Gove is looking especially at ways to reduce people’s exposure to particulate matter, considered the most damaging pollutant.
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 UK is the first major economy to adopt goals based on World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations, and the UN agency has praised the strategy as “an example for the rest of the world to follow”.
The proposals, outlined in the government’s Clean Air Strategy, will also bring in changes to existing smoke laws and new powers for local councils to take action in high pollution areas.
The Department for the Environment intends to restrict sales of wet wood for domestic burning and apply sulphur and smoke emission limits to all solid fuels. Sales of bituminous or traditional house coal may also be phased out.
It is predicted that these laws could cut the cost of air pollution to society by £1.7bn a year by 2020, rising to £5.3bn each year by 2030.
These figures have been forecast based on savings from public health benefits.
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, welcomed the measures, saying: “In particular, it’s good to see it includes proposals to improve access to air pollution information, something many of the patients we support ask for. It also acknowledges World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines as the best standard to abide by.
“However, we’re disappointed that it doesn’t include a clear commitment to adopt the WHO limits for particulate matter pollution in the upcoming Environment Bill.
“No one should have to breathe toxic air, especially not people with a lung condition or children whose lungs are still growing.
“Our current legal limits are twice as high as WHO recommendations, and too many people are still exposed to unsafe air pollution levels which puts the lung health of all of us at risk.”
On Friday, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC gave consent for a new inquest to be opened into the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah, a nine-year-old asthma sufferer who died in 2013, after her family argued that the initial inquest ignored the role air pollution might have played in her death.
A petition to Mr Cox by the family said there was evidence Ella’s hospital visits were linked to illegal levels on air pollution near her home in south London.
Mr Cox said that the evidence meant the family could apply for a new inquest at the high court.
The decision is now in the hands of a high court judge but if the judge agrees with Ella’s family, she could become the first person in the UK officially listed as having died as a result of air pollution.