The 2023 Environmental Plan: A Renewed Commitment to Clean Air
In 2018, the UK government unveiled a 25 Year Environment Plan, which outlined a bold vision for improving the health of the natural world. As part of this plan, the government committed to reviewing its progress every five years, as enshrined in the 2021 Environment Act. Now, in 2023, we have the first revision of this plan, which includes ten core goals that outline the government’s progress and commitments.
One of these core goals is Goal 2: Clean Air, which is crucial for the health and wellbeing of both people and the environment. Poor air quality has been linked to a range of health issues, from asthma to heart disease, and it also has a detrimental impact on wildlife and ecosystems.
What is the plan for Goal 2: Clean Air?
Air quality in the UK has improved significantly in recent decades. There has been a decrease in all five major air pollutants: for instance, emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) decreased by 18% between 2010 and 2020. The solid fuel industry has played a major part in this positive progress, with manufacturers like Stovax delivering on Ecodesign compliancy since 2017 – 5 years before it became law in 2022.
What has Government done so far?
• Published a Clean Air Strategy in 2019, setting out plans to make our air healthier to breathe, protect nature and boost the economy
• Reduced pollution from domestic burning by banning the sale of smoky coal/house coal, and restricting the sale of wet wood
• Put limits on sulphur content and smoke emissions from manufactured solid fuels
• Enabled local authorities to better enforce Smoke Control Areas, including issuing financial penalties
What are Government’s new plans for the solid fuel industry?
• Continue to tackle domestic emissions by reducing the maximum emissions for domestic burning appliances in Smoke Control Areas – this includes tightening the limits that new stoves in Smoke Control Areas must meet, reducing the limit from 5g of smoke per hour to a maximum of 3g
• Continuing to promote best practice when using a stove or fireplace
• Design and implement measures to drive a shift away from older, more polluting appliances, to newer appliances that meet new emission standards
• Challenge local authorities to improve air quality more quickly by assessing their performance and use of existing powers, while supporting them with clear guidance, funding, and tools
• Re-align regional air quality zones in line with local government boundaries to drive effective coordinated action
Key information that will help you with any questions you may have:
Will my stove be banned?
The UK Government is not considering a ban on domestic burning in England. Government recognises that some households are reliant on solid fuel burning as a primary source for heating, hot water and cooking. A ban on domestic outdoor burning (bonfires, barbecues, firepits etc.) would also be considered disproportionate
Can I use my current stove in a Smoke Control Area?
You can continue to use a DEFRA-exempt appliance, burning authorised fuels, in both Smoke Control Areas or Clean Air Zones
Will my old stove be banned?
The new limits only apply to models built after a certain future date – we are awaiting confirmation of this date. As long as you are abiding by local smoke restrictions, you can continue to use your stove
Will I get fined for using my stove?
In a Smoke Control Area, you can only burn wood on a DEFRA-exempt appliance, or burn authorised smokeless fuels. These rules have been in place for many years, and are a positive implement intended to improve the air quality of these zones. There is a limit on how much smoke you can release from a chimney – in England, you may receive a £300 fine for releasing too much smoke in a Smoke Control Area, or up to £1000 for burning unauthorised fuel without an exempt appliance. Look for the Ready to Burn logo if burning wood – this mark helps you easily identify solid fuels that are legal to burn at home in compliance with air quality regulations.
Burn dry wood
Poor quality/wet wood has a high moisture content, resulting in poor combustion and the production of harmful emissions. Look for wood between 14-20% moisture for optimum burning, and ensure it has the Ready to Burn logo
Ensure the stove is sized correctly for the environment
A 5kW stove run at 2kW will not burn at required optimum clean burn temperatures
Keep stove door closed
When the stove is closed, the products of combustion almost exclusively exit through the chimney .