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'Ireland has a psychological and environmental problem with solid fuel'

We have to move away from turf-fired heating, Environment Minister says


Bringing in the turf for winter Williamstown Bog Co. Westmeath.  Picture; Gerry Mooney

Bringing in the turf for winter Williamstown Bog Co. Westmeath. Picture; Gerry Mooney

Bringing in the turf for winter Williamstown Bog Co. Westmeath. Picture; Gerry Mooney

Ireland has a psychological as well as an environmental problem with solid fuels, which has to be addressed, the Minister for the Environment has said.

Denis Naughten, Minister for the Environment, is proposing a country-wide ban on smokey coal - 27 years since the ban was introduced in Dublin city.

He told Newstalk Breakfast this morning that one in five homes in rural Ireland's only source of heating is solid fuel. The Minister announced plans to run a pilot scheme in six rural communities to look at moving homes away from solid fuel heating.

It comes as the country's advisory watchdog on climate change recommended that coal and turf should be banned in the coming years.

While a number of powerplants use solid fuel, the Minister said plans were being looked at to move these to biomass.

But, domestic use of solid fuel, he said was more complex, and one in five homes, he said, is fully reliant on solid fuel for heating.

The pilot project, he said, would look at how homes can move away from solid fuel to renewable and sustainable forms of heating and then a national scheme can be rolled out to move away from solid fuel.

Ultimately, in relation to power generation we have to move away from coal, peat oil an even gas, he said

Ireland, he said, we have a significant amount of work to do if we are to reach our 2030 climate targets.

And, he said that Ireland has to move away from turf fires, although he said it would be more accurate to say it will be a longer-term move.

"We have to get people to move away from it (solid fuel) and I think it will happen.

"We have a psychological as well as an environmental problem, to move away from solid fuel," he told Newstalk Breakfast.

We need to be honest with people, he said, and we need a road map in place to see what will work in rural Ireland and the practical steps needed to be put in place.

Since he became Minister for the Environment, he said he has taken definitive steps around environmental issues and he has decided to make Ireland the first country in Europe to have a nationwide ban on smokey coal.

The air quality, he said, in some smaller towns and villages is worse than the City of London or some cities in China. "It's completely unacceptable that some evenings in winter people cannot go out for a walk if they suffer from asthma with the poor air quality."

There is a huge positive impact on our health services, he said.

A “substantial” increase in carbon taxes on home heating and motoring fuels is needed to reduce emissions and help prevent dangerous climate change, as well as a ban  on coal and turf to generate power and heat homes, coupled with increased investment in public transport over roads, the Climate Change Advisory Council has said.

In its first annual review, the council said the Government needed to put in place “major new policies and measures” to meet international targets to reduce emissions, and that the pace of reductions needed to be “accelerated” across all sectors of the economy.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the report was a “wake-up call” to the Government, while Cliona Sharkey, policy adviser at Trócaire and member of Stop Climate Chaos, said it made for  “disturbing reading”.

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Political difficulties for the Government include a call to stop subsidising peat-fired power plants in the Midlands, which support almost 1,500 jobs.

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