HETAS is pleased to see the publication of the Welsh Government’s White Paper on a Clean Air (Wales) Bill which aims to make Wales a better and healthier place to live. HETAS has been working directly as part of the Welsh government Task and Finish Group since 2018 (comprising industry, fuel suppliers, Public Health Wales, Healthy Air Cymru, Local Authorities, HETAS and other organisations).
Here, we outline the key areas that the Welsh Government has identified in the White Paper.
Commenting on the White Paper, HETAS CEO Bruce Allen said:
HETAS has been working closely with the Welsh Government Task & Finish Group since 2018 and it’s pleasing to see this White Paper that seeks to improve legislation surrounding air quality and ultimately improving air quality for all in Wales. Recent legislative changes in England follow similar paths to these proposals for Wales and HETAS and it’s members are best placed to support these changes. We have a long history in approval of wood burning and biomass appliances, currently running the Defra list of exempted appliances and are now running the Ready to Burn list for manufactured solid fuels in England. For many years we have also been running schemes for installers, product manufacturers , chimney sweeps and servicing technicians, with independent UKAS accreditation underpinning many of the schemes we operate. The paper also addresses the need to look at all sources of smoke pollution, or source apportionment. Our recent scientific work highlighted the need to address areas of unregulated burning. We look forward to continuing our work with the Welsh Government and with a number of schemes in place now HETAS is well placed to speed up implementation of some of the proposals laid out in the White Paper.
Tackling air pollution
The proposals in the White Paper will tackle well-known sources of air pollution. These include transport, industry (including agriculture), and emissions from homes and businesses. We will place a particular focus on protecting vulnerable individuals and sensitive habitats from the harmful effects of air pollution.
The Clean Air Plan for Wales was set out in August 2020 and sets out a ten year pathway to achieving clean air by building on existing legislation, with a focus on delivering air quality improvements through a new legislative and regulatory air quality management framework.
There are two key themes in the Bill. The first theme is setting our strategic approach to enhance air quality to support a healthier Wales. The second theme is a clear and effective air quality management legislative framework. Proposals under these themes are below:
Setting out a strategic approach to enhance air quality to support a healthier Wales
- A requirement for a Clean Air Plan or Strategy to be reviewed at least every 5 years; and
- Powers to set air quality targets, including for PM2.5.
A clear and effective air quality management legislative framework to provide
- A clarified and enhanced Local Air Quality Management Regime (LAQM)
- Consolidated powers to implement Clean Air Zones or Low Emission Zones;
- Strengthened powers to address vehicle idling;
- The enhancement of existing powers for smoke control linked to tackling air
pollution from domestic burning (PM2.5); and
- A duty on inter-sectoral workforces to adhere to guidance to tackle air pollution.
The Bill looks in detail at overhauling the current legislative framework for air quality in Wales at a national and local level and a strategy on how to set limits on certain pollutants, including PM2.5.
There is also a focus on tackling air pollution from domestic burning, an umbrella term for residential heating (such as boilers or fireplaces), indoor and outdoor cooking, and the burning of household and garden waste.
HETAS and Woodsure will continue to work with Welsh government in providing independent advice relating to the solid fuel industry, including promotion of quality verified wood and mineral fuels, independently certified high efficiency appliances and an education system for consumers to ensure that appliances are operated in a way that supports the cleaner burning of biomass and solid mineral fuels.
Alongside the White Paper, Welsh government is consulting on how to tackle emissions from domestic combustion. Such considerations include:
- prohibiting the sale of wet wood and traditional/bituminous house coal.
- regulatory powers to ensure only the most efficient appliances are available for purchase and installation by 2022. This will include installation of second-hand
- regulatory powers to require the annual maintenance of domestic burning
appliances by a certified professional, subject to review.
- establishing test standards for new manufactured solid fuels entering the market
by 2024 to ensure they are compliant with appropriate regulations on smoke and
- options to support households to ensure no-one slips into or remains in fuel
poverty as a result of any prohibition on fuels or appliances, or an extension to the use of SCAs.
The Paper also looks at current Smoke Control legislation and sets out a proposal to amend the regime for Smoke Control to ease the enforcement burden on Local Authorities. In addition, they are seeking views on whether to mandate use of Smoke Control Orders in defined population areas and extension of the legislation to include outdoor burning.
Proposals for inclusion in the Bill:
- Include Smoke Control legislation, consolidating legislation from the Clean Air Act 1993, Part 3. Also changing the offence regime from criminal to civil.
- Mandate the application of Smoke Control Orders in all urban areas which meet specific criteria, to be defined in the Bill.
- Include a requirement for Local Authorities to review Smoke Control Areas on a regular basis, in terms of instituting or rescinding a Smoke Control Order.
- Include outdoor combustion within Smoke Control Areas, to include bonfires.
- Introduce an online list of authorised fuels for use in outdoor appliances.
The impact of different sources of domestic combustion was covered in recent scientific work undertaken by HETAS. Click here to view that work.
The White Paper Consultation takes place from January to March 2021 with any work on drafting a new bill to start April 2022.
HETAS encourages everyone in Wales involved in the solid fuel industry or with an interest in clean air policy to contribute to the White Paper on Clean Air (Wales) Bill consultation.