In recent years, the British government has cracked down on wood-burning stoves and attempted to get them replaced with more modern appliances. According to an internal report released in 2021, wood-burning stoves are disastrous for the environment because they produce tons of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions. The report also said that wood-burning stoves were responsible for 38 percent of all PM2.5 emissions in the country. (Related: Research reveals alarming impact of air pollution and fine particulate matter on mental health.)
New laws were introduced last month to block the sale of appliances, including wood-burning stoves, that do not meet “eco-friendly standards.” Many heavily polluting fuels have also been banned by these new regulations.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) introduced targeted regulations to phase out the use of wood-burning coals. These new rules include a ban on the sale of appliances that do not meet “eco-friendly standards” and a ban on the supposedly most heavily polluting fuels like wet wood and bagged coal.
Defra claimed that burning these materials at home was the “single largest source” of PM2.5 despite only around eight percent of U.K. homes burning fuel indoors.
Government used heavily skewed data to justify regulations
The data that the British government used to justify its new regulations is apparently not true. New data released by Defra showed stoves were not responsible for 38 percent of all PM2.5 emissions. In fact, wood-burning stoves were only responsible for 17.5 percent of emissions.
The new information came after Defra conducted another survey of 50,000 homes that have wood-burning stoves. The homeowners provided updated information on how often they used the stoves.
The government claimed the reasons for the different results were likely caused by previous assumptions that have now been proven wrong.
The survey mistakenly logged newly installed wood-burning stoves as additional appliances rather than replacements for old stoves. The old survey also used wood-burning stove usage data during the “Beast from the East,” a rare cold wave that affected the British Isles in 2018. These two factors heavily skewed the results.
The new report also found that wood and coal burning in homes had less of an impact on air pollution than emissions generated from manufacturing, which accounted for 27 percent of PM2.5 emissions.
Wood-burning stove emissions likely still overestimated despite revised data
Even these downgraded figures are still being questioned. Andy Hill, chairman of the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA), a lobbying organization formed to promote the benefits of wood-burning stoves and other biomass appliances, believes Defra’s updated data is still inflated.
“We welcome the revisions to the government’s statistics on PM2.5 from domestic combustion sources that have been announced. The SIA has long maintained that the volume of wood fuel used to calculate the previous figure had been significantly overestimated, and this has now been officially acknowledged” said Hill in a news release.
“The SIA would welcome further research into particulate matter source apportionment for domestic combustion, as we believe the true figure from modern wood-burning stoves is significantly lower,” he continued.
Hill said there are also opportunities for the PM2.5 emissions from wood-burning stoves to decrease even further by encouraging homeowners to replace old stoves with newer ones. He noted that Ecodesign stoves produce up to 90 percent fewer particulate matter emissions than wood-burning stoves that have open fires.
Open fires account for over 72 percent of PM2.5 emissions being attributed to domestic combustion sources. Ecodesign stoves feature closed fronted designs that release fewer emissions.
“A professionally installed, regularly serviced modern Ecodesign stove used with correctly seasoned wood fuel is a very low carbon, low emission, sustainable and cost-effective way to heat our homes,” said Hill.
Left-wing climate activists in the U.K. are refusing to accept Defra’s data and are still calling for a total ban on wood-burning stoves, regardless of their actual environmental impact.
“It is still an enormous percentage of the most powerful pollution,” claimed Simon Birkett of Clean Air in London. “Whether it is 17 percent or 38 percent, it’s still an extremely serious problem.”
“In policy terms, the key thing is that the number has gone up 35 percent in the last 10 years, and is still growing at three percent a year – so wood-burning stoves are clearly a problem,” he continued.
More related stories:
Watch this clip from Kla.TV that explores the links between extreme environmental pollution caused by supposedly clean energy.
Learn more about air pollution in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world at Pollution.news.