The Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment in the Australian Capital Territory has issued a report recommending that wood heating be phased out in the ACT suburbs. Entitled, “Can Canberra ‘Burn Right Tonight’ or Is There No Safe Level of Air Pollution’? An Investigation Into Wood Heater Policy in the ACT,” the report identified several major policy issues with wood heating that needed to be addressed.
Among these issues, they found that wood heater emissions and efficiency standards are not sufficient to protect the public; that the industry is not adequately regulated; and that wood heater replacement programs have not been effective.
The report further pointed out that wood heating cannot be justified based on cost. “It is a misconception that wood heaters constitute a more economic heating option compared with alternative options. The overall use of wood heaters presents a substantial economic burden beyond their operation.”
They note that the financial burden of wood heating falls disproportionately on households with lower incomes, and that helping those who can’t afford the cost to transition to clean heat would be less expensive than the continued health-related costs of wood heating.
The report also points out that forthcoming changes to the ACT’s Human Rights Act will make it harder to justify not acting to protect the public from wood stove emissions.
The report ends with a recommendation to phase out wood heaters from ACT suburbs, with interim actions leading up to a ban that includes stronger messaging around wood heating to emphasize its substantial health risks.
A complete discussion of the report and a link to it is available on the website of the Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment.