Environment Minister Eamon Ryan says the Government now wants to 'totally close the door' on smoky coal in Ireland.
His Department is launching a new public consultation on planned regulation of solid fuels.
The public consultation covers smoky coal, but also other fuels like wet wood and peat products.
The Government has already pledged to have a full nationwide ban on smoky coal - already in place in many towns and cities - within the term of the current coalition.
Minister Ryan told Newstalk Breakfast the focus will be on stopping companies from selling these fuels.
He said: “The EPA has said some 1,300 people a year die prematurely because of air pollution - a lot of that is caused by the particulates in the air we get from what we’re burning at home.
“There’s an alternative: we already switched 30 years ago to smokeless coal in Dublin. That had immediate benefits, and we’ve rolled it out to other towns and cities around the country. Now we want to make it nationwide, and close the door to smoky coals totally.”
Wet wood and smoky coal
Minister Ryan said there’s also a lot of ‘wet wood’ on sale that causes the same environmental and health concerns.
He said it’s important to tell the fuel industry that people will still be allowed to burn fires, but there’ll be standards in place on the types of fuel allowed.
He said: “You actually get a better product, because all the analysis [shows] the cost for energy you get from the smokeless coal is actually cheaper and is better fuel… same with dry wood.
“It’s about switching away from the polluting ones, and is purely a public health matter. Down the line, we are moving towards having better built homes and better standards… but that will take time.
“In the interim, we can’t be seeing 1,300 people a year die. We can’t have a situation where you get this high pressure in the middle of winter… we see hospital admissions suddenly rising because air pollution kicks in.”
A proposed ban on smoky coal has seen widespread opposition, in particular from some rural TDs.
Minister Ryan said it’s vital to support people on lower incomes, and the Government has introduced measures such as an increased fuel allowance and funds to allow people retrofit their home.
He said people who cut their own turf from a bog will still be able to burn it, and the new legislation will be focused on the sale of the products.
He said: “What [we will] regulate is the sale of materials, so the energy companies who are supplying it make the switch.
“That’s the clever way to go in terms of health protection and promotion.
“It’s putting the responsibility on the business companies who supply this fuel to make the switch to products that don’t kill people. I think the Irish people will row in and support that.”