Defra’s emissions of air pollutants publication 2024

14 February 2024

Defra has published its latest data on emissions of air pollutants in the UK, with the publication containing statistics on annual emissions for the period 1970 to 2022. The annual publication provides estimates of UK emissions of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), nitrogen oxides, ammonia, non-methane volatile organic compounds, and sulphur dioxide. These statistics are used to monitor progress against the UK’s emission reduction commitments (ERC) for air pollutants. 

The annual statistics identify: 

  1. Annual emissions of PM2.5 have decreased by 88% since 1970. An estimated 65 thousand tonnes of PM2.5 was emitted in 2022 – a 2% decrease from 2021. 
  2. Annual emissions of PM10 have decreased by 88% since 1970. An estimated 127 thousand tonnes of PM10 was emitted in 2022 – a 1% increase from 2021. 

The UK was compliant with international and domestic ERC for all pollutants. PM2.5 emissions were estimated to have decreased by 41% between 2005 and 2022, achieving compliance with ERC by an additional 11%. 

Domestic combustion contributed an estimated 29% of total PM2.5 emissions in 2022 – an increase of 2% from 2021, with most emissions coming from households using wood burning stoves or open fireplaces. This follows an increase in 56% of emissions of PM2.5 and PM10 from domestic wood burning between 2012 and 2022 as a result of the growing popularity of domestic solid fuel appliances and the ban on domestic coal burning. 

Commenting on the latest publication, Woodsure CEO Bruce Allen stated: 

Defra’s annual report provides insight into the sources of emissions and the trajectory of environmental reduction commitments. The statistics demonstrate that domestic burning remains popular across the UK, highlighting the importance of responsible burning to minimise particulate matter emissions. It is positive to see the emission reduction commitments achieved for 2022 and we will continue to push forward progress, working diligently for a cleaner, safer environment.

With wood burning providing heat for many households across the UK, the importance of burning responsibly remains imperative. We know that upgrading open fireplaces and old wood burning stoves to modern, cleaner appliances, using Ready to Burn low moisture content fuel, will significantly reduce emissions and improve heat efficiency for homes. 

Additionally, it is important to understand the sources of air pollution from domestic burning. With government saying in their Environmental Improvement Plan that it is not considering a ban on domestic burning, we must take steps to ensure we all burn responsibly and work to minimise our emissions. HETAS and Woodsure will continue to communicate best burning practices; educated and informed consumers to produce less emissions whilst generating more efficient heat for their home.

We continue to support government, devolved administrations, and other stakeholders to reduce emissions produced from domestic combustion, by using the right cleaner fuels in modern burning appliances.
Facilitating progress 

The UK’s emission reduction commitments are explored through the targets and goals in government’s Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 (EIP23) and the 25 Year Environment Plan (25YEP). To achieve these objectives, substantial and continuous action is required. The office for Environmental Protection (OEP) recently published their annual progress report, stating that the current pace and scale of action from government is not enough and more must be done to drive necessary progress. HETAS and Woodsure support the OEP’s sentiment that government must progress a well-planned delivery of the EIP23 to accomplish its targets on air quality and other environmental improvements. 

The EIP23 clearly stated that government is not considering a ban on domestic burning, but more must be done to reduce the resultant emissions. Government has existing proposed policies and measures, and these must be successfully actioned to ensure that ERC are not missed in the future. Technological advancements alone are not enough to effectively reduce domestic combustion emissions – consumer education through coherent and compelling communication is critical to encourage responsible burning and, in turn, minimise domestic combustion emissions. 

We examined the role of HETAS and Woodsure through the lens of the OEP’s annual progress report, demonstrating our commitment to minimise domestic combustion emissions. The Ready to Burn certification scheme, the Cleaner Choice scheme, the HETAS Advice Hub, and the Woodsure Advice Hub contribute significantly to facilitating meaningful progress in reducing emissions. Tackling emissions through legislation, technological improvements, and consumer competence is key for continuous progress which can achieve government’s targets. 

As an independent certification body with a purpose of ‘working together for a cleaner, safer and more sustainable environment’, we will continue our work with government departments such as Defra, DESNZ, and MHCLG to develop the work already undertaken by our industry to minimise emissions produced from domestic combustion. 

Conscientious burning practices are at the core of responsible burning; advice that is achievable by consumers will continue to reduce domestic combustion emissions. 

We regularly share advice on social media, with our Advice Hub updated with the latest tips and guidance. Our article on responsible burning was highlighted through our Instagram account and shows how simple messaging can support consumer education.  

For the latest news on domestic combustion, government policy, and much more, visit our latest news pages or follow us on social.


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