NGO proposal to reduce household solid fuel burning

A proposal has been developed and sent to the Minister of Agriculture (responsible also for the environment) by the Clean Air Action Group (CAAG) to allow municipalities to limit residential burning of solid fuels through national legislation. At the same time, CAAG also calls the government to facilitate the transition to less-polluting heating methods, especially in municipalities that introduce these restrictions.

The most serious environmental health problem of our time is poor air quality, especially the high concentrations of small particles in the air. For many years, the CAAG Environmental Advisory Office has received most of the complaints about residential burning. Burning of coal and wood has been enjoying a renaissance since the economic crisis, and many people are illegally burning waste. 

Judit Szegő, an environmental scientist and project manager of the Clean Air Action Group, said: "In Hungary, 83% of the fine particles that pollute the air are generated from household burning. Due to their small size, these particles can enter the bloodstream through the lungs and air bladders, and from there they can get into vital organs with the potential of causing fatal lesions. Therefore, it is very important that where conditions allow, solid-fuel burning be adequately restricted by local rules."

The NGO would authorise municipalities to restrict the use of solid fuels in their settlements or parts of them (e.g., in the neighbourhood of kindergartens and nurseries) by appropriate additions to the Environmental Protection Act, in case they see the opportunity to do so. International examples of similar regulations can be found, such as the amendment that the Polish Parliament adopted to a law in 2016 which allowed local restrictions on solid fuel burning. As a result of persistent public action in Krakow, the ban on the burning of solid fuels came into force in September 2019, and other Polish cities are also expected to introduce similar regulations soon. 

In parallel with this measure, of course, with the help of the State, public assistance programmes for heating modernisation should be launched, which could even be financed by the European Union’s Recovery and Resilience Facility.

András Lukács, President of the Clean Air Action Group, stated: "National and municipal resources spent on the dissemination of more environmentally friendly heating methods become remunerative in a short period, as decreasing air pollution leads to an improvement in the health of the population and, in this context, an improvement in the ability to generate income and the reduction in health insurance costs as well."

In Hungary, air pollution causes the premature deaths of 13 000 people every year and these people lose an average of about 12 years of their lives. Polluted air is also responsible for one million illnesses a year and the resulting economic damage exceeds HUF 1500 billion per year.

Translated by Anna Koch