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31 Jul, 2022 11:23

Netherlands faces winter of smog – media

Record sales of wood-burning stoves have been reported, amid a sharp rise in gas prices
Netherlands faces winter of smog – media

Smog and particulate pollution will rise in the Netherlands this winter, public health authorities have warned. The rise is linked to more households choosing to burn firewood as gas prices skyrocket.

Sales of wood and pellet stoves have increased by 30% since last summer, De Volkskrant reported on Sunday. Demand is now so high, the newspaper reported, that manufacturers are struggling to deliver enough of these stoves. Firewood suppliers, meanwhile, are already running out of stock, and sourcing more logs is a difficult proposition, as the Dutch forestry agency refuses to supply trees to the firewood industry.

With gas and electricity bills at record highs, the shift among some consumers to wood burning will have environmental consequences, the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) warned. 

“The sale of wood is linked to consumption and it is indeed expected that this will not have a positive impact on air pollution,” a spokesperson told De Volkskrant.

While the institute is investigating what measures can be taken to reduce this pollution risk, its powers are limited at present. It can warn households against lighting fires on days when the smog risk is high, but cannot enforce a ban.

Health experts called for a ban last month, telling parliament that such a measure would be necessary in winter when more fires would increase the chance of smog. However, there is currently no other viable heat source to replace either gas or solid fuel, although the RIVM is investigating heat pump technology, according to the newspaper.

The Netherlands is not the only European country where wood fires are making a comeback. Poland gave its citizens permission to hoard timber for burning last month, while Latvians have rushed for firewood collection permits and Hungary has ordered a halt to firewood exports. In the UK, the London Fire Brigade said in May that its officers had responded to 100 house fires in the preceding months, started by people burning wood in open fires to stay warm.

While gas prices throughout Europe were steadily rising since the end of the coronavirus pandemic, the increase accelerated sharply since Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine in February. The EU has begun phasing out Russian fuel imports in response, while Russian gas giant Gazprom has said that sanctions are impeding its ability to deliver gas to the region.