Wood-burning stoves and pellet heating systems: UBA calls for the end of wood heating

business Pellet and wood-burning stoves

The end of wood? The Federal Environment Agency calls for the next heating waiver

Wood-burning stoves are becoming increasingly popular in this country Wood-burning stoves are becoming increasingly popular in this country

Wood-burning stoves are becoming increasingly popular in this country

Source: Getty Images/Westend61

The air in Germany’s cities is cleaner than it has been for a long time. Limit values ​​for nitrogen oxides and particulate matter are complied with almost everywhere. Nevertheless, the Federal Environment Agency wants to further reduce the pollutants. It risks conflict with consumers – and the government.

Dhe air in Germany was cleaner in 2021 than it has been for many years. According to provisional figures from the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), the EU guideline values ​​for exposure to nitrogen oxides and particulate matter are complied with almost everywhere, even on main roads in large cities. “We are now seeing a situation in urban residential areas like ten years ago in rural areas,” said the President of the UBA, Dirk Messner, when presenting the figures. Nevertheless, he called for drastic measures to further improve air quality in the coming years.

The background is the new guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) for healthy air, which provide significantly lower guide values ​​compared to the existing regulation in the European Union (EU), especially for nitrogen dioxide, fine dust and ozone. The aim of the WHO is to reduce the number of illnesses and deaths through fewer air pollutants. UBA boss Messner quoted EU statistics, according to which 53,800 deaths are said to be related to air pollution in Germany every year; Europe-wide there are even 307,000.

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His conclusion: the air needs to get even cleaner. While Germany is complying with the currently applicable EU values, it is still a long way from the WHO targets. The deviations are particularly clear for fine dust with a small particle size of PM 2.5 and for ozone. Messner said that no work had been done on the EU limit values ​​for 20 years. “The message is: we should do it.”

Messner and his officials state that the necessary drastic reduction in emissions cannot be achieved with “classic measures to keep the air clean” in Germany alone. By this they mean, among other things, speed limits, the fertilizer ordinance and stricter emission standards for vehicles. Instead, “transformative measures” are needed: an accelerated phase-out of coal-fired power generation by 2030, significantly less traffic, a reduction in livestock in agriculture and at least halving the “use of solid biomass in private households”.

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Green “immediate program”

Messner made it explicitly clear what is meant by the last point: “The Federal Environment Agency advises that we should refrain from burning wood in the future,” he said. Better should wood as a building material be used or stay in the forest, where the greenhouse gas CO2 binds. “We should say goodbye to burning wood in our private households,” said the UBA boss. Messner is aware that he is entering into a conflict with the federal government.

Because wood pellet heating systems are currently being subsidized by the state as a climate-friendly alternative and millions of Germans use fireplaces or tiled stoves for heating. From a climate point of view, however, this is a “zero-sum game”, said Messner – because the bound CO2 returned to the atmosphere when burned. And from the perspective of air pollution control, the promotion is not a good measure. The fine dust pollution from wood heaters is now higher than that from the exhaust of cars.

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In the sights of environmental aid

According to the head of the authorities, Germany has made great progress in air pollution control diesel scandal and owe its consequences. It is true that 56.6 percent of nitrogen dioxide pollution is still related to diesel cars. “But the stresses have decreased radically,” said Messner. “The car companies have shown us that the reduction is technically possible.” The decline in traffic volume due to the corona pandemic, on the other hand, plays a minor role.

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