August 2018. Mayor wants to rid Copenhagen of polluting wood-burning stoves.  "Wood-burning stoves may help to spread ‘hygge’, but they are also increasingly coming under scrutiny as a source of air pollution.

"As part of the new budget proposals, Copenhagen Mayor Frank Jensen intends to do something about this by banning new stoves and offering householders a cash incentive to scrap their old stoves and switch to district heating ... 77 premature deaths in 2014 could be directly attributed to particle emissions from wood-burning stoves."

Wood burning is responsible for about 67% of total Danish emissions of harmful fine particles; although wood burning only covers about 3% of the Danish energy consumption. By comparison, all Danish power plants account for 3% of the particle emissions while covering around half of the domestic energy consumption.

Black Carbon from Residential Burning - pdf presentation by Kaare Press-Kristensen, Senior adviser, air quality, Danish Ecological Council. 

Residential burning is responsible for about 45 % of total PM2.5 and BC emissions in the EU and contributes significantly to premature mortality and morbidity as well as to climate change (BC).  In Denmark, residential wood burning - about 3% of energy production - is responsible for 60% of black carbon emissions.  All other sources of emissions are being reduced, so private wood burning is expected to account from 90% of BC emissions by 2030.

Stoves can cause serious indoor air pollution and thereby exposure to soot particles (BC).

New stoves will not solve the problem.  . Measurements are constantly above max. measuring limit - even from a brand new low-emission stove with completely dry small pieces of wood and plenty of air.

New stoves vs new trucks (left).
New low-emission stoves cause much higher emissions (> 500,000 part/cm3) than new trucks with particulate filters
(< 1,000 part/cm3).

Some recommended solutions:
  • . Financial instruments to promote alternatives.
  • . Laws to promote alternatives / ban in large cities.
  • . Information on health/climate issues – media !!!
Recommends a pollution-tax on use of wood heating to help regulate it and provide subsidies for replacement with district heating, heat pumps and solar panels, as well as home insulation.


Problem formulation
What specific measures (including stricter legislation) could be recommended to reduce the level of pollution from wood smoke in predominantly urban areas in Denmark? To answer this question, effects on the environment and public health as well as pragmatic issues regarding national politics (majority of votes in The Danish Parliament) and the central administration (implementation and enforcement) must be considered.

The resulting methodology is primarily a literature review and secondarily three qualitative interviews with civil servants from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency. As an overall cognitive framework for the analysis and discussion mixed-scanning from planning theory and The Toulmin Model of Argumentation have been used. The thesis has been inspired by selected elements of critical realism, action science and post-normal science from the theory of science.

This thesis argues that the greatest cause of harmful wood smoke pollution in Denmark today is that domestic wood burning has been exempted from repressive taxation. At the same time, over the past couple of decades, there has been a gradual increase in repressive taxation of the heating alternatives that are recommended from an environmental and public health point of view. These alternatives to domestic wood burning are mainly district heating, natural gas and electricity applied for heat pumps etc.

In this way The Danish Parliament has created a considerable health problem in many urban areas around the country. In my opinion The Danish Government and The Danish Parliament therefore have an obvious obligation to solve this environmental and public health problem.

Furthermore it will cost the Danish state a great deal of economic resources to implement and enforce the majority of the measures that I have estimated to have a high positive effect on public health and the environment as well as a high probability of obtaining a majority of votes in The Danish Parliament such as e.g. implementation and enforcement of a Danish edition of the Malmoe model.

For instance a recommended measure could be a bonus for scrapping old firewood boilers and subsidies for re-insulation and installation of district heating, heat pumps and solar cell panels. Another example is to expand the district heating piping system in Denmark to cover around 70 % of the Danish housing stock before 2020 (against approximately 62 % today).

To both regulate domestic wood combustion and finance subsidies etc. I therefore recommend a yearly pollution tax on each functional individual firewood-burning unit in Denmark of initial 1,500 DKK on average. The pollution tax should be differentiated according to location, model type and extent of use if possible. In my estimate this repressive tax will yield an annual revenue of approximately 1.2 billion DKK. Regarding the mentioned measures probability of obtaining a political decision, effective regulation of air pollution in Denmark is totally in line with the government platform. Among other things based on public statements by Per Clausen, environment spokesman of The Red-Green Alliance, it is my judgement that The Red-Green Alliance would support effective regulation of domestic wood burning in predominantly urban areas in Denmark and thus would support a government bill on this.
Press articles:10 May 2014:  Lot of burning wood in stoves is a disaster  A Norwegian study estimates that the damage from inhalation of small particles from wood burning stoves amounts to 10,000-14,000 kr (US$1,193-1,671) per year per stove.
23 Jan 2014:  New law on smoke from stoves get harsh criticism Points out that wood burning stoves are the largest emitter of particulates in Denmark, responsible for approximately 70 percent of particulate emissions.   As a signatory to the Gothenburg Protocol, Denmark must reduce particulate emissions by 33 percent in six years, by 2020.  If there is no reduction in wood stove emissions, every other source of PM2.5 pollution - including road transport, power plants, and farming will have to be reduced to zero.

EU environmental requirements: Prohibit cars or stoves About 200-250 Danes each year die prematurely by about 10 years because of particles emissions from wood burning. That's more than are killed in road accidents in Denmark.
EU Commission published a clean air package in December 2013 that will require a 64% reduction in particulate emissions.  Currently, wood stoves are responsible for 64% of particulate emissions.  Parliament can either choose to effectively regulate wood stove pollution, or put all Danish traffic, agriculture and industry to a halt, just to be able to comply with the EU's basic environmental legislation .
European Union (EU) - wood stoves emit 4 times as much PM2.5 as transport
PM2.5 from Residential Wood Burning 4 times worse than transport

   In the 27 EU countries, residential wood burning (RWB) is responsible for 654,000 tonnes of PM2.5 emissions (46% of all PM2.5 emissions), over 4 times more than the 149,500 tonnes of PM2.5 from road transport.  RWB is also responsible for 56% of black carbon emissions, compared to 23% from road transport (click to enlarge the image of the table on the left for details; use the back button to return to this page). By 2030, the contribution of RWB to total PM2.5 emissions is predicted to decline slightly to 41% of total emissions, but this will still be 5 times worse than the 8% from from transport.  In 2030, 69% of the EU's black carbon emissions will be from RWB, compared to 6% from road transport.
    A report by the Danish Ecological Council notes that "Dioxins from wood smoke make up approximately 60% of Danish emissions. Dioxins are one of the most harmful substance groups found and can be  carcinogenic, endocrine disrupting, toxic for reproduction and harmful to the immune system. In addition,    accumulation of dioxins in the food chain may cause major harm to the natural environment and increase people’s intake of toxic dioxins through their food."
   The report concludes that "there are no climatic gains from wood burning in private heating units and wood burning should be replaced by insulation and district heating in cities and heat pumps in rural areas."
Figure 2 (left, click to enlarge) compares PM2.5 emissions from a 10 year old diesel truck with those from Danish home heating.  "It does not seem logical that an eco-labelled stove is allowed to pollute 25 times more than a 10 year old truck."    
   Because "w
ood burning is the most health hazardous heat source and thereby the most expensive environmental problem in Denmark." the report recommends taxing wood stove use, and that it would be "simple to register the number of operating hours with a small temperature meter with a temperature sensor sealed in the chimney."  This could be combined with information on pollution emissions for each type of stove to determine the total amount of pollution emitted to which the pollution tax would be applied.

Translation of a letter to the editor in The Jutland Post, a popular Danish newspaper:
Letters to the editor at 31.03.14. 03: 00 pm
The emission of brænderøg costs annually Denmark ca. 2 billion. DKK Archive photo: Per Folkver/Polfoto

Harmful wood stove emission pollution

BYRyan Lund, sci., environmental technician and lab technician, Dalstrøget 57, 2., Rushden

Conservatively estimated, about 200-250 Danes each year lose an average of 10 years of life because of fine particle pollution from wood stoves and fireplaces.  This is more than the number who lose their lives in traffic accidents in Denmark.

A much larger number will become seriously ill from wood stove emission pollution, i.e. get cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems (asthma, bronchitis, COPD), diabetes, and cancer. Similar to passive tobacco smoke leads to exposure to "passive brænderøg" in fetal life increased probability of infant mortality and the reduced IQ.

Easily minimised

Woodsmoke pollution costs Denmark about 2 billion. DKK per year and costs the rest of Europe including Denmark about 6 billion. DKK annually in the socio-economic costs. This corresponds to an average of approximately $7,840 per year per stove in Denmark.

In what other areas of society than air pollution will politicians accept such high mortality rate, disease levels and costs to society?

In what other areas of society than air pollution will politicians at Christiansborg accept such high mortality rate, disease levels and socio-economic costs? Not least in the light of the fact that wood stove pollution is even harmful to the climate and can be easily and efficiently  minimized, if political will is present.

The overriding reason for the harmful wood stove emission pollution in today's Denmark is that the environmental and health friendly heating alternatives (including district heating and not least el to, inter alia, heat pumps) have been subject to gradually increasing higher taxes in the last few decades, while burning wood has so far have been exempt.

Ideal policies

National politicians have created a major health problem in Danish cities; they must therefore take responsibility for solving it. There should be national policy based on a wide palette of instruments, which together will effectively regulate wood stove emission pollution in  Danish cities.

Among the most obvious instruments include:

Demands for higher stacks, as well as more stringent limits for discharges of harmful particles and gases in the revised wood-stove Ordinance. The limit values contained therein should cover all wood burning stoves – not only newly acquired.

Subsidies to remove old wood boilers and stoves.

Grants for insulation and installation of central heating, heat pumps and solar energy installations.

Promotion of district heating.

To provide funds for the measures listed above, I recommend a yearly pollution tax on each individual firewood-burning unit use in in Denmark, initially averaging 1,500 DKK. The pollution tax should be set according to location, model type and extent of use if possible.

This tax will general an annual revenue of about $US1.2 billion. 

The above policies are entirely in line with Government programmes.

In addition, the unit list in favour of regulating wood stove emission pollution and would therefore likely support a possible government initiatives in this area.

Oct 2018. Fireplaces pre-dating the year 2000 must be removed on purchase of homes. A fund of 46 million kroner will be used to subsidise homeowners who wish to replace woodburning stoves predating 2000 with newer, greener models, DR reports.