Draft Letter to all Environment Ministers

Dear Environment Minister,

Your meeting on 15 December 2015 represents the best possible opportunity to save billions in health costs.  Of more than 500 public submissions on air pollution, 94% supported strict particle standards including a 6 ug/m3 for PM2.5 that would avoid over 700 premature deaths every year.

The NEPC economic analysis identified $3.6 billion in savings from adopting US standards for non-road diesels, international best practice for controlling PM emissions from mines, US2010 emissions standards for outboards and watercraft, and US phase 2 gardening emissions standards. 

Savings of $20 billion (5 times greater than all other economically feasible PM2.5 measures) could also be achieved by not allowing new wood heaters to be installed until a new test has been developed to measure real-life emissions, and a health-based standard set by independent experts, in combination with a phase-out of existing wood heaters that don’t meet the yet-to-be-developed standard. Implementing this single measure would allow Australia to meet the 6 ug/m3 standard and save 700 lives per year. 

There are major flaws in the current standard-setting process for domestic wood heaters, because changes cannot be made without the approval of the wood heating industry. NSW Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant said wood heaters are so detrimental to health she supports banning and phasing them out in built-up urban areas. 

The tobacco industry was not asked to approve proposed changes to cigarette packaging.  Surely the same principle should apply to setting a health-based standard for wood heater emissions?  Despite being adjacent to open-cut mines and power stations that generate enough electricity for 3.25 million homes, a few hundred wood heaters in the mining town of Muswellbrook were identified by chemical fingerprinting as the major source of PM2.5 pollution (62% in winter, 30% year round).  Woodsmoke pollution was also been identified as a major source of wintertime pollution in Liverpool, Sydney.  

We therefore urge all ministers to 
1) reject the current flawed "standards" set by the wood heating industry
2) set up a committee of health and epidemiological experts to find the best possible solution to the current $20 billion health costs of wood heater pollution.  
3) endorse a National Clean Air Agreement, with appropriate support and leadership, to oversee the implementation of the $3.6 billion savings from the other measures listed above and investigate other cost-effective ways to reduce pollution and health costs, many of which will also reduce global warming from reduced methane and black carbon emissions.  

Your support for 1-3 above It would be an excellent way to save nearly $25 billion in health costs, avoid 700 premature deaths every year, and achieve the health-based air pollution standards supported by the overwhelming majority of the community.  

We are counting on you, 

Cut and paste the draft letter into your email, edit to highlight what you think are the important points, then send individually to each environment minister

SA ministerhunter@sa.gov.au  Ian Hunter MLC 08 8463 5680
ACT Health & Environment minister: Corbell, Simon corbell@act.gov.au  (02) 6205 0000

Minister Greg Hunt,
Minister Mark Speakman
  • Minister Lisa Neville
  • Minister Ian Hunter
  • Minister Steven Miles
Minister Albert Jacob,
Minister Matthew Groom
Minister Simon Corbell

Effective woodsmoke-reduction programs would allow a 6 ug/m3 PM2.5 standard and avoid 700 premature deaths every year. 

Without woodsmoke, average PM2.5 exposure in Newcastle-Sydney-Wollongong would fall from 6.9 to 5.5 ug/m3 and from 6.2 to 5.2 ug/m3 in Melbourne allowing the 6 ug/m3 standard to be achieved.

A 6 ug/m3 PM2.5 standard would avoid 700 premature deaths per year. The Summary for Policymakers from the Health Risk Assessment noted that decreasing average annual PM2.5 exposure to 6 μg/m3 would result in 540 fewer deaths every year in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth,  Brisbane & SE Qld, i.e. about 700 deaths per year for all Australia.  
   Tables A34 and A35 (below) show that implementing the identified pollution-control measures with greater benefits than costs (including the $20 to $24 billion of savings from woodsmoke control) would reduce average PM2.5 pollution to less than 6 ug/m3 and
 so save 700 lives per year. 

The NSW Government’s economic analysis of woodsmoke control options reported that the estimated health costs of woodsmoke in NSW amounted to over $8 billion[1] (about $24 billion for Australia as a whole), but that 3 highly cost effective measures could save at least 75% of the health costs, i.e. about $20 billion for all Australia.

1) Develop a new emissions test and health-based standard (set by experts with no financial interest in the wood heating industry) to replace the existing Australian "standard" that cannot be changed without the agreement of the wood heating industry and remove all existing heaters (that will not meet the health-based standard) when houses are offered for sale
2) A moratorium on the installation of new heaters, until models are available that meet the the health-based standard 
3) Licensing fees to cover the cost of wood smoke-reduction programs and assist people whose health or lifestyle has been affected by wood smoke.[1]

These measures are supported by the NSW Asthma Foundation, and the NSW Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant, who said wood heaters are so detrimental to health she supports banning and phasing them out in built-up urban areas.

Additional information on the amount of pollution from wood heaters that might help with an appeal to the Environment Ministers Meeting