Air quality in winter

The UK is now well into winter and, as shown by historical records and real-time measurements, levels of outdoor air pollutants are highest in this season. This may not come as a surprise; the emissions that are fed into the air are generally higher during winter than any other season with our demand for heat and power reaching its peak. We are still a long way from meeting this demand using renewable energy sources alone, so combustion of fuel tends to peak in this season.

In recent years, the use of domestic wood burning stoves and open fires has increased. Carbon is stored in wood for extremely short periods when compared with the carbon stored in fossil fuels. When wood is burned, the carbon used only relatively recently by the growing plants is returned to the air. Whereas when coal is burned, the carbon released into the air was originally removed millions of years ago. Burning wood, rather than fossil fuels, can therefore be good for our climate but bad for local air quality. Defra’s 2019 Clean Air Strategy quoted studies that show that wood burning in London contributes over 30% of the total emissions of small particles.

RPS is a leading global professional services firm. They work across six sectors: property, energy, transport, water, resources, defence and government services. Gresham House Strategic PLC (LON:GHS) has a holding in RPS plc.

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