Michael Gove, the environment secretary, is due to confirm plans to ban the sale of the most-polluting fuels for domestic wood burners in an attempt to cut harmful emissions.
The sale of traditional house coal will be phased out under proposals set out in the government’s draft clean air strategy in May, which are expected to be confirmed by Gove’s department on Friday.
Restrictions are also expected to be placed on the sale of wet wood, particularly in urban areas. Burning wood before it has been properly dried releases more of the damaging particulates that contribute to air pollution.
The government will also tighten standards on solid fuels, forcing manufacturers to cut down on sulphur emissions and ensure only the cleanest stoves are sold.
The government believes the proposals will prevent 8,000 tonnes of harmful particulates entering the atmosphere each year.
The clean air strategy is a response to an EU directive on cutting harmful emissions. As well as stricter rules on wood burning, it included separate plans to reduce emissions of ammonia from farms and dust from vehicle tyres and brakes.
When the draft clean air strategy was published in May, Labour described it as “hugely disappointing”.
The health costs of toxic air are estimated at £20bn a year by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
The new rules are the latest example of Gove’s interventionist approach to tackling environmental challenges, which has included proposed bans on cotton buds and plastic straws.
The environment secretary’s attempt to restrict the use of polluting fuels were recently ridiculed by Liz Truss, the chief secretary to the Treasury, who joked in a speech about regulations on “wood-burning Goves”.
Truss, who co-founded the liberal Tory thinktank Freer, said: “Government’s role should not be to tell us what our tastes should be. Too often we’re hearing about not drinking too much, eating too many doughnuts, drinking from disposable cups through plastic straws or enjoying the warm glow of our wood-burning Goves – I mean stoves.
“I can see their point: there’s enough hot air and smoke at the environment department already.”
The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, has suggested that he could go further than Gove and ban wood-burning stoves altogether in the capital.
Areeba Hamid, of Greenpeace’s clean air campaign, said: “Limiting the use of wood-burning stoves will help reduce harmful particulate pollution but it is only one part of solving the air pollution crisis.
“Transport, in particular diesel vehicles, is responsible for the majority of air pollution on our streets and unless they are tackled as a priority, we cannot expect dramatic improvements in the UK’s air quality.”
She called for the introduction of clean air zones across the country and the phasing out of the internal combustion engine by 2030.
Gove, who campaigned for Brexit in the 2016 referendum, has repeatedly insisted that leaving the EU will not mean dismantling Britain’s environmental standards.
Unlike his pro-leave colleagues David Davis and Boris Johnson, he has chosen to accept Theresa May’s Chequers strategy. Gove has staunchly defended the prime minister’s approach, which proposes a “common rulebook” for key export industries, including agrifoods.