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Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves contribute about a quarter of all fine particulate matter released in Metro Vancouver.

Metro Vancouver considers new regulations for wood-burning

Wood-burning has become the largest single source of emissions in the region.

By Ibrahim Daair , in City Environment , on December 30, 2019

Metro Vancouver is moving towards banning most wood-burning in the region by 2025.

The region’s staff estimate there are roughly 100,000 fireplaces and stoves in regular use across the region.

In her report to Metro Vancouver’s climate-action committee, air-quality planner Julie Saxton said residential wood-burning contributed more than a quarter of annual emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the

Wood-burning fireplaces release dangerous emissions into the air.

region. That is more than three times the emissions created by cars.

That’s something that local researchers say is a real environmental problem.

“It might surprise people to learn that one of the biggest sources of pollution in our region at this time of the year is fireplaces,” said Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of B.C.’s School of Population and Public Health.

Many pollution-emitting technologies have become more efficient in recent decades.

“But a fireplace today is really no different than a fireplace 300 years ago. So even though there is not a lot of them being used they have a significant impact” Brauer said.

The health impacts are also significant, says another researcher.

“PM2.5 is strongly correlated with a whole host of negative health outcomes ranging from strokes, chronic respiratory disease, asthma, and various cancers,” said Naomi Zimmerman, director of the UBC iREACH Lab, which investigates energy, air, climate and health connections.

Metro Vancouver has been trying to regulate wood-burning emissions for decades, but the process has been slow.

The new report proposes  allowing residents in remote locations to continue wood-burning during the summer months. It also suggests permitting certain wood-burning appliances to be certified as long as they are used with manufactured fire logs instead of cordwood.

Committee members were supportive of the proposals, except for Lions Bay Coun. Neville Abbot, who said it would be unreasonable to forbid residents of the village from burning wood.

He told the committee that switching to other heating methods would bring financial hardship to many residents. He requested that Lions Bay be exempted from any bylaws regulating wood-burning.

However, committee chair Adriane Carr, a Vancouver councillor, said that exempting Lions Bay could incentivize other areas to demand equal exemptions.

The committee directed planning staff  to bring forward a proposed bylaw to manage emissions throughout the region. They are set to vote on the bylaw next year before moving to Metro Vancouver’s board for final approval.