Canberra Government to phase out wood-burning stoves by 2045

It began with a complaint by a member of the local community, relating to the Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA’s) response to reports of excessive and potentially toxic smoke from a domestic wood fire heater in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

The Office of the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainability (OCSE) investigated the complaint and identified ‘potentially system-wide problems in the regulation of wood fire heater pollution.’

This prompted a thorough investigation by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment who published their findings in March. They observed that from 2017–2019, air pollution complaints to the EPA were dominated by smoke from wood heaters and controlled burns: They concluded that ‘current policies, plans and strategies for managing wood heaters in the ACT are insufficient.’ 

The report ended with eight recommendations, the first of which was:

Phase out wood heaters from ACT suburbs through the establishment of a target date for the replacement of wood heaters with electric alternatives in all ACT suburbs (excluding rural areas), as has been done for fossil-fuel gas. This should be supported through accessible financial support for lower income households.

The Government of the ACT has now responded to the recommendations and have agreed to go along with a gradual phase out by 2045.

Minister for the Environment, Rebecca Vassarotti, said: ‘Clean air is fundamental for a healthy environment. While we generally have favourable air quality in Canberra, experts agree there is no safe level of exposure to particulate matter in air pollution.

‘I appreciate many Canberrans grew up with woodfired heaters and they offer nostalgic charm and comfort. However, we need to confront the reality that the smoke they emit is a direct source of pollution in our homes, a clear and present danger to the well-being of our community in urban and suburban areas, and a looming threat to our natural environment.  

‘Wood heaters are already prohibited in many new development areas where planning studies show that they would have an adverse impact on air quality.  

‘The Government will now begin work on a plan for phasing-out wood heaters in all suburbs (excluding rural areas) in line with our ‘pathway to electrification’, to transition away from fossil fuel gas by 2045. 

‘Part of the plan will be considering appropriate support for the community to ensure this phase-out of wood heaters is part of a just transition approach to electrifying our city.  

‘We are aware that high costs of living are placing financial stress on many and the Government will incorporate this consideration into our next steps to ensure we can best support the community in the phase-out process. 

The ACT Government already offers incentives for people to replace outdated gas or wood heaters with electric alternatives through a Wood Heater Replacement Program and a Sustainable Household Scheme.

Ms Vassarotti added: ‘Work is already underway to trial ways to better tailor the Wood Heater Replacement Program to more effectively support households on low incomes.’

When the news was reported, Clean Air Australia used Twitter to comment: ‘This is great. But needs to be Australia wide and include a phase out program for all wood heaters and an immediate ban on glorified ash trays (Aka firepits).’



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10 months ago

Sounds great – until you see the date. 2045? That’s over 20 years away – how many adults (& chidlren?) in Canberra will suffer a painful early death and how many more infants will be born and grow up with stunted lungs and damaged bodies & brains all because of this pollution? Why only a “gradual” phase-out? Is this not urgent?

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