Cleaning Up Their Act: The English Ban on Coal and Green Wood


Photo by Felix Mittermeier from Pexels

Navaneeth Rajan, Online Features Editor

Recently, England’s Parliament ruled to phase out the sale and usage of coal and green wood over the course of the upcoming year. While the damaging effects of coal on human health and air pollution have been historically well-documented, the choice to also ban green wood, otherwise known as wet wood or unseasoned wood, may come as a surprise to many who consider burning wood a relatively innocuous source of heat and energy, especially in comparison to fossil fuels like natural gas and oil.

Green wood is wood with a water content of over 20%, typically sold in the form of fresh, undried lumber. Scientific studies have shown that the added moisture corresponds to an increased risk of heart disease and lung cancer, in addition to excess production of soot and smoke. Together, coal and green smoke are England’s largest constituents of air pollution, not to mention their adverse effects on health, and while they are only used by 8% of England’s population, they make up 38% of England’s emissions, meaning a ban is long overdue.

As sophomore Peter Ryan, a member of both EnAct and the Energy Climate Scholars, stated: “England’s move to cease the sale of these pollutants is a major step towards neutralizing global carbon emissions, and a major wake-up call for England’s foreign policy to incite global change. The only issue is a potential economic downturn caused by the ban, but I believe England will be able to recover due to the growing prevalence of the clean energy sector.”

Still, with major European industrial powerhouses like Germany currently in the process of shutting down their nuclear power plants and renewable energy making up only a minuscule portion of net energy usage for most nations, the future of clean air remains hazy, both in Europe and globally.

Works Cited

  • Guardian Staff. “House Coal and Wet Wood to Be Phased out by 2023 to Cut Pollution.” The Guardian, The Guardian, 21 Feb. 2020,
  • Jonathan, Watts. “Coal and Wet Wood Burning: How Will Restrictions Work?” The Guardian, The Guardian, 21 Feb. 2020,
  • Justin, Rowlett. “Wood Burners: Sale of Coal and Wet Wood Restricted in England.” BBC News, BBC News, 30 Apr. 2021,