Denmark’s fireplaces pollute more than cars: report

Denmark’s 750,000 fireplaces pollute the air more than anything else in the country, according to a new study.

Denmark’s fireplaces pollute more than cars: report
Photo: Iris/Scanpix

Hygge in front of the fireplace may be a cornerstone of the Danish stereotype, but it’s more of a health hazard than many realise.

Experts say that the 750,000 fireplaces in Denmark are the country’s biggest polluter, reports the Berlingske newspaper, citing a report by the National Centre for the Environment and Energy (Nationalt Center for Miljø og Energi, DCE).

Copenhagen itself only has 16,000 fireplaces, shared between 600,000 residents of the capital city’s municipality.

But the city's fireplaces emit as many fine particles during the months of September through May as the entire amount produced by the capital’s traffic all year round.

For Denmark as a whole, the numbers look even worse, with fireplaces responsible for 65 percent of all harmful emissions in the country.

Fine particles emitted by fireplaces can have harmful health consequences, causing up to 550 deaths per year, according to DCE.

Department of Environmental Science senior advisor Helge Rørdam Olesen told Berlingske that many Danes are unaware of the amount of pollution they are exposed to.

“When people use fireplaces heavily in neighbourhoods with high concentrations of fires, particle concentrations can be as high as those in traffic-heavy streets with peak pollution,” he said.

Many Danes are also not aware of the damaging effects on the environment associated with fireplace use, according to Kåre Press-Kristensen of the Danish Ecological Council (Det Økologiske Råd).

“The media and politicians are highly focused on diesel cars, which are also a problem although they have got better. We have overlooked fireplaces just because they live a quiet life on Mr. and Mrs. Denmark’s private property,” he told Berlingske.

READ ALSO: EU breathes down Denmark's neck over bad air quality


‘We still have a chance’: Danish minister’s relief after Glasgow climate deal

Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen has expressed relief that a meaningful climate change deal was struck in Glasgow last night, after a last minute move by India and China nearly knocked it off course.

'We still have a chance': Danish minister's relief after Glasgow climate deal
Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen speaks at the announcement of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance in Glasgow on Tuesday. Photo: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

“For the first time ever, coal and fossil fuel subsidies have been mentioned. I’m very, very happy about that,” he told Denmark’s Politiken newspaper. “But I am also very disappointed that the stronger formulations were removed at the last minute.” 

Late on Saturday, the world’s countries agreed the Glasgow Climate Pact, after negotiations dragged on while governments haggled over phasing out coal. 

Denmark is one of the countries leading the phase out of fossil fuels, formally launching the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) with ten other countries and states at the Glasgow summit on Tuesday, announcing an end to oil exploration last December, and committing to phase out coal by 2030 back in 2017. 

Jørgensen conceded that the deal struck on Saturday was nowhere near far-reaching enough to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C, which scientists have estimated is critical to limiting the impacts of climate change, but he said the decision to hold another summit in Egypt next year meant that this goal could still be reached. 

“The big, good news is that we could have closed the door today. If we had followed the rules, we would only have had to update the climate plans in 2025, and the updates would only apply from 2030,” he said, adding that this would be too late. “Now we can fight on as early as next year. This is very rare under the auspices of the UN.” 

Limiting temperature rises to 1.5C was still possible, he said. 

“We have a chance. The framework is in place to make the right decisions. There was a risk that that framework would not be there.” 

Jørgensen said that he had come close to tears when India launched a last-minute bid to water down the language when it came to coal, putting the entire deal at risk. 

“It was all really about to fall to the ground,” he said. “The assessment was that either the Indians got that concession or there was no agreement.” 

Sebastian Mernild, a climate researcher at the University of Southern Denmark, said he was disappointed by the lack of binding targets and global deadlines in the plan, but said it was nonetheless “a step in the right direction”, particularly the requirement that signatories to the Paris Agreement must tighten their 2030 emissions reduction targets by the end of 2022.

“It’s good that this thing with fossil fuels has got in,” he added. “It’s a pity that you don’t have to phase them out, but only reduce.”

He said the test of whether the Glasgow meeting is a success or failure would not come until the various aspects of the plan are approved and implemented by members states.