West Africa escalates climate fight with new rules on used fuels and cars

West Africa escalates climate fight with new rules on used fuels and cars

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African leaders are taking a big step forward in vehicle emissions, contributing to chronically poor air quality and carbon emissions in some of the world's fastest growing cities, and are taking a two-pronged approach to reach your objectives.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a regional governing body representing 15 nations, including the coasts of Nigeria and Ghana, as well as Sahelian countries such as Mali and Niger. ECOWAS has just approved new fuel standards to bring them in line with Europe, while limiting the age of used vehicles that the developed world has dumped on the African continent for far too long.

Vehicles first: India's Center for Science and Environment warned two years ago that 80 to 90 percent of vehicles on African roads were old imports with outdated fuel efficiency and emissions standards. Cars come from Europe, the United States, and Japan, while commercial vehicles come mainly from China, Japan, and now India.

Outdated vehicles pose risks to public health, but they also threaten the ability of individual nations and the global community to meet carbon emission reductions in the fight against climate change. Transportation accounts for 24 percent of all CO2 emissions from fuel combustion, according to the International Energy Agency, and three-quarters of that comes from road vehicles.

Efforts to make new vehicles in African nations, such as Volkswagen's EV programs, are still relatively new; Meanwhile, the number of cheap used vehicles continues to grow, and on the African continent, where auto loans are more difficult to access, they continue to proliferate and pollute.

From now on, ECOWAS will limit the age of imports to 5 years for light vehicles and 10 for heavy vehicles, with a window of one decade for member countries to comply with the regional standard.

While countries such as Egypt, Uganda, and South Africa have age-related bans or total imports of used vehicles, about half of the continent's nations had no ban or still allowed vehicles older than eight years, making this decision for 15 West African countries it will have a real impact.

However, with vehicles, comes fuels, and West Africa has been the target of lower-quality fuels shipped from Europe that do not meet EU standards. A 2018 report by the ILT in the Netherlands, the country's environment and transport agency, looked at oil tankers delivering highway fuel to West Africa, and in some samples they found 300 times more sulfur and twice the carcinogenic hydrocarbons that the EU allows. A similar report by the Swiss NGO Public Eye alleged that European companies intentionally sold “African grade” fuels to maximize profits and take advantage of the weaker regulatory environment on the continent.

The United Nations Environment Program has been working with African regional bodies to establish stricter standards (in 2017, only two countries were known to meet or exceed the Euro III standard) and now ECOWAS has adopted the Euro IV standard for vehicle emissions. .

The ECOWAS decision is a major step forward for nations struggling to meet their climate and air quality goals, and yet another reminder that Africans no longer want the West to dump their low-quality fuels and junk vehicles. In their backyards.

Author: Laureen Fagan

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