BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 26 December '16

West African countries ban Europe’s ‘dirty’ fuels

Five West African nations are banning ‘dirty’ European fuels – exported fuels with higher sulphur levels – in response to concerns over vehicle emissions and in an effort to bring safer, cleaner air to more than 250 million people.

Exploiting weak regulation

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire have introduced strict standards that will ensure cleaner, low-sulphur diesel fuels and better emissions standards, effectively cutting off Europe’s West African market.

Earlier this year, a report by the non-governmental organisation Public Eye exposed how European trading companies are exploiting weak regulatory standards in West African countries, allowing fuels with sulphur levels that are up to 300 times higher than those permitted in Europe.

Setting an example

Erik Solheim, head of UNEP, hailed the move as an example for other countries, noting that air pollution kills millions annually. ‘We need to ensure that all countries urgently introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles to help reduce the shocking statistics’, he said.

In addition to new fuel standards, the group of West African countries has agreed to upgrade their own public and private refineries to meet the same higher standards by 2020.

‘West Africa is sending a strong message that it is no longer accepting dirty fuels from Europe. Their decision to set strict new standards for cleaner, safer fuels and advanced vehicle emissions standards shows they are placing the health of their people first.’

ERIK SOLHEIM
Head of UNEP

Reducing emissions

UN Environment has been working with countries in West Africa to develop policies and standards that will stop the import of fuels with dangerously high levels of sulphur, and introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles.

Reducing such emissions around the world is essential to ensure levels of urban air pollution and climate emissions come down.

Combining low-sulphur fuels with advanced vehicle standards can lead to as much as a 90% reduction in harmful emissions.

‘For 20 years, Nigeria has not been able to address the vehicle pollution crisis due to the poor fuels we have been importing. Today we are taking a huge leap forward: limiting sulphur in fuels from 3,000 parts per million to 50 parts per million. This will result in major air quality benefits in our cities and will allow us to set modern vehicle standards.’

AMINA J. MOHAMED
Nigeria’s Environment Minister

Low-sulphur fuels

UNEP hosts the Secretariat of the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV), a global public-private partnership that supports a shift to cleaner fuels and vehicles worldwide.

When PCFV began its work in 2005, not a single low or middle income country used low sulphur fuels. Today, 23 countries have made that shift. Another 40 are on their way to doing the same.

In addition, UNEP is hosting the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which recently adopted a global strategy for moving the world to clean, low-sulphur fuels and advanced emissions standards. Experts estimate that this measure will save an annual 100,000 premature deaths by 2030.

Click here to find out more about the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.