84 of 86 countries use lead-free petrol: UN Environment

12th Global Partners’ Meeting
Representative Image

PARIS: According to UN Environment’s recent press release, the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV) held its 12th Global Partners’ Meeting in March 2019 in Paris, France, to discuss progress towards cleaner transport in developing and transitional countries.

Almost two decades since the partnership was established, the partners’ resolve to promote cleaner fuels and vehicles in low-income and middle-income countries remains strong. Close to 40 partners from the oil and vehicles industry, academia, civil society, and developing and developed countries met to review progress since 2016 in three areas: the elimination of lead in petrol, reduction of sulphur levels in fuel, and the adoption of vehicle emission standards.

Over the years, the partnership has reached several key milestones, including the elimination of leaded petrol in 84 out of 86 countries. The two remaining leaded countries have also progressively introduced unleaded petrol. In addition to this, 36 countries have switched to low and ultra-low sulphur fuels and 15 countries adopted Euro IV equivalent vehicle emissions standards. Despite the acknowledgment that good progress has been made, the work remains far from over.  

Many low-income and middle-income countries still grapple with inadequate fuel and vehicles regulatory standards. According to the Public Eye Report, several West African countries unknowingly import fuels with sulphur levels as high as 10,000 ppm from Europe, posing a major public health risk.

The lack of adequate regulation on the importation of used vehicles further complicates the issue. Poor regulation of used vehicle imports in developing countries opens the market to an influx of vehicles that lack the latest technologies required to limit the emission of harmful pollutants. Old, outdated vehicles running on toxic fuel are a perfect recipe for harmful emissions resulting in deteriorating air quality, particularly in urban areas. It is for this reason that the partnership resolved to continue focusing on the three campaigns of the PCFV: eliminate lead in petrol worldwide, reduce sulphur levels in fuels, and promote cleaner vehicle standards.

As part of these three campaigns, new areas of interest for the partnership were highlighted through the findings of two working groups formed at the last global meeting, held in 2016. The groups worked on the topics of lubricants and used vehicles. From the working group on lubricants, Rich Kassel emphasised that as countries continued to introduce cleaner fuels and vehicle standards, it is important that, “the right lubricants are used for the right vehicles”. He stated that the right lubricants, play an important role in reducing vehicle emissions. Mike Walsh presented the report of the used vehicles working group, proposing that used vehicle importing and exporting countries should consider sustainable strategies for improved safety, better fuel economy and vehicle emission standards.

It was noted that apart from the work of the partnership, there are other initiatives and programmes that complement the goals of the partnership. The Real Urban Emissions (TRUE) initiative by the FIA Foundation and other partners is one such initiative. It aims to collect and publish real-world emissions data to raise awareness about the magnitude and extent of vehicle emissions exceeding the set limits. This is important, as some of the preliminary findings of on-road vehicle emission testing in developed countries found out that some vehicles were emitting 15–30 times more pollutants than is permitted.

The initiative supports city efforts towards effective policy formulation and consumer awareness by providing them with transparent emissions data. Among other programmes identified were the Global Fuel Economy Initiative which promotes vehicle fuel efficiency; the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) that supports reduction of short-lived climate pollutants; UN Environment’s Electric Mobility Programme; and Towards Zero Foundation that is supporting a campaign on zero fatalities and zero emissions. Partners agreed to continue to link the work of the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles with other programmes that promote its goals.

In the coming years, the partnership will focus on regional harmonization of clean fuels and vehicle standards.

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