Millions of used cars, vans and minibuses exported from Europe, the United States and Japan to the developing world are of poor quality, contributing significantly to air pollution and hindering efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
The report shows that between 2015 and 2018, 14 million used light-duty vehicles were exported worldwide. Some 80 per cent went to low- and middle-income countries, with more than half going to Africa.
Used Vehicles and the Environment – A Global Overview of Used Light Duty Vehicles: Flow, Scale and Regulation, the first-ever report of its kind, calls for action to fill the current policy vacuum with the adoption of harmonized minimum quality standards that will ensure used vehicles contribute to cleaner, safer fleets in importing countries.
The fast-growing global vehicle fleet is a major contributor to air pollution and climate change; globally, the transport sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of energy-related global greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, vehicle emissions are a significant source of the fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) that are major causes of urban air pollution.
The report, based on an in-depth analysis of 146 countries,
Morocco only permits the import of vehicles less than five years old and those meeting the EURO4 European vehicles emission standard; as a result, it receives only relatively advanced and clean used vehicles from Europe.
The report found that African countries imported the largest number of used vehicles (40 per cent) in the period studied
For example, the average age of used vehicles exported to the Gambia was close to 19 years old, while a quarter of used vehicles exported to Nigeria were almost 20 years old.
Poor quality used vehicles also lead to more road accidents. According to the report Malawi, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Burundi, also have very high road traffic death rates. Countries that have introduced used vehicles regulations also see safer fleets and fewer accidents.
“The impact of old polluting vehicles is clear. Air quality data in Accra confirms that transport is the main source of air pollution in our cities. This is why Ghana is prioritizing cleaner fuels and vehicle standards, as well as electric bus opportunities. Ghana was the first country in the West Africa region to shift to low sulphur fuels and this month has imposed a 10-year age limit for used vehicle imports,” said Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Ghana’s Minister for Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation.
Last month, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) set cleaner fuels and vehicle standards from January 2021. ECOWAS members also encouraged the introduction of age limits for used vehicles.