Millions of used automobiles exported to developing countries from the US, Europe and Japan are of poor quality and contribute significantly to air pollution, according to a new UN report.
Around 80% of the 14 million used light commercial vehicles – sedans, SUVs and minibuses – exported between 2015 and 2018 went to low- and middle-income countries. About 40% went to Africa, found the report published by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
The EU is the largest exporter of used vehicles, sending 7.5 million mainly to North and West Africa.
However, the age and poor quality of vehicles are hampering efforts to contain the climate crisis, the report said. Vehicles contribute significantly to air pollution and climate change. The transport sector is responsible for almost a quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Vehicle emissions, in particular, are a major source of particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are the main causes of air pollution in cities.
The report found that two-thirds of the 146 countries surveyed had “weak” or “very weak” policies regulating used vehicle imports. There are currently no regional or global agreements on the trade in used vehicles. A total of 100 countries had no vehicle emissions standards.
Nigeria, which according to the report had “very weak” regulatory policies, imported 238,760 vehicles in 2018, which is 16% of total imports. In 2016, the southern city of Onitsha was named the most polluted city in the world – including the inferior diesel from cars and trucks.
“The lack of effective standards and regulations means that old, environmentally harmful and unsafe vehicles are disposed of,” said Inger Andersen, Managing Director of Unep. “Developed countries must stop exporting vehicles that fail environmental and safety inspections and are no longer considered ready to drive in their own countries, while importing countries should introduce stricter quality standards,” she said.
“Cleaning up the global vehicle fleet is a priority to meet global and local air quality and climate goals. Over the years, industrialized countries have increasingly exported their used vehicles to developing countries [and] Since this is largely unregulated, this has become an export of environmentally harmful vehicles. “
Many African countries are taking steps to counter the problem. In February, 15 energy ministers from the Economic Community of West African States, Ecowas, met to approve regulations aimed at moving the region to cleaner fuels and vehicles.
A recommended maximum age for used cars has been set at five years. The new rules could be implemented within 10 years.
Although Kenya put strict air pollution regulations in place in 2014, authorities say traffic emissions remain the leading cause of air pollution in the country’s major cities.
Mamo B Mamo, head of the country’s national environmental management agency, said the problem was exacerbated by imports of used vehicles. “Although we took an active part in it [the] The challenge is to withdraw leaded fuels and limit the sulfur content of the fuel to 50 ppm. This is fuel adulteration and a poorly maintained public transportation system.
“While we need to expand, improve and promote an efficient public transport system, we also need to promote non-motorized transport infrastructures such as bike lanes on new roads and create car-free areas in our urban centers,” said Mamo.
The report states that, in addition to air pollution, used vehicles are more likely to cause fatal accidents or serious injuries due to mechanical and safety deficiencies. Africa has the highest road death rates, recording more than 240,000 deaths annually.