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With a population of close to 400 million people, the West African region has one of the fastest growing vehicle fleets in the world. As in most African countries, the bulk of vehicle imports into the region consists mainly of used vehicles. Regulation to restrict the quality of cars being imported into the region is weak. This, coupled with poor fuel quality, is one of the leading cause of increasing levels of air pollution in cities in the region, with the population suffering the effects of breathing toxic fumes. Children, who walk to schools alongside busy roads, and informal vendors along these roads are most at risk of the health effects of these toxic fumes. In 2016, the World Health Organization named Onitsha – a city in Nigeria, as the world’s most polluted city in terms of harmful small particles (PM10).
In a major step to reducing air pollution and climate emissions in the region, the environment and energy ministers of all the 15 countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), met on 6 - 7 February 2020 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and adopted a comprehensive set of regulations for introducing cleaner fuels and vehicles in the region.
The high level ministerial meeting was organized by the ECOWAS Commission with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other partners. The regulations adopted by the ministers were a culmination of several years of work by UNEP towards improving the standards of fuels and vehicles in the region.
The specific regulations adopted by the ministers on cleaner fuels and vehicles are:
These decisions will now go to a Council of Ministers meeting taking place in June 2020, for formal adoption. Once adopted, the legally-binding decisions will become effective on 1 January 2021 at the latest.
“We are very pleased to see the results of a process that took several years,” says Jane Akumu, UNEP expert in clean clean fuels and vehicles. “UNEP supported 11 out of 15 Economic Community of West African States member countries with individual projects and worked closely with the ECOWAS Commission to develop this clean fuels and vehicles regulations."
Several partner organizations and non-governmental organizations also supported the process. This work is part of Climate and Clean Air Coalition's work and UNEP-led global programmes—the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, the Global Fuel Economy Initiative, and the Electric Mobility Programme.
This is not the end of the process, as several countries are now requesting for implementation support to for example, help to draft national fuel and vehicle standards, or to implement the fuel economy roadmap and introduce electric mobility.
“We plan to continue our work in the region and support countries in the implementation of the decisions,” says Akumu. “Ultimately, the use of clean fuels and vehicles is not only an energy or environmental issue. It is a health issue for the millions of people who live in and around the region’s major cities.”
This story first appeared on UNEP's website here.
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