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Promoting clean fuel, vehicle standards in West Africa


Air is good for healthy living. It sustains life and forms an important parameter for our survival. The air people breathe in goes a long way to determine the health status and the environment. A simple biology theory educates that for man’s continued existence, he must breathe in oxygen and send out carbon dioxide. Air composition comprises more than just these two essential elements.

The United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, Climate and Clean Air Coalition and Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Environment organised a Sub-Region seminar in Abuja for field experts from Benin, CoteDlvoire, Ghana, Togo, Mali and Nigeria to fashion out the need to adopt 50ppm as standard for sulphur fuels in ECOWAS countries.

The UNEP is partnering many countries in Africa on the adoption of cleaner fuels and vehicle standards as a means to improving air quality in 2002,Programme Management Officer, Jane Akomu disclosed at the workshop. “It is my great pleasure to be here today to participate in the meeting which is the follow-up to one held May 2015.”

The issue of regionally harmonized low sulphur standards, and in particular diesel fuels has been on for years. It will be recalled that UNEP played a role in a quest to totally eliminate leaded gasoline in the Sub-Saharan Africa region in 2005. Already, African cities are facing a rapid growth in vehicle fleet, and mainly used vehicles.

This fact, coupled with high sulphur fuel is a leading cause of small particulates (impact on health) and soot (black carbon) second most important climate pollutants. It is on record heavy-duty vehicles, trucks and buses produce these two pollutants. Low sulphur fuels are contributing significantly to reducing emissions from vehicles and engines.

“In 2014, WHO released that 7 million died annually as a result of air-related pollution. Its report in 2015, indicates that 94 percent of the population in Nigeria is exposed to air contamination levels (measured in PM 2.5) that exceeds WHO guidelines.

Similarly, the World Bank estimates that air pollution costs Nigeria about 1 per cent of Gross National Income, and a 2009 World Bank/African Refiners Association, ARA study on the Sub-Saharan Africa region, puts the cost of vehicle emissions at $43 billion per year.

Akumu, therefore, called for cost-effective measures to reduce car emissions through a combination of cleaner fuels and vehicle emission control technologies, saying, the developed countries are already have the low sulphur fuel standards, example European Union, EU, which has a maximum sulphur limit of 10 ppm.

“In Africa today, only 8 out of 54 countries have adopted low sulphur fuels. These nations include 5 East African Countries that adopted harmonised standards last year. Nigeria has always been in the forefront to promote cleaner fuels and vehicle standards,” she added.

It is hopeful that a resolution taken at the workshop will also make Nigeria and neighbouring countries to get set for the adoption of lower sulphur fuels in ECOWAS countries. There has been some progress in this direction in Nigeria over the years, at least from 3,000 ppm to 1000ppm.

This is a good move but not still enough for optimal health, vehicle engine life and environmental benefits, as the levels are still 100 times above Europe and Japan where the bulk of the cars in Africa come from.

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, was established in 2012 with Nigeria being one of the founding partners. It is meant to moderate these pollutants especially methane and black carbon and which have the potentials to slow down the warming expected by 2050.

Some stakeholders urge countries to develop sustainable transport road maps that would integrate efficient public transportation. According to them, they should have adequate infrastructure for walking and cycling, aimed at targeting cleaner fuels and low emission vehicle standards.

In her paper titled “A System’s Approach To Reducing Vehicle Emissions, Akumu maintained, stringent emission standards can reduce pollution by over 85 per cent. Diesel particulate filters are needed to meet Euro5 for light duty cars and EuroIV standards for heavy-duty vehicles.

To her, filters require diesel with sulphur content less than 50ppm,and as well as 10-ppm diesel for optimal performance. The reduction of carbon dioxide release does not help to mitigate climate change until 2050. Short-lived Climate Pollutants, SLCPs are agents that have relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere and have a warming influence on climate. They work on by lowering sulphur in diesel in Africa.

And in other cases, the paper states those cleaner vehicles are available but not the fuels (example Nigeria). From record, UNEP’s fuels sulphur target is 50ppm, below fuels and Euro4/IV. It promises to continue to support countries to develop long-term roadmap to reduce car discharge generally.

Transport affects everyone, everyday and the sector is a major contributor to air pollution and climate discharge. Its impact is increasing with an expected tripling of the global car fleet. The UNEP’s work on this is aimed at decoupling increased mobility from increased emission.”

To achieve this, it is partnering several leading global transport programmes in the areas such as fuel economy, small particulate pollution and infrastructure development to be implemented through public-private partnerships in the Sub-region.

“The India’s Supreme Court has approved a charge on light commercial vehicles and large trucks entering New Delhi to reduce pollution and chronic traffic in the city. Though is ranked the world’s worst air quality by WHO, an estimated 52,000 commercial cars enter the city daily, and only at night.”

It is expecting to have the world’s highest number of premature deaths due to air pollution by 2025 with nearly 32,000 fatalities. This points out to fact that the government authorities would start collecting extra charge of $11 on light cars and $20 on large trucks. Oil tankers, passenger buses, ambulances and trucks carrying foodstuffs are exempted from this.

Another speaker, Emmanuel K.E. Appoh of Ghana Environmental Protection Agency who dealt on “Sulphur Content In Fuels and Status of Air Quality Implications,” said they have a mandate to develop a comprehensive environmental quality database to guide formulation and implementation as well as prescribe guide lining standards and regulations for environmental management in the country.

Appoh disclosed, in Ghana, air pollution problems and road transport accounts for about 94 percent of freight and 97 percent of traffic movement respectively, noting that road transport demands were closely linked with economic development of the country.

“Increased road traffic over the past 10 years was due to rural-urban migration and it increases human population, Scio-economic status and high in road transportation and vehicular in Accra with 45 percent and Kumasi 17.9 percent, giving a total of 62.9 percent of Ghana fleet.”

Speaking in a similar vein, Prof. Oladele Osinbajo who presented a paper on “Harmful Effects of Sulphur in `fossil Fuels on the Environment,” hinted that fossils fuels production and their uses pose great significant environmental and human health challenges depending on their contents.

To Osinbajo, the level of sulphur in fuel affects vehicular release because cars and fuel form an integrated system that determines the quality and amount of emissions. Population growth and urbanization cause exponential increase in the importation of second hand cars and fossil fuels- petrol and diesel with high sulphur to meet the demand in the Sub-region.

In 2002,WHO recognizes poor quality vehicular discharge as a major cause of outdoor air pollution of about 800,000 deaths recorded annually in cities in developing countries. A recent study in Nigeria shows that there are high levels of sulphur in gasoline as follows: Petrol 40-178ppm,and Diesel 271-1555ppm when compared to 50ppm global limit for 2020.”

He warned that acid rain could cause deforestation and loss of biodiversity, at times damage crops and vegetation, and this also aggravates corrosion of roofs of houses, especially in the Niger Delta region.

“Phasing out high sulphur levels is environmentally beneficial with lower risk to human health from vehicular air pollution as it encourages use of cleaner fuels and cleaner efficient engines in ECOWAS countries.”

It is against this background that the importation of end of life cars and older vehicles that use high sulphur particulate should be discouraged as this has economic, environmental and health implications in the cities.  Motor vehicles shall not emit fumes that may affect the traffic safety or inconvenience to other road users.

For example, in Coted’lvoire, a fine of FCFA 150,000 is imposed on cars older than 10 years and additional 100,000 for every year. In Senegal, Togo, The Gambia charge amount of money on those driving smoked vehicles.

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