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When world leaders attend the landmark United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland in a few weeks, they will be transported in electric vehicles – a reminder that the transport sector has a critical role to play in reducing emissions. greenhouse gas emissions. .

While many developed countries have pledged to phase out gasoline and diesel vehicles over the next two decades, the transition will be more complicated in developing countries, where older cars imported from Europe, Japan and the states United are often the only affordable option.

Many of these used cars emit dangerous fumes, exposing people to high levels of air pollution, and they are often not roadworthy, resulting in more accidents and fatalities.

Rob de Jong, head of the Sustainable Mobility Unit at the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), says there is no way the world will meet its zero-emission targets under the Paris Agreement on climate change unless efforts are made to regulate Used Car Commerce. This is a point he plans to make at the next climate summit, known as COP26.

“Over the years, as the demand for affordable used cars has increased in developing countries, we have seen an increase in exports of polluting and obsolete vehicles from developed countries. These issues are all interconnected. If we want the global fleet to go electric, this issue needs to be tackled within that, ”he said.

Below standard

Globally, the transportation sector is responsible for almost a quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. Vehicle emissions are also a major source of fine particles and nitrogen oxides which are major causes of urban air pollution.

Many exported used cars would not meet the safety or emissions standards of their country of origin, with some even lacking key parts or safety features, such as air filters. Ideally, these vehicles will be phased out quickly as part of the global transition to electric mobility, but, in the meantime, experts believe trade needs to be regulated, not least because the global fleet will double by 2050, to around 90%. of vehicles this growth is taking place in low- and middle-income countries.

UNEP has a long history of working with partners to strengthen regulations in importing countries while urging developed countries to stop exporting vehicles that fail environmental and safety inspections.

In a landmark report last October, UNEP found that the three largest exporters of used vehicles – the European Union, Japan and the United States – exported 14 million used light vehicles to the world. between 2015 and 2018.

Of the 146 countries studied in the report, about two-thirds have “weak” or “very weak” policies regulating the import of used vehicles. The report called for harmonized regulations at global and regional levels to “ensure that used vehicles significantly contribute to the transition to cleaner, safer and affordable mobility”. This could especially happen if low-emission and zero-emission second-hand vehicles are promoted as an affordable way for developing countries to access advanced technologies.

Set new standards

UNEP and partners worked with African countries to develop new standards, assisted by the United Nations Road Safety Fund, chaired by United Nations Special Envoy for Road Safety Jean Todt, also President of the Federation. international automotive industry.

This work has already borne fruit in West Africa, where the Economic Community of West African States last year adopted a comprehensive set of regulations for the introduction of cleaner fuels and vehicles. . These standards came into effect in January of this year.

Now efforts are underway to introduce similar rules in East Africa, de Jong said, and South Africa has launched a consultation process on harmonized standards.

“I am very optimistic that in less than five years we will be able to have harmonized standards across Africa, and in less than eight years we will be able to see the whole world introduce these minimum standards, with a few countries, said, noting that action must also be taken at the other end of the supply chain.

“Exporters must also take their responsibilities. If a vehicle is no longer roadworthy in a European country, you should not export it, whether or not there are regulations in the importing country. He said.

The advantage of going green

There are also advantages for developed countries. Instead of exporting old polluting vehicles, states could send them to recycling centers, creating jobs and building a circular system that delivers recycled raw materials to automakers. And, as supply to developing countries shrinks, prices will increase, providing a financial incentive for developing countries to increase their own productive capacity and laying the groundwork for an eventual transition to cleaner transport systems.

Clear policies also stimulate private innovation and progress.

Mark Carney, the United Nations special envoy for climate and finance, noted that the moratoriums on internal combustion engines in the European Union and the United Kingdom after 2030 mean that the industry can move forward now and bring the necessary changes.

“This is exactly where the financial sector is most powerful. Because what the financial sector will not do is wait until 2030 to adapt. He will start to adjust now. It will give money, investments and loans to businesses intending to thrive in these environments, ”he said.

As with all environmental challenges, success will only be achieved through global cooperation.

“It doesn’t matter whether the climate emissions are emitted in the Netherlands or Kenya. They count for global emissions and these must reach zero for the global vehicle fleet by 2050, ”said de Jong. “With climate change, you can’t eliminate a problem. It is still a problem. “

UN Environment


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