Millions of used cars, vans, and minibusses exported from Europe, the US, 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, a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said on Monday. The report shows that between 2015 and 2018, 14 million used light-duty vehicles were exported worldwide. Some 80 percent 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 fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) that are major causes of urban air pollution.
“Cleaning up the global vehicle fleet is a priority to meet global and local air quality and climate targets,” UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said.
“Over the years, developed countries have increasingly exported their used vehicles to developing countries; because this largely happens unregulated, this has become the export of polluting vehicles.”
“The lack of effective standards and regulation is resulting in the dumping of old, polluting and unsafe vehicles,” she added.
“Developed countries must stop exporting vehicles that fail environment and safety inspections and are no longer considered roadworthy in their own countries while importing countries should introduce stronger quality standards.”
The report, based on an in-depth analysis of 146 countries, found that some two-thirds of them have ‘weak’ or ‘very weak’ policies to regulate the import of used vehicles.
For example, 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 percent) in the period studied, followed by countries in Eastern Europe (24 percent), Asia-Pacific (15 percent), the Middle East (12 percent) and Latin America (nine percent).
Through its ports, the Netherlands is one of the exporters of used vehicles from Europe.
A recent review conducted by the Netherlands of its exports found that most of these vehicles did not have a valid roadworthiness certificate at the time of export.
Most vehicles were between 16 and 20 years old, and most fell below EURO4 European Union vehicles emission standards.
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.
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