Wed. Nov 4th, 2020

By Vatican News staff writer

A new United Nations study has revealed that used vehicles exported by developed countries to developing countries are contributing significantly to air pollution and hindering efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.  Millions of used cars, vans and minibuses exported from Europe, the USA and Japan to low and middle-income countries are greatly compromising air quality says the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in a new report released on October 26.

Entitled, “Used Vehicles and the Environment – A Global Overview of Used Light Duty Vehicles: Flow, Scale and Regulation”, the research says that these vehicles not only contribute to air pollution but are often involved in road accidents,.  Many of these vehicles are of poor quality and would fail road-worthiness tests in the exporting countries.

Most used vehicles exported to Africa

The report shows that between 2015 and 2018, 14 million used light-duty vehicles were exported worldwide.  Some 80 per cent went to low and middle-income countries, with more than half going to Africa.  The European Union was the largest exporter of used vehicles during this period, accounting for 54% of the total, followed by Japan with 27% and the United States with 18%.

The major destinations for used vehicles from the EU are West and North Africa; Japan exports mainly to Asia and East and Southern Africa while the USA market is mainly the Middle East and Central America. 

Seventy per cent of exported light duty vehicles head to developing countries. Africa imported the largest number (40 per cent) in the period studied followed by Eastern Europe (24 per cent), Asia-Pacific (15 per cent), the Middle East (12 per cent) and Latin America (nine per cent).

Lax or no policies for import of used cars

The study, which is the first of its kind, notes that most developing countries have limited or no regulations governing the quality and safety of imported second-hand vehicles while few governments have adopted advanced emissions standards.  Most developing markets today are importing vehicles that would not be allowed to circulate on the exporting country’s roads. At the same time, few developed countries have restrictions on the export of used vehicles.

The report on global trade in used vehicles notes that some states are taking steps to address the problem.  A group of West African countries are about to introduce minimum requirements for used vehicles from 2021, primarily involving cleaner fuels and a maximum age for any used car, SUV or minibus sold.

Out of the 146 countries surveyed in the report, some two-thirds of them have ‘weak’ or ‘very weak’ policies to regulate the import of used vehicles.  The study shows that in countries where measures to regulate import of used vehicles are implemented – notable age and emission standards – people access high-quality used vehicles, including hybrid and electric cars, at affordable prices.  Morocco is one such country that allows only relatively advanced and clean used vehicles from Europe.

Impact of burgeoning global vehicle fleet

UNEP notes that 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 the 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,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.  “The lack of effective standards and regulation,” she pointed out, “is resulting in the dumping of old, polluting and unsafe vehicles.”  “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,” Andersen added. 

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