“very weak” policies regulating the import of used vehicles. The report called for harmonized regulations at a global and regional level to “ensure used vehicles make meaningful contributions to shifting to cleaner, safer, and affordable mobility.” This could notably happen if used low- and no-emissions vehicles are promoted as an affordable way for developing countries to access advanced technologies.
Setting new standards
UNEP and its partners have worked with African countries to draw up new standards, helped by the UN Road Safety Fund, which is chaired by the UN Special Envoy for Road Safety Jean Todt, who is also president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile.
This work has already paid off in West Africa, where the Economic Community of West African States last year adopted a comprehensive set of regulations for introducing cleaner fuels and vehicles. Those standards came into effect in January this year.
Now, efforts are underway to introduce similar rules in East Africa, de Jong said, and South Africa has started a consultation process on harmonised standards.
“I’m very optimistic that in less than five years we can have harmonised standards in all of Africa, and in less than eight years, we can have the whole world introduce those minimum standards, give or take a few countries,” de Jong says, noting that action must also be taken at the other end of the supply chain.
“Exporters also need to take responsibility. If a vehicle is no longer roadworthy in a European country, you should not export it, regardless of whether there is a regulation in the importing country.,” he says.
The upside of going green
There are benefits too for developed countries. Instead of exporting old, polluting vehicles, states could send them to recycling centres, creating jobs and building a circular system that provides recycled raw materials for car manufacturers. And, as supply to developing nations shrinks, prices will rise, offering a financial incentive to developing countries to increase their own production capacity and laying the groundwork for an eventual transition to cleaner transport systems.
Clear policies are also driving private innovation and progress.
Mark Carney, the UN Special Envoy on Climate and Finance, has noted that the moratoria on internal combustion engines in the European Union and the United Kingdom after 2030 means that industry can step forward now and make 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 adjust. It will start to adjust now. It will give money, investments and loans to businesses with plans to prosper in those environments,” he has said.
As with all environmental challenges, success will only be achieved through global cooperation.
“It doesn’t matter if climate emissions are emitted in the Netherlands or Kenya. They count towards global emissions and these need to get to zero for the global vehicle fleet by 2050,” said de Jong. “With climate change, you cannot ship away a problem. It is still a problem.”