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West African countries ban Europe's dirty fuel imports

December 5, 2016

West African countries ban Europe's dirty fuel imports

5 December 2016 - Five West African countries have agreed to ban importing Europe's dirty fuels, a move that will dramatically reduce vehicle emissions and help more than 250 million people breath safer, cleaner air.

Together, the countries of Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Cote d'Ivoire agreed on 1 December in Abuja, to introduce strict standards to ensure cleaner, low sulfur diesel fuels and vehicles emissions standards, effectively cutting off Europe's West Africa market to export its dirty fuels.

A report by Public Eye in September this year exposed how European trading companies were exploiting the weak regulatory standards in West African countries, allowing for the export of fuels with sulfur levels up to 300 times higher than is permitted in Europe.

Erik Solheim, the head of UN Environment said: "West Africa is sending a strong message that it is no longer accepting dirty fuels from Europe. Their decision to set strict new standards for cleaner, safer fuels and advanced vehicle emission standards shows they are placing the health of their people first.

"Their move is an example for countries around the world to follow. Air pollution is killing millions of people every year and we need to ensure that all countries urgently introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles to help reduce the shocking statistics."

Alongside the introduction of the new standards, the West African group has agreed to upgrade the operations of their national refineries, both public and privately owned, to produce fuels of the same standards by 2020.

UN Environment has been supporting countries in West Africa to develop policies and standards to stop the practice of importing fuel with dangerously high sulphur levels and introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles. Reducing the emissions of the global fleet is essential for reducing urban air pollution and climate emissions. A combination of low sulfur fuels with advanced vehicles standards can reduce harmful emissions of vehicles by as much as 90 per cent.

Read more at UNEP News Centre.

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