A number of West African countries have been sourcing fuel from Europe and reports (beginning earlier and mid this year) indicates that these European fuels do not meet the expected emission standards. In Ghana, the issue had risen in public discussions when first discovered and some environmental and health activists had used social media to publicize the issue to raise awareness for better fuel importation into the country.
According to UNEP, last week, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire has introduced strict regulatory standards that will ensure cleaner, low sulphur diesel fuels, and better emissions standards, thus effectively cutting off Europe’s West African market. It was noticed that weak regulatory standards in West African countries had open a window for European low standard fuels to penetrate the West African market and could cause ecological and health hazards. These fuels were identified to have higher sulfur levels that are up to 300 times higher than those permitted in Europe which contributes significantly to air pollution (reported by the non-governmental organization, Public Eye). Considering that sulfur is a toxin and contributes a lot to global warming as it is a Greenhouse Gas, it has become essential for these nations (vulnerable to climate change) to restrict the use of such fuels.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), these move was taken by the countries to address concerns over vehicle emissions and in an effort to bring safer, cleaner air to more than 250 million people that reside in their region. The head of the UNEP in a statement mentioned that the act practiced by these five nations to strengthen their regulatory standards sends a strong message that they no longer want any dirty fuels from Europe. In addition to new fuel standards, the group of West African countries has agreed to upgrade their own public and private refineries to meet the same higher standards by 2020.
Noting that it takes so much resources to clean up pollution, it’s definitely better to stop the pollution from occurring. It must be recognized and commended that these nations are putting their health and the ecology first as air pollution is known to kill millions annually. The head of the UNEP also added that there is a need to urgently introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles to help reduce the shocking statistics.
The UNEP has been working with countries in West Africa to develop policies and standards that will stop the import of fuels with dangerously high levels of sulphur, as well as to introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles. Reducing such emissions around the world is essential to ensure levels of urban air pollution and climate emissions come down.
UNEP hosts the Secretariat of the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV), a global public-private partnership that supports a shift to cleaner fuels and vehicles worldwide. When PCFV began its work in 2005, not a single low or middle income country used low sulphur fuels. Today, 23 countries have made that shift. Another 40 are on their way to doing the same.
In addition, UNEP is hosting the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which recently adopted a global strategy for moving the world to clean, low-sulphur fuels and advanced emissions standards. Experts estimate that this measure will save an annual 100,000 premature deaths by 2030.