Nigeria and four other West African countries have agreed to ban the importation of Europe’s dirty fuels, the United Nations Environment Programme has said.
The UNEP said the move would dramatically reduce vehicle emissions and help more than 250 million people to breathe safer and cleaner air.
It said together, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire agreed on December 1 in Abuja to introduce strict standards to ensure cleaner, low sulphur diesel fuels and vehicles emission standards, effectively cutting off Europe’s West African market to export its dirty fuels.
UNEP noted that 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 exportation of fuels with sulphur levels up to 300 times higher than was permitted in Europe.
The Head of UN Environment, Erik Solheim, was quoted as saying, “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, according to UNEP.
Nigeria’s Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, said, “For 20 years, Nigeria has not been able to address the vehicle pollution crisis due to the poor fuels we have been importing. Today, we are taking a huge leap forward, limiting sulphur in fuels from 3000 parts per million to 50 parts per million, this will result in major air quality benefits in our cities and will allow us to set modern vehicle standards.”
The UN Environment said it had 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 emission of the global fleet is essential for reducing urban air pollution and climate emissions. A combination of low sulphur fuels with advanced vehicles standards can reduce harmful emissions of vehicles by as much as 90 per cent,” it stated.