Progress is growing steadily around the world. Cleaner fuel standards were first developed in a handful of countries, starting with the United States in 2007 and then followed by European countries a couple years later. Soon countries like Japan, South Korea, and Turkey did the same. As of July 2019, 39 countries have implemented soot free standards and five more (Brazil, China, Colombia, India, and Mexico) plan to implement them before 2025.
But this progress needs to be spread more equally throughout the globe. Partially as a result of imbalanced regulation, more than 90 percent of air pollution deaths occur in poorer countries, primarily in Asia and Africa.
“Beyond the world’s largest vehicle makers there is a huge need to continue advancing progress towards these standards which benefit public health and climate in emerging markets including Africa, the Middle East, and Asia,” said Miller.
Nigeria, for example, is the largest vehicle market in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Vehicle fuels can have 100 times the sulfur levels allowed in Europe, 90 percent of vehicles imported into Nigeria are second hand, and there are no age restrictions on imported commercial vehicles, meaning that cheap vehicles that don’t meet higher standards are being dumped in the country. As demand for vehicles grows, so do the impacts. Nigeria has the world’s seventh largest population, and it is expected to double over the next 30 years. Between 2010 and 2015, the health burden from road transportation increased by 25 percent and the monetary cost to Nigeria has been estimated at $42 billion.
Countries are working to prevent the damaging impacts of air pollution. In December 2018, ECOWAS met for a two-day workshop supported by the CCAC. Country representatives agreed to maximum levels of sulfur in imported fuels and minimum emissions standards for new vehicles. Benin, Togo, and Mali have implemented tighter regulations. And on the other side of the continent, the East African Community became the first African region to transition to low sulfur fuels in 2015.