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Developing countries a dumping ground for used cars: UN says

UNITED NATIONS: Millions of used vehicles exported from Europe, the United States and Japan to the developing world contribute significantly to air pollution, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) said in a report, the first-ever of its kind.

The exported cars, vans and minibuses are of poor quality and as a result hinder efforts to mitigate climate change, UNEP, a specialized UN agency based in Nairobi, said in the report, based on an in-depth analysis of 146 countries.

“Over the years, developed countries have increasingly exported their used vehicles to developing countries,” Inger Andersen, UNEP executive director, said in a statement.

“The lack of effective standards and regulation is resulting in the dumping of old, polluting and unsafe vehicles,” Ms. Andersen added.

Between 2015 and 2018, 14 million used light-duty vehicles were exported worldwide, according to the report. Some 80 per cent went to low- and middle-income countries, with more than half of those going to Africa.

UNEP is calling on developed countries to stop exporting vehicles that fail environmental and safety inspections and are no longer considered roadworthy there.

The report found that two thirds of countries have weak or very weak policies to regulate the import of used vehicles.

African countries imported the largest number of used vehicles (40 per cent) in the period studied, followed by countries in Eastern Europe (24 per cent), Asia-Pacific (15 per cent), the Middle East (12 per cent) and Latin America (9 per cent).

The Netherlands exported the most vehicles without valid certificates, UNEP found. Most exported vehicles were between 16 and 20 years old and fell below EURO4 European Union vehicles emission standards.

“These results show that urgent action needs to be taken to improve the quality of used vehicles exported from Europe,” Dutch Environment Minister Stientje van Veldhoven said.

“The Netherlands cannot address this issue alone. Therefore, I will call for a coordinated European approach, and a close cooperation between European and African governments,” Ms. Veldhoven added.

Poor quality used vehicles also lead to more road accidents, according to the report.

Many of the countries with very weak or weak used vehicles regulations, including Malawi, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Burundi, have very high road traffic death rates, the report found.

The report however also showed that countries that implemented regulations on used vehicle imports – notably age and emissions standards – gained access to high-quality vehicles, including used hybrid and electric cars, at affordable prices.

A few African countries have already put in place minimum quality standards, including Morocco, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Mauritius.

“The impact of old polluting vehicles is clear. Air quality data in Accra confirms that transport is the main source of air pollution in our cities,” said Ghanaian Environment Minister Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng.

Last month, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) set cleaner fuels and vehicle standards from January 2021, while urging its member states to introduce age limits for used vehicles.

M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.