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Air Pollution — An Invisible Time Bomb to the World


1. UN Environment: One-third of countries lack statutory outdoor air quality standards


The United Nations Environment Programme stated in an assessment report published today that one-third of the world’s countries have not promulgated any legally enforceable outdoor (ambient) air quality standards. Where such laws and regulations exist, the relevant standards vary greatly and are often inconsistent with the guidelines of the World Health Organization. In addition, at least 31% of countries capable of introducing such outdoor air quality standards have not yet adopted any standards.


The UNEP “Controlling Air Quality: The First Global Air Pollution Legislation Assessment” was released on the eve of the International Clean Air Blue Sky Day. The report reviewed the air quality legislation of 194 countries and the European Union, and explored all aspects of the legal and institutional framework. Evaluate the effectiveness of relevant legislation in ensuring that air quality meets standards. The report summarizes the key elements that should be included in a comprehensive air quality governance model that needs to be considered in national legislation, and provides a foundation for a global treaty that promotes the development of outdoor air quality standards.


Health threat

Air pollution has been identified by the WHO as the single environmental risk that poses the greatest threat to human health. 92% of the world’s population lives in places where air pollution levels exceed safe limits. Among them, women, children and the elderly in low-income countries suffer The most serious impact. Recent studies have also shown that there may be a correlation between the probability of new crown infection and air pollution.


The report pointed out that although WHO has issued environmental (outdoor) air quality guidelines, there is no coordinated and unified legal framework to implement these guidelines. In at least 34% of countries, outdoor air quality is not yet protected by law. Even those countries that have introduced relevant laws, the relevant standards are difficult to compare: 49% of the countries in the world completely define air pollution as an outdoor threat, the geographical coverage of air quality standards varies, and more than half of the countries allow deviations from the relevant standards. standard.


A long way to go

The report pointed out that the system responsibility for achieving air quality standards on a global scale is also very weak-only 33% of countries make air quality compliance a legal obligation. Monitoring air quality is critical to knowing whether the standards are met, but at least 37% of countries/regions do not have legal requirements to monitor air quality. Finally, although air pollution knows no borders, only 31% of countries have legal mechanisms to address cross-border air pollution.


Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said: “If we don’t take any measures to stop and change the status quo that air pollution causes 7 million premature deaths every year, by 2050, this number may be possible. Increase by more than 50%.”


The report calls for more countries to introduce strong air quality laws and regulations, including writing ambitious indoor and outdoor air pollution standards into laws, improving legal mechanisms for monitoring air quality, increasing transparency, substantially strengthening law enforcement systems, and improving responses to national and Policy and regulatory coordination mechanisms for transboundary air pollution.


2. UNEP: Most of the second-hand cars exported by developed countries to developing countries are polluting vehicles


A report released today by the United Nations Environment Programme pointed out that millions of second-hand cars, vans and small buses exported from Europe, the United States and Japan to developing countries are usually of poor quality, which not only leads to worsening air pollution, but also hinders Efforts to tackle climate change. The report calls on all countries to fill the current policy gaps, unify the minimum quality standards for second-hand cars, and ensure that imported second-hand cars are clean and safe enough.


This report, titled “Used Cars and the Environment-A Global Overview of Used Light Vehicles: Flow, Scale, and Regulations”, is the first research report ever published around the global used car market.


The report shows that between 2015 and 2018, a total of 14 million second-hand light vehicles were exported globally. Of these, 80% went to low- and middle-income countries, and more than half went to Africa.


UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said that cleaning up and reorganizing the global fleet is the primary task of achieving global and local air quality and climate goals. Over the years, more and more second-hand cars have been exported from developed countries to developing countries, but because related trade is largely unregulated, most of the exports are polluting vehicles.


She emphasized that the lack of effective standards and regulations is the main cause of dumping of abandoned, polluting and unsafe vehicles. Developed countries must stop exporting vehicles that have not passed their own environmental and safety inspections and are no longer suitable for driving on roads, while importing countries should introduce stricter quality standards.


The report pointed out that the rapid growth of car ownership is the main factor causing air pollution and climate change. Globally, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation sector account for approximately one-quarter of the total global emissions. Specifically, pollutants such as fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emitted by automobiles are the main sources of urban air pollution.


The report is based on an in-depth analysis of 146 countries, and found that two-thirds of them have a “weak” or “very weak” level of import control policies for second-hand cars.


The report also pointed out that countries that have implemented control measures (especially vehicle age and emission standards) on the import of second-hand cars can obtain high-quality second-hand cars including hybrid and electric vehicles at affordable prices.


The report found that during the study period, African countries imported the largest number of used cars (40%), followed by Eastern European countries (24%), Asia-Pacific countries (15%), Middle Eastern countries (12%) and Latin American countries (9%) .


The report pointed out that inferior second-hand cars will also cause more road traffic accidents. Countries such as Malawi, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Burundi that implement “very weak” or “weak” second-hand car regulations also have high road traffic fatalities. In countries that have formulated and strictly implemented second-hand car regulations, domestic fleets have a higher safety factor and fewer accidents.


With the support of the United Nations Road Safety Trust Fund and other agencies, UNEP has promoted the launch of a new initiative dedicated to introducing minimum second-hand car standards. The plan currently focuses on Africa first. Many African countries (including Morocco, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Mauritius) have established minimum quality standards, and many more countries have shown interest in joining the initiative.


The report pointed out that more research is needed to further elaborate on the impact of the used vehicle trade, including the impact of heavy used vehicles.

Post time: Oct-25-2021