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West African Ministers Adopt Cleaner Fuels and Vehicles Standards

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The Prime Minister of Burkina Faso opened the meeting, where all 15 countries member of the Economic Community of West African States sent environment and energy ministers or their representatives. photo: UN Environment

With a population of close to 400 million people, the West African region has one of the fastest growing vehicle fleets in the world. As in most African countries, the bulk of vehicle imports into the region consists mainly of used vehicles. Regulation to restrict the quality of cars being imported into the region is weak. This, coupled with poor fuel quality, is one of the leading cause of increasing levels of air pollution in cities in the region, with the population suffering the effects of breathing toxic fumes. Children, who walk to schools alongside busy roads, and informal vendors along these roads are most at risk of the health effects of these toxic fumes. In 2016, the World Health Organization named Onitsha – a city in Nigeria, as the world’s most polluted city in terms of harmful small particles (PM10).

In a major step to reducing air pollution and climate emissions in the region, the environment and energy ministers of all the 15 countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), met on 6 7 February 2020 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and  adopted a comprehensive set of regulations for introducing cleaner fuels and vehicles in the region.

The high level ministerial meeting was organized  by the ECOWAS Commission with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other partners. The regulations adopted by the ministers were a culmination of several years of work by UNEP towards improving the standards of fuels and vehicles in the region.  

The specific regulations adopted by the ministers on cleaner fuels and vehicles are:

A sulfur fuel standard of 50 parts per million (ppm) for petrol and diesel for all imported fuels from 1 January 2021. This is a significant step for the region as some of the countries still have fuel standards that allow import of up to 10,000 ppm diesel fuels. Local refineries will have until 1 January 2025 to upgrade their operations to meet the new requirements as well as comply with other fuel parameters such as benzene and manganese that were agreed by the ministers. This decision will have a significant impact on air quality in the region as only about 20 per cent of fuel needs in the region is locally refined while 80 per cent is imported.

All vehicles that are imported, both new and used, and petrol and diesel, will need to comply to a minimum of EURO 4/IV vehicle emissions standard from 1 January 2021. An age limit forused vehicles of 10 years was also agreed to, with a recommendation of a five-year age limit for light duty vehicles.

A plan to improve the fuel efficiency of imported vehicles was also adopted, with a target to double the efficiency of the fleet from an average of 8 litres per 100 kilometres today to 4.2 litres per  100 kilometres by 2030. An intermediate target of 5 litres per 100 kilometres by 2025 was also agreed. The vehicle fuel efficiency plan or roadmap includes proposals to introduce fiscal incentives to attract low and no emissions vehicles to the region, measures to promote electric vehicles, and a new harmonized label for newly imported vehicles showing the vehicle fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions to support consumer awareness.

These decisions will now go to a Council of Ministers meeting taking place in June 2020, for formal adoption. Once adopted, the legally-binding decisions will become effective on 1 January 2021 at the latest.

“We are very pleased to see the results of a process that took several years,” says Jane Akumu, UNEP expert in clean clean fuels and vehicles. “UNEP supported 11 out of 15 Economic Community of West African States member countries with individual projects and worked closely with the ECOWAS Commission to develop this clean fuels and vehicles regulations. Several partner organizations and non-governmental organizations also supported the process. This work is part of UNEP-led global programmes—the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, the Global Fuel Economy Initiative the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the Electric Mobility Programme.

This is not the end of the process, as several countries are now requesting for implementation support to for example, help to draft national fuel and vehicle standards, or to implement the fuel economy roadmap and introduce electric mobility.

“We plan to continue our work in the region and support countries in the implementation of the decisions,” says Akumu. “Ultimately, the use of clean fuels and vehicles is not only an energy or environmental issue. It is a health issue for the millions of people who live in and around the region’s major cities.”

UN Environment

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Global emissions are set to surge to an all-time high

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Governments worldwide are deploying an unprecedented amount of fiscal support aimed at stabilising and rebuilding their economies, but only about 2% of this spending has been allocated to clean energy measures, according to new analysis from the International Energy Agency.

The sums of money, both public and private, being mobilised worldwide by recovery plans fall well short of what is needed to reach international climate goals. These shortfalls are particularly pronounced in emerging and developing economies, many of which face particular financing challenges.

Under governments’ current recovery spending plans, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are set to climb to record levels in 2023 and continue rising in the following years. This would leave the world far from the pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050 that the IEA set out in its recent Global Roadmap to Net Zero.

These findings come from the new Sustainable Recovery Tracker that the IEA launched today to help policy makers assess how far recovery plans are moving the needle on climate. The new online tool is a contribution to the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Environment, Climate and Energy in Naples, which takes place on 22 and 23 July under the Presidency of Italy.

The Tracker monitors government spending allocated to sustainable recoveries and then estimates how much this spending boosts overall clean energy investment and to what degree this affects the trajectory of global CO2 emissions. The Tracker considers over 800 national sustainable recovery policies in its analysis, which are publicly available on the IEA website.

“Since the Covid-19 crisis erupted, many governments may have talked about the importance of building back better for a cleaner future, but many of them are yet to put their money where their mouth is. Despite increased climate ambitions, the amount of economic recovery funds being spent on clean energy is just a small sliver of the total,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director.

Governments have mobilised USD 16 trillion in fiscal support throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, most of it focused on emergency financial relief for households and firms. Only 2% of the total is earmarked for clean energy transitions.

In the early phases of the pandemic, the IEA released the Sustainable Recovery Plan, which recommended USD 1 trillion of spending globally on clean energy measures that could feature prominently in recovery plans. According to the Plan – developed in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund – this spending would boost global economic growth, create millions of jobs and put the world on track to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

According to the Tracker, all the key sectors highlighted in the IEA Sustainable Recovery Plan are receiving inadequate attention from policy makers. Current government plans would only increase total public and private spending on clean energy to around USD 350 billion a year by 2023 – only 35% of what is envisaged in the Plan.

The Tracker shows the stark geographic disparities that are emerging in clean energy investment. The majority of funds are being mobilised in advanced economies, which are nearing 60% of the investment levels envisaged in the Sustainable Recovery Plan. Emerging and developing economies, many of which have limited fiscal leeway, have so far mobilised only about 20% of the recommended spending levels.

“Not only is clean energy investment still far from what’s needed to put the world on a path to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century, it’s not even enough to prevent global emissions from surging to a new record. Many countries – especially those where the needs are greatest – are also missing the benefits that well planned clean energy investment brings, such as stronger economic growth, new jobs and the development of the energy industries of the future,” Dr Birol said

“Governments need to increase spending and policy action rapidly to meet the commitments they made in Paris in 2015 – including the vital provision of financing by advanced economies to the developed world,” Dr Birol added. “But they must then go even further by leading clean energy investment and deployment to much greater heights beyond the recovery period in order to shift the world onto a pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050, which is narrow but still achievable – if we act now.”

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Portugal’s energy policies set a clear pathway towards 2050 carbon neutrality

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Portugal’s equitable and well-balanced plans for reaching a carbon-neutral economy should support the country’s economic growth and energy security, according to a new energy policy review by the International Energy Agency.

Portugal’s energy and climate policies aim to reach carbon neutrality primarily through broad electrification of energy demand and a rapid expansion of renewable electricity generation, along with increased energy efficiency. These measures are backed by a strong focus on reducing dependency on energy imports and maintaining affordable access to energy. In the longer term, Portugal is aiming for hydrogen to play a major role in achieving carbon neutrality.

“Portugal was among the first countries in the world to set a target for carbon neutrality by 2050, and its Roadmap for Carbon Neutrality shows a strong commitment to electrifying its economy and ensuring a secure and affordable energy transition,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director, who is launching the policy review today at an event with João Pedro Matos Fernandes, Portugal’s Minister for the Environment and Climate Action. “The IEA looks forwards to supporting the Portuguese government as it works on a fair and inclusive transition to a carbon-neutral economy.”

Portugal’s climate and energy goals still face notable challenges, the IEA policy review notes, with an economy that remains heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels today. The report welcomes steps the government is taking to address these challenges. An effective auction process for renewable energy projects should result in almost 2 gigawatts of new renewable generation coming online in the next few years, which will triple Portugal’s solar PV capacity.

Portugal is pushing to reduce oil demand and associated emissions through transport decarbonisation, with over EUR 10 billion of investments in electrified rail and public transport, favourable tax treatment for electric vehicles and support for charging infrastructure. Portugal is also taking a major step towards lowering emissions and reducing energy import dependency by phasing out coal-fired electricity generation in 2021.

Portugal sees a key role for hydrogen produced from renewable energy in hard-to-decarbonise sectors and for achieving carbon neutrality. The National Hydrogen Strategy sets a goal for hydrogen produced from renewable energy to cover 1.5-2% of Portugal’s energy demand by 2030, with use in industry, domestic maritime shipping, road transport and for injection into the natural gas network and potential exports.

“I congratulate Portugal for developing a broad policy framework with robust measures to achieve emission reductions,” Dr Birol said. “Portugal has found a good balance of ambitious targets and competitive support measures needed to drive a cost-effective energy transition.”

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EU energy programme with Eastern partner countries extends into second phase

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The European Commission has launched the second phase of its EU4Energy programme, which promotes low-carbon and clean energy transitions in the Eastern Partnership (EaP), a joint initiative involving the European Union, its Members States and six Eastern European Partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

“Promoting the Clean Energy Transition in the Eastern Partnership Countries: EU4Energy Phase II” will run for the next four years and will help develop legislative and regulatory frameworks that support the region’s energy transformation and the liberalisation of its energy markets, as well the digitalisation of its energy systems. Beyond reducing emissions, the programme’s goal is to provide the citizens of the Eastern Partnership Countries with more stable and resilient energy supplies, empowering consumers and increasing energy security.

The International Energy Agency is a partner in the EU4Energy programme along with the Council of European Energy Regulators (CEER) and the Energy Community Secretariat (EnCS). The 8 July kick-off conference for the programme’s second phase includes country representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine who will share their knowhow and experience to further enhance cooperation in the energy sector within the region.

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