Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tightening vehicle and fuels standards to benefit global health and climate
Study finds that more stringent standards worldwide could dramatically reduce premature mortality while cutting short-lived climate pollutant emissions as much as 80 percent.

Simply extending the vehicle emissions and fuel-quality standards already in force in the largest vehicle markets throughout the rest of the world could reduce the number of premature deaths caused annually by fine particle emissions by 75 percent in 2030, according to a report released on November 13, 2013 by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).

Moreover, The Impact of Stringent Fuel and Vehicle Standards on Premature Mortality and Emissions finds that doing so would have the added benefit of reducing near-term climate impacts through reductions in black carbon and other short-lived climate pollutants by the equivalent of 710 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.

The World Health Organization has identified air pollution as one of the top global risk factors for premature death, responsible for more than 3.2 million early deaths in 2010. Vehicles are a major source of outdoor air pollution. The report quantifies a subset of their health impacts?the effects of direct tailpipe emissions of fine particles (less than 2.5 microns in diameter) on premature mortality in urban areas?and finds that policy action can avert more than 210,000 early deaths in 2030.

The methodology of this study results in a lower bound estimate because it only captures primary particle emissions from on-road vehicles in urban areas. The study’s estimate of premature mortality and public health benefits would be substantially increased if additional impacts were included, such as exposure to secondary pollutants formed in the atmosphere (including particles and ozone), emissions in rural areas and emissions from marine, aviation, and off-road equipment.

Thus, these results should be used as highly conservative estimates that do not reflect the full contribution from clean fuel and vehicle standards in the future.

The problem is particularly acute in the rapidly developing regions of China and India and in emerging markets, which now account for the majority of vehicle pollutant emissions and attendant health impacts. The study found that unless tighter controls on those emissions are put in place, the number of early deaths will increase by 50 percent globally between now and 2030, with China, India, and other countries in Asia-Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East accounting for more than 85 percent of all these premature deaths.

Stringent regulations implemented in Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and South Korea have proven highly effective at curbing pollution from vehicles. By controlling vehicle tailpipe emissions of harmful compounds like nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and particulate matter, as well as fuel sulfur content, these standards will reduce premature mortality related to vehicle emissions in these regions by 80 percent to 90 percent below year 2000 levels in 2030. Low-sulfur fuels are a key factor in controlling pollutant emissions because fuels with higher sulfur content not only emit more particulates but also inhibit the use of after-treatment devices such as particulate filters.
The ICCT report lays out a global policy roadmap aimed at significantly altering regional trends in pollution and mortality by accelerating the spread of improved vehicle emissions and fuel-quality regulations. The goal, the report’s authors argue, should be tailpipe emission standards equivalent to the most stringent adopted in Europe, so-called Euro 6/IV standards, in tandem with ultra-low-sulfur fuel (no more than ten parts per million sulfur), by no later than 2025.

The report comes as governments gather in Warsaw, Poland, for the opening of the 19th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, with the aim of putting in pathways to a new universal agreement by 2015. A comprehensive study released in January 2013 in the Journal of Geophysical Research found black carbon to be the second largest contributor to climate warming from human activities. And in September 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted new findings on the strong climate impacts of short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon.

The IPCC report found that one kilogram of black carbon causes as much climate impact in the near term as 3,200 kilograms of carbon dioxide. Diesel vehicles, in particular, are a prime target for policies aimed at controlling black carbon.
Cleaner fuels and vehicles are a good investment, the report’s authors point out. “The U.S. EPA has estimated that its regulations to clean up the diesel truck fleet will reap US $17 in benefits to the American public for every dollar of investment,” said ICCT Program Lead Cristiano FaƧanha. “In China, where national officials are working to avoid the next ‘airpocalypse’, vehicle emission controls could reap US $150 billion in public health benefits at an even lower cost than programmes in the United States. Experience shows these investments in public health consistently return a profit to society.”

The Impact of Stringent Fuel and Vehicle Standards on Premature Mortality and Emissions is the second major report in the ICCT’s Global Transportation Roadmap Series. The first, Global Transportation Energy and Climate Roadmap, evaluated the impacts of transportation policies on global oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

United National Environment Program (UNEP)
Press Release dated November 13, 2013

Download the report and related materials at


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