Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Ivory Coast have introduced strict standards for fuel imports to cut vehicle emissions for cleaner air.
Nigeria’s Environment Minister Amina J. Mohamed said their decision will result in major air quality benefits in cities and will allow the authorities to set modern vehicle standards.
“For 20 years, Nigeria has not been able to address the vehicle pollution crisis due to the poor fuels we have been importing. Today we are taking a huge leap forward: limiting sulphur in fuels from 3,000 parts per million to 50 parts per million,” she said at The Hague on Monday.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said the move by the West African countries will cut off Europe’s market in the region and ensure the importation of cleaner, low sulphur diesel fuels.
“West Africa is sending a strong message that it is no longer accepting dirty fuels from Europe. Their decision to set strict new standards for cleaner, safer fuels and advanced vehicle emissions standards shows they are placing the health of their people first,” head of UNEP, Erik Solheim said.
He also added that all countries need to “urgently introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles to help reduce the shocking statistics”.
The group of West African countries have also agreed to upgrade their own public and private refineries to meet the same higher standards by 2020.
Earlier in the year, some European trading companies were exposed by non-governmental organization Public Eye for exploiting West African countries with weak regulatory standards by dumping fuels with sulphur levels that are up to 300 times higher than those permitted in Europe.
The revelation resulted in the decisions taken by Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Ivory Coast last week.