PCFV opens global front on harmful sulphur levels

Main Image
Partners from across sectors globally discuss the way forward on sulphur emissions
Partners from across sectors globally discuss the way forward on sulphur emissions
Consultant Mike Walsh presents  at the FIA Foundation hosted meeting
Consultant Mike Walsh presents at the FIA Foundation hosted meeting

The UN partnership that has successfully pushed for a global phase-out of lead in petrol, will now mount a new drive to tackle harmful particulate emissions.

The Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV), which is coordinated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and involves the FIA Foundation as a key member, brings together governments, industry and NGOs.

A new programme focusing on reducing sulphur levels in fuel and tackling diesel emissions was discussed at an agenda setting meeting of the PCFV hosted by the FIA Foundation in London on 23-24 November 2012. The meeting also agreed to complete the lead phase-out campaign by promoting national standards for filters for petrol vehicles worldwide.

Particulate emissions have become a very serious health issue globally, causing hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO has already classified diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic concluding that there is sufficient evidence to that exposure to diesel exhaust emissions is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer. Particulate matter and black carbon from exhaust emissions are also contributors to climate change.

There is an urgent need to address the issue globally, and particularly in emerging and developing countries which are undergoing rapid motorisation, overtaking OECD countries in car use and production. Emerging economies and urban centres around the world are witnessing dramatic increases in harmful particulate emissions with the transport sector a significant contributor.

The public-private partnership aims to build on its success in helping over 100 countries to phase-out leaded petrol in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe. The lead phase-out has been shown to have resulted in huge benefits to public health, education and society as a whole. A report commissioned by the California State University to assess the programme found a range of benefits from the phase-out including 1.2 million fewer premature deaths, lower levels of criminality and improved performance in education among children.

FIA Foundation Environment Director Sheila Watson said: “The work of the PCFV to eradicate leaded fuel has been incredibly effective, and has had immensely valuable benefits. Bringing together partners from across sectors with such diverse backgrounds and interests to achieve such a major global breakthrough is a tremendously impressive achievement by the UNEP-led initiative. We now look to take this success on a further stage, to address sulphur levels in fuel and to tackle vehicle particulate emissions. This is an issue which is of great and growing concern for the environment, public health and society as a whole, as we face a decade of rapid motorisation. We can have confidence in the continued success of PCFV as it confronts this latest challenge.”

To tackle particulate emissions, the PCFV will address both fuel and vehicle technologies together in a ‘systems approach’ to reduce sulphur levels and tackle diesel particulate emissions. It will look at ways to reduce sulphur levels in fuel – with the objective to reach a target of 50 parts per million or less – and will aim to promote vehicle technologies such as the use of particulate filters. The partnership has already been working with countries around the world in the reduction of sulphur levels in fuels and the aim would now be to expand this work.  Emphasis will be placed on helping countries reach the more advanced levels of emissions standards for vehicles as found in the EU.