Last week, the mayors of four cities—Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens—announced they had pledged to remove diesel vehicles from their cities by 2025. Last week, five African countries—Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo, Nigeria and Benin—announced they would reject shipments of high-sulfur diesel fuel from Europe and demanded they begin receiving cleaner diesel fuel like that available in many other regions of the world.
Allen Schaeffer, the Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum (USA), issued the following statement today regarding these developments:
“The pledge by the four mayors to ban diesel or any other technology may make for a good headline, but it is not good public policy. It runs against the popular consumer choice, it may make air quality worse and it will likely put achieving climate change objectives further out of reach.
“In contrast, the five African nations that recognize the opportunity for bringing in cleaner technology and the need for ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel will move forward. In the United States, cleaner diesel fuel and new diesel engines now achieve near-zero emissions and are an important part of the strategy to achieve cleaner air and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The new diesel technology also meets the high fuel economy needs of consumers without sacrificing vehicle performance or mobility.
“The newest generation of clean diesel technology virtually eliminates emissions while still achieving low CO2 emissions.”
Cleaner Diesel Fuel and Modern Engines Generate Clean Air Benefits
“The International Council on Clean Transportation and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, an initiative of the UN Environment Programme, has identified policies to promote access to clean diesel fuel and the introduction modern diesel engines as an important element to generate clean air benefits while substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“All sources of emissions, including vehicles, stationary and industrial sources, contribute to the emissions challenge of all metropolitan areas and nations. Rather than singling out one fuel and technology, city leaders should be pursuing a holistic approach that accelerates the retirement of older, high emission vehicles regardless of fuel type. City leaders should also prioritize reducing traffic congestion and the accompanying wasted fuel and higher emissions from all vehicles.
“In France, Spain and Greece, diesel cars make up more than 50% of all car registrations, reflecting the preferences of French, Spanish and Greek drivers. To deny them the opportunity to choose the vehicle of their choice, including the cleanest diesel technologies available, is a short-sighted and ill-conceived policy.”
Diesel Vehicles Needed to Achieve European CO2 Goals
“Working with manufacturers, the European Union is developing important steps to adopt more stringent vehicle emissions standards and enhance vehicle emissions testing. To achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that will enable meeting the goals of the Paris climate accord, continued progress toward low CO2 emissions must be sustained. Manufacturers have already stated that the low CO2 performance of the newer diesel cars will be a key strategy in meeting the Paris accord. This makes the pledge by these four mayors even more confusing.
“Technologies like electric or hydrogen vehicles may provide new options for consumers at some point in the future, but are not likely to be available in the timeframes and scale that these cities need to achieve continued reductions in CO2. Pledging to ban diesel vehicles distorts the signals to the markets and works against sustained progress toward both climate and clean air goals.”
Traffic Congestion Causes Emissions Problems in Older, Densely Populated Cities
“Without a doubt, most major cities face the mounting pressures of more vehicles on the road, growing congestion and emissions problems. Paris is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, Athens is one of the world’s oldest cities, Madrid is the third largest city in in Europe and Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the entire world. Failure to invest in transportation and infrastructure has reduced mobility, increased congestion and the resulting emissions concerns from an aging vehicle fleet that lead to political pressure to take some kind of action. In this case, four mayors wrongly moved against diesel cars.”
Lag in Cleaner Diesel Fuel Policies Inhibits Progress
“In the case of Mexico City, joining this pledge is particularly ironic. For years, the Mexican government has pledged to bring cleaner diesel fuel into all of Mexico, but has yet to accomplish it. Unlike the U.S., which has had ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel available since 2006, it still is not the baseline fuel for all of Mexico. This serious policy failure severely limits the region’s ability to introduce on a wide-scale regional basis the very clean diesel engines and vehicles that would ensure progress toward clean air objectives.”
African Countries Get it Right, Demanding Cleaner Diesel Fuel
“And while four city leaders reject new technology, other countries embrace it. The African countries Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo, Nigeria and Benin have joined together to reject the poor-quality diesel fuel shipped to them from Europe and now demand that their countries receive the cleanest diesel fuel available. They are moving forward and this will enable them to dramatically improve air quality and the health of their citizens through embracing clean diesel fuel and technology, not banning it.”