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Used heavy vehicles: so Europe secretly pollutes the global South

Together with Japan and South Korea, the EU covers 60% of exports of used heavy vehicles

(sustainabilityenvironment.com) – Europe, South Korea and Japan are the world’s largest exporters of used heavy vehicles. Secondhand and very polluting buses and trucks, end up mainly in middle and low income countries. And although they represent a minimal share of global vehicle sales, just 3.6%, they significantly increase transport emissions.

Since 2000, CO2 emissions from used heavy vehicles have increased by 30%, with trucks accounting for 80% of the increase. Not only that: these vehicles are also responsible for over 40% of nitrogen oxides (NOx) generated by the transport sector, about 2/3 of fine particles (PM2.5) and more than 20% of carbon particles (carbon black).

This is what emerges from the first global assessment of the impact on climate, environment and health of the trade in used heavy vehicles worldwide, published by the UN Environmental Protection Agency.

An evaluation that has the merit of clarifying the real weight of a field, that of the export of used means over 3,5 tons, that often escapes the meshes of the monitoring of the emissive trends of the transport field. In terms of value and volume, between 2015 and 2020, Japan was the largest exporter with 1.3 million units (about 67,000 buses and 1.2 million used trucks). The EU exported almost 1 million used heavy vehicles (75,000 buses and 898,000 used trucks), while 1 million more was sold within the Twenty-Seven, a turnover of 21 billion dollars. South Korea exported about 134,000 used heavy vehicles worldwide in the same period.

Why are they important numbers? For two reasons. Firstly, although the volumes of heavy goods vehicles used are much smaller than those of light vehicles, their contribution to air pollution, road accidents, high fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions is very high. Secondly, although they are more polluting, most of the countries of destination have far more permissive rules for heavy vehicles than for light vehicles.

Many developing countries do not have minimum regulations to incentivize the import of cleaner and safer used heavy-duty vehicles, and where regulations exist, enforcement is weak or lacking. At the same time, no exporting country of used heavy vehicles has minimum requirements for the export of quality used heavy vehicles“, notes UNEP.

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