The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) this week held its first regional meeting towards establishing regionally harmonized fuel and vehicle emission standards.



Air pollution hangs over rush hour traffic in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, January 16, 2016 (Photo by Paul Anca)



The meeting in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, co-organized by UN Environment and the ECOWAS Commission, brought together representatives from 12 of the 15 ECOWAS countries.



The 15 ECOWAS Member States are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, which has by far the largest population, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.



Also, in attendance was Joel Devain, executive secretary of the African Refiners and Distributors Association, which has repeatedly confirmed its commitment to a clean fuel policy, an African roadmap for clean fuels and a plan for vehicle emission controls and standards.



The West African region has eight refineries; four in Nigeria, and one each in Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Niger and Ghana.



The main challenge for the refining countries is acquiring capital investment to support therefinery modifications necessary to produce cleaner fuels.



In her opening remarks, Cote d'Ivoire's Minister for Health, Environment and Sustainable Development Anne Desirée Ouloto spoke of Cote d'Ivoire's commitment to cleaner fuels.



This is evident from the low sulphur strategy that Cote d'Ivoire developed in 2015, which will be updated this year she stated.



The ECOWAS Commission informed participants that close to 80 percent of the region's fuel requirement is imported as refined. So, importation of cleaner, low sulphur fuels would help to improve air quality in the region.



Earlier in the year, Cote d'Ivoire adopted more stringent vehicle import age limits, with import age of passenger vehicles being limited to five years beginning July 1.



ECOWAS countries are all at varied stages in regulating vehicle standards, with some countries lacking any form of vehicle import restriction at all.



Participants in Tuesday's workshop took note of the resolutions adopted at a meeting in Abuja, Nigeria on December 1, 2016, when the ECOWAS Ministers resolved to import only low sulphur fuels from mid-2017, as refineries upgrade their facilities to produce low sulphur fuels by 2020.



There will be demand for those low sulphur fuels.



In December 2016, five of the West African countries - Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire - announced measures to end the practice of European oil companies and traders exporting “African quality” diesel, highly polluting fuels that could never be sold in Europe.



Swiss commodity traders were accused in a report published in September 2016 by Swiss NGO Public Eye of exporting fuels to West Africa with sulphur levels sometimes hundreds of times higher than European levels.



The Abuja meeting resolved that the region of West Africa would import cleaner and more efficient vehicles and work towards unified fuel and vehicle emission standards by 2020.



By Sunny Lewis

Environment News Service (ENS)

July 20, 2018