Reducing motor vehicle emissions

Motor vehicles account for a substantial proportion of the worlds oil consumption and polluting emissions. Resulting emissions contribute to unacceptable levels of pollution, particularly in cities of developing countries where vehicles tend to be concentrated in few large cities, in poor conditions, and lower-quality fuels are used. Higher-income countries have had success in reducing or controlling main pollutants from motor vehicles. However, motor vehicle numbers and kilometres travelled have increased faster than the implementation of emission controls, so that various emissions continue to increase. Reducing motor vehicle emissions benefits the environment, and can improve fuel efficiency.
Urban lead concentrations have decreased in North America, on average, by 85% and in large European cities by about 50%. Emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) have generally increased since the early seventies. Emission standards are either non-existent or much slacker in developing countries than in OECD countries.

The 1998 European Union Directive on heavy duty engines sets tougher emissions standards for heavy duty vehicles over 3.5 tonnes/9 seats (i.e. large vans/buses/trucks) in two phases from 2000 and 2005. It has been agreed to reduce oxides of nitrogen (Nox) from the current level of 7 grammes/kilowatt hour to 5g/kW hour by 2000 (a 30% cut) and a further 60% cut by 2008, taking the level to 2g/kW hour. This standard is to be confirmed following feasibility review by the Commission due in 2002. The 2008 date was chosen to allow sufficient time for manufacturers to meet these extremely challenging targets. Particulates are to be cut from 0.15g/kW hour to 0.10g/kW hour by 2000 - a 30% cut - and a further 80% reduction by 2005 to 0.02g/kW hour.

In 1998 the European Environment Council endorsed a voluntary agreement - negotiated by the European Commission with the Association of European Car Manufacturers (ACEA) - to reduce average emissions from new cars to 140 grammes per kilometre by 2008, and move towards the Council's overall objective which is 120 grammes per kilometre by 2010 at the latest. This is a big step towards delivering the EU's Kyoto commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 8% by 2008-2012. This is the biggest voluntary agreement with industry within Europe. It will deliver some 15% of the EU's CO2 Kyoto target and could cut emissions by as much as 85 million tonnes a year by 2010.

Among measures being considered by governments to reduce vehicle emissions: Providing guidance to purchasers of company car fleets which will help them to evaluate and improve the environmental performance of their fleets; Giving purchasers more information about the environmental performance of vehicles, and presenting it in an easily understandable way, including the introduction of a system for labelling cars to show fuel efficiency, CO2 emissions and emission standards; Producing firm recommendations on the best ways to reduce pollution from existing vehicles; Making vehicle emissions testing widely available at a low cost.

According to a 1999 report, in the Netherlands more than one household in four had decided not to have a car for reasons other than economic.

Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities