The export of millions of used motor vehicles to developing countries is proving a major contributor to air pollution. The finding comes from a recently released United Nations Environment Programme report which states that 14 million light-duty vehicles (cars, SUVs and minibuses) were exported to low and middle-income countries between 2015 and 2018. 40 percent of that total ended up in Africa. The European Union accounted for 54 percent of all used vehicle exports during the above period, followed by Japan’s 27 percent and the United States’ 18 percent. The vast majority of developing countries importing these vehicles have no environmental requirements or regulations governing their safety.
That has resulted in imported used vehicles providing a major contribution to air pollution and climate emissions in their markets. Poignantly, the analysis also states that most developing markets are importing vehicles today that would not be allowed to circulate on the exporting country’s road network. Some governments are attempting to implement change, however, and a group of West African countries is set to introduce minimum requirements for used vehicles from 2021. That is set to primarily involve the use of cleaner fuels as well as a maximum age for any second-hand vehicle imported.
Despite accounting for a lower share of total used vehicle exports than the EU and Japan, the U.S. still shipped 2.6 million overseas between 2015 and 2018 with a collective value of $24.5 million. So where are America’s old cars ending up? In 2018, at least, the UAE was the top importing nation, bringing in 129,489 vehicles surplus to U.S. requirements. Despite the UAE being a wealthy nation at the top of the list, there are several low or middle-income countries within the top-10. Nigeria imported the second-highest number of used vehicles from the U.S. in 2018 with more than 82,000 while Georgia came third with nearly 60,000. Cambodia is among the top export markets with 31,167 used vehicles while the Dominican Republic also imported around 27,000.
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