In September, the Swiss Public Eye Association released a title “Dirty Diesel” relationship that brought the habit of some Swiss companies of the petrochemical industry that would sell high-sulfur fuels, prohibited in Europe, in African countries taking advantage of insufficient local standards to produce, provide and sell. Unlawful practices that have contributed greatly to the increase of air pollution in Africa also because of the growth of road transport.
The report, after three years of research, denounced the turnover of Swiss companies that took advantage of the weak African standards. The analyzes carried out on samples taken at petrol stations in eight countries have confirmed that this was not unfounded accusations: the analyzed fuel contained up to 378 times the sulfur levels permitted in Europe. Also present were other highly toxic substances such as benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons at levels equally prohibited by European standards. Fuels produced mainly in the ARA region (Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp) and polluting and harmful to health darn defined “African quality.”
Several West African countries export to Europe of high quality crude oil in exchange of toxic fuel. According to a recent WHO research, in Africa the increase of air pollution in highly trafficked areas is among the largest worldwide. The consequences are predictable: according to estimates of the International Council for Clean Traffic (ICCT) the number of deaths caused by pollution related to traffic by the end of 2030, Africa will increase three times faster than in Europe, the US and Japan combined.
The reaction to the report released by Public Eye was not long in coming: Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire signed an agreement to acquire no more this “toxic diesel”. These countries begun a slow but steady path towards the use of cleaner energy sources: in Ghana, for example, the government managed to reduce to sixty times the amount of sulfur allowed in diesel fuel. During a meeting organized in November by the United Nations Environment Programme, the National Petroleum Authority has agreed to move from 3000 to 50 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur, an even higher level than indicated by the European standards ( which it is 10 ppm), but still well back from 3000 to date. The new standard will come into force by March 2017 and will also be applied to imports. To produce or use of better quality fuels, however, significant investment will be needed. And to this day it is unclear where the government will find the necessary resources.
The decision of Ghana was nonetheless a good example for other West African governments, which in December came together in Abuja, Nigeria, to address the issue.
A decision that had a positive effect on the other front, the producers: in the Netherlands are being political negotiations to find a solution to the problem, and (perhaps) to end the complicity of Amsterdam in this turnover that causes millions of deaths.