Transport Fuels

UNEP-led coalition unveils global low-sulfur fuel strategy

UNEP-led coalition unveils global low-sulfur fuel strategy
Photo of Erik Solheim courtesy of UN (UN Photo/JC McIlwaine).

A coalition led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has released a global roadmap to reduce small particulate and black carbon emissions from the global on-road diesel fleet by more than 90%. The global on-road fleet is set to triple by 2050, with diesel engines powering the dominant share of goods movement, construction equipment and public transport vehicles in the global economy.

The “Global Strategy to Introduce Low Sulfur Fuels and Cleaner Diesel Vehicles” was formulated by the Heavy-Duty Diesel Initiative comprised of the Government of the United States of America, the Government of Canada, the Government of Switzerland, the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).

The strategy builds the case for a strategic global approach by expanding on a set of preparatory studies, which include a market analysis, a refinery analysis, a health benefits analysis and several case studies to illustrate the benefits, identify opportunities and target countries and regions for action.

It presents a strategy for how the world can transition to low-sulfur fuels and cleaner diesel vehicles within a decade by focusing on the local markets in which countries are operating and recommending 36 countries for near-term support.

The introduction of low-sulfur fuels – fuels with no more than 50 parts per million (ppm) sulfur, and ideally ultra low 10 or 15 ppm sulfur – and cleaner diesel vehicle standards can prevent an estimated 500,000 premature deaths per year by 2050, according to the coalition.

“While global progress on desulfurization has been impressive over the past decade, it needs to be accelerated and more widespread. More than half of the world’s countries are still using high-sulfur fuels. Advancing vehicle emissions standards along with lowering fuel sulfur content globally would reduce cumulative emissions of diesel black carbon by an estimated 7.1 million metric tons through the year 2050. This would bring down annual black carbon emissions from on-road vehicles by over 85% by 2050 in regions where high sulfur levels in fuels are still used.”

The Global Sulfur Strategy shows that the net present value of the health gains to 2050 in terms of avoided mortalities is estimated at USD18 trillion, while the total costs of desulfurization and emission controls are estimated at around USD1.1 trillion over the same period; therefore, estimated benefits to 2050 outweigh costs by a factor of around 16.

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