In a welcome outcome amidst much bad news, the UN Environment Program has announced that the use of lead in petrol has been stopped around the world after a multistakeholder effort that commenced back in 2002. A gradual ban across the world’s countries and regions ended with the complete phase-out that has now been completed.
The Tetraethyllead that had been added in to petrol to improve engine performance and widely used in many forms of petrol across the world had become a serious threat, contaminating air, dust, soil, drinking water, and food crops and resulting in heart disease, stroke, and cancer, and it harms development of children’s brains.
The move commenced at the RIO+10 Johannesburg summit with the establishment of the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV), which is an alliance of governments, fuel and vehicle industries, and civil society. The UNEP hosts the secretariat. The group provided technical assistance, investment in refinery upgrades and overcame resistance from lead producers.
Adopting cleaner fuels and vehicles can reduce emissions by more than 80% and the transport sector is known to be responsible for one fourth of the energy related GHGs and this percentage is expected to rise to one third by 2050.
UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said that with this milestone “we are invigorated to change humanity’s trajectory for the better through an accelerated transition to clean vehicles and electric mobility.” She called for adopting cleaner vehicles standards globally. Additionally, UNSG Antonio Guterres called for a shift from fossil fuels to renewables to mitigate climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.
Despite the fact that fossil fuels are the largest single contributor of lead pollution, the UNEP underscored the fact that there is still an urgency to prevent pollution from such sources as paints, batteries, and household items.