The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held its first regional meeting towards establishing regionally harmonized fuel and vehicle emission standards on 25-26 June 2018 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. The meeting was co-organized by UN Environment and the ECOWAS Commission, and brought together representatives from 12 of the 15 ECOWAS countries. Also, in attendance were Joel Devain, the Executive Secretary of the African Refiners and Distributors Association (ARA), Jane Akumu and Angele Luh of UN Environment and Bernard Koffi of the ECOWAS Commission.
In her opening remarks, the Minister for Health, Environment and Sustainable Development represented by Dr. Omer KAMELAN spoke of Cote d’Ivoire’s commitment to cleaner fuels. This is evident from the low sulphur strategy that Cote d’Ivoire developed in 2015; which will be updated this year. Earlier in the year, the country also adopted more stringent vehicle import age limits, with import age of passenger vehicles being limited to 5 years beginning 1 July 2018.
The ECOWAS Commission informed participants that close to 80% of the region’s fuel requirement is imported as refined. Importation of cleaner fuels – low sulphur fuels – would thus have a significant impact in improving air quality in the region. The region has 8 refineries; 4 in Nigeria, and 1 each in Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Niger and Ghana. The main challenge for the refining countries had been and still was acquiring capital investment to support refinery modification to produce cleaner fuels. Countries were also at varied stages in regulating vehicle standards with some countries lacking any form of vehicle import restriction. Hence the call for regionally harmonized standards considering the high level of cross border movement of people and goods within the region.
The workshop took note of the Ministerial resolutions taken at a meeting chaired by the then Minister for Environment of Nigeria, Hon. Amina Mohamed in Abuja, Nigeria on 1 December 2016. At that meeting, the Ministers resolved to import low sulphur fuels (at 50 parts per million) from mid-2017, as refineries upgrade their facilities to produce low sulphur fuels by 2020. The meeting also called for the region to import cleaner and more efficient vehicles and to work towards unified fuel and vehicle emission standards by 2020.
Participants recommended the harmonization of fuel and vehicle emission standards. However, the specific details of these standards would be developed once on-going studies by the ECOWAS Commission to establish the current fuel and vehicles standards in the region are completed.