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Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet

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Dirty Car Exports Threaten Climate Goals

The global fleet of light duty vehicles — primarily passenger cars — is expected to double by 2050, the report noted, with more than 90 percent of the motorization likely to occur in developing nations.

“Not all secondhand vehicles are bad,” said David Ward, president of the Global New Car Assessment Program, a nonprofit based in London. They can exceed the safety requirements of new cars and exporting them can create access to affordable clean technology and advanced safety features. But when countries have poor or no vehicle regulations for emission or crash behavior for new cars, he said, “you’ve got a problem, because the new ones may actually be worse.”

He recommends that importing governments apply the same minimum standards for used vehicles that they have for new ones, and that governments refuse to import any vehicles, new or old, that do not meet those standards. Manufacturers must meet the minimum requirements set by countries in which they produce vehicles, but typically do not exceed them.

United Nations standards — covering safety and to a lesser extent the environment — are voluntary; governments can choose whether or not to apply them. Many countries now follow versions of European vehicle emission standards, Mr. Ward said.

New Zealand, which gets many used vehicles from Japan, is an example of successful regulation, he said. Legislation, periodically updated, requires imported used cars to comply with European, Japanese or U.N. standards.

But even if a vehicle is road-worthy before it leaves the exporting country, under the radar market forces can intervene. It’s not uncommon for catalytic converters — emission control devices — to be stripped for precious metals, and for safety equipment like airbags to be removed for resale. It’s critical for importing countries to conduct port-of-entry inspections “to see if cars have been tampered with,” Mr. Ward said.

“Random spot checks can be cost effective and a big disincentive to the people who are trying to cheat the system,” he said.

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