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Global phase-out of leaded fuel represents “milestone for multilateralism,” says UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted Monday, marking the end of a 20-year campaign to eliminate a major threat to the health of people and the planet.

“The lead in fuel is running out of gas – thanks to the cooperation of the governments of developing countries, thousands of businesses and millions of ordinary people,” he said.

Healthy, rich and wise

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) spearheaded the initiative to curb a century of leaded gasoline use. This move is expected to save the global economy $ 2.45 trillion.

Mr. Guterres highlighted the health benefits.

“Ending the use of leaded gasoline will prevent more than one million premature deaths each year from heart disease, stroke and cancer,” he said. “And it will protect children whose IQs are damaged by exposure to lead.”

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, echoed his message.

“As we overcome a century of death and disease that has affected hundreds of millions of people and degraded the world’s environment, we are reinvigorated to improve humanity’s trajectory through an accelerated transition to clean vehicles and electric mobility. “

Road to the storeroom

The world officially said goodbye to leaded gasoline in July, when gas stations in Algeria stopped offering it to drivers.

Vehicles have been running on lead since 1922, when the compound tetraethyl lead was added to gasoline to improve engine performance.

In the 1970s, almost all the oil produced in the world contained lead, according to UNEP. The impacts on health have been catastrophic, as the Secretary-General has pointed out, but the environment has also suffered, air and soil contamination being just two examples.

Most high-income countries banned the use of leaded gasoline in the 1980s, but almost all low- and middle-income countries still used it until 2002.

That same year, UNEP launched the Clean Fuels and Vehicles Partnership (PCFV), the public-private alliance behind the campaign.

The initiative brought together all stakeholders and its activities included raising awareness and combating resistance of local oil traders and lead producers, as well as investing in upgrading refineries and providing technical assistance. .

Challenges to progress

Progress aside, UNEP has noted that growth in vehicle use globally is contributing to air, water and soil pollution, as well as the climate crisis. Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector will drop from nearly a quarter to a third by 2050, according to the agency.

Although many countries are switching to electric cars, with 1.2 billion new vehicles coming into circulation in the coming decades, many countries, especially in the developing world, are still dependent on fossil fuels.

UNEP said millions of low-quality used vehicles, imported to countries in Europe, the United States and Japan, contribute to global warming and air pollution, and are also likely to cause accidents.

Inspiration for a greener future

“The fact that a UN-backed alliance of governments, businesses and civil society has successfully rid the world of this toxic fuel is testament to the power of multilateralism to move the world forward towards sustainability and a more sustainable future. cleaner and greener, ”said Andersen. .

“We urge these same stakeholders to build on this huge achievement to ensure that now that we have cleaner fuels, we also embrace cleaner vehicle standards globally – the combination of fuels and more vehicles. clean can reduce emissions by more than 80 percent. ”

The “international achievement” is an example of what countries can achieve when they work together for the common good, the Secretary-General said, and he called for the same commitment to end the “triple crises” of deregulation. climate, loss of biodiversity and pollution.

Solidarity and science

Mr Guterres reiterated his long-standing call for governments to move away from fossil fuels, such as coal, in favor of renewable sources, and reform the energy, food, transportation and transportation sectors. finances to work with nature and not against it.

“To be successful, we need international cooperation. Compromise. Solidarity. All guided by science, ”he said.

“Let us focus all our efforts on peace with nature. And let’s build a cleaner, greener future for everyone.

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