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Diesel Days 2003: Summary

Diesel particulate emissions have been shown to be extremely harmful to public health. High emissions from diesel vehicles in developing countries are estimated to contribute to the damage from urban air pollution significantly. High emissions in turn are caused by a number of factors. Some are technical, such as low fuel quality and old vehicle technology, while others are non-technical such as preventive or improper maintenance, rampant fuel adulteration, improper vehicle operation, improper repair, and absence of enforcement of standards and regulations. The non-technical measures also have the effect of jeopardizing the potential benefits of improved vehicle and fuel technology over time.

Against this backdrop, this workshop discussed how developing countries can tackle diesel emissions, what lessons that can be learned from industrial as well as developing country experiences, and what needs to be changed to better tackle air pollution from diesel vehicles. While some argue that "leapfrogging" technology and deploy the most advanced vehicle and fuel technology to cut emissions is the best solution available, others argue that lack of proper vehicle inspection and maintenance is the primary reason of high transport emissions. It was argued that the same factors that have made diesel vehicles highly polluting today would also render advanced vehicle and fuel technology ineffectual. Compounding the assessment of cost-effective measures is the lack of basic data on emissions and vehicle fleet characteristics. These issues were discussed at length by representatives from developing countries, auto and oil industry, environmental agencies and NGOs and a much more comprehensive approach was recommended.

The workshop participants agreed that, while technological advances have an important role to play, non-technical factors contributing to the current state of high pollution from diesel vehicles need to be addressed as a prerequisite for advance technology to deliver on its promise. A cross-sectoral and multi-prong approach, whereby the knowledge base about diesel emissions in developing countries is expanded while examining interactions with transport, environment and energy sector policies, was considered essential. The participants endorsed the World Bank's ESMAP proposal on addressing the in-use diesel emissions problem which aims to assist cities in making more informed, effective, and sustainable decisions on diesel vehicle emissions and urban air quality problems as a whole.

Context Document

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