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Used Heavy Duty Vehicles and the Environment

  • 29 Feb 2024
  • 8 min read

For Prelims: Used Heavy Duty Vehicles and the Environment, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Environment Assembly.

For Mains: Used Heavy Duty Vehicles and the Environment, Environmental pollution and degradation.

Source: DTE

Why in News?

Recently, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Climate and Clean Air Coalition have released a report titled- Used Heavy Duty Vehicles and the Environment-A Global Overview of Used Heavy-Duty Vehicles: Flow, Scale and Regulation ahead of the 6th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6).

  • UNEA-6 will be held in Nairobi from 26th February to 1st March 2024 under the theme of “effective, inclusive and sustainable multilateral actions to tackle the triple planetary crisis: climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste.”

What is the United Nations Environment Assembly?

  • It is the governing body of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • It is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment.
  • The Assembly is made up of the 193 UN Member States and convenes every two years to advance global environmental governance.
  • It was created in June 2012, during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also referred to as RIO+20.

What are the Key Highlights of the Report?

  • Pollution Escalation:
    • There is a significant increase in pollution levels attributed to the rising use of Heavy-Duty Vehicles (HDVs), particularly since 2000.
    • Carbon dioxide emissions associated with HDVs have surged by more than 30%.
    • HDVs, weighing above 3.5 tonnes, contribute substantially to global emissions, with trucks being the major contributors.
      • HDV are vehicles that are designed for heavy-duty tasks such as transporting goods, materials, or large numbers of people over long distances.
    • They account for over 40% of on-road nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, over 60% of on-road particulate matter (PM 2.5), and over 20% of black carbon emissions.
  • Growth Projection:
    • The report projects a significant increase in the number of HDVs on roads due to economic activities and the need for transportation. Past trends indicate a doubling of worldwide truck and bus sales between 2000-2015.
  • Global Trade:
    • The analysis of global used HDVs highlights their flow and scale, particularly noting their import dependence in developing countries.
    • Japan, the European Union, and the Republic of Korea constitute nearly 60% of the global export market share of both new and used HDVs.
    • In 2015, a total of 6.3 million new and used HDVs were sold worldwide.
      • Among these, 3.4 million units were found to be newly manufactured. This figure makes the number of used HDVs comprise about half of the sales in total.
  • Regulation and Enforcement:
    • Several developing countries depend on imports of used HDVs in order to grow their fleet, there is a lack of regulation and enforcement regarding the quality of imported used HDVs, exacerbating environmental and health impacts.
    • Many importing countries have weak or non-existent regulations, leading to inadequate enforcement.
      • Netherlands removed catalytic converters in many vehicles before shipment to Africa. Because of their old age, they were also found to lack diesel particulate filters.

What are the Key Recommendations of the Report?

  • Ensure Cleaner and Safer Used Vehicles:
    • The report stressed the importance of sharing the responsibility of importing and exporting countries to ensure cleaner and safer used vehicles on the roads in developing countries.
    • It raised the growing need for regional cooperation in introducing and enforcing minimum standards.
  • Emission Standards and Age Limits:
    • The report suggested emission standards and age limits, raising public awareness and further research needs for the environment and road safety benefits.
    • It exemplified that with steps like adopting Euro VI equivalent vehicle emission standards and cleaner fuels, as many as 700 thousand premature deaths can be avoided by 2030.
      • At present, 97% of all newly registered trucks and 73% of buses in the EU run on diesel.
  • Better Regulations on Used HDVs:
    • The report recommended better regulations on used HDVs to promote greater uptake of advanced technologies, such as electric buses and trucks, in developing countries.
  • International Collaborations for Super Pollutants:
    • There is a need for international collaboration to phase out short-lived climate pollutants, or “super pollutants”, such as Methane, Black Carbon and hydrofluorocarbons.
      • Super pollutants are termed "super" because they have a much higher global warming potential (GWP) per unit mass than carbon dioxide (CO2), the most well-known greenhouse gas.
      • Long-term pollutants are those that persist in the atmosphere for extended periods, contributing to ongoing environmental issues over time.
    • By addressing short-lived climate pollutants, the world can deliver climate action, and improve air quality and human health.

What is the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC)?

  • The UNEP-CCAC is a partnership of over 160 governments, intergovernmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations.
  • It works to reduce powerful but short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) – methane, black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and tropospheric ozone – that drive both climate change and air pollution.
  • It aims to connect ambitious agenda-setting with targeted mitigation action within countries and sectors.
  • Robust science and analysis underpin its efforts and bolstered by its Trust Fund, it has given rise to a high level of political commitment, in-country support, and a range of tools that help make the case for action and support implementation.

UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year Question (PYQ)


Q. In the cities of our country, which among the following atmospheric gases are normally considered in calculating the value of Air Quality Index? (2016)

  1. Carbon dioxide
  2. Carbon monoxide
  3. Nitrogen dioxide
  4. Sulfur dioxide
  5. Methane

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only
(b) 2, 3 and 4 only
(c) 1, 4 and 5 only
(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Ans: (b)


Q. Describe the key points of the revised Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) recently released by the World Health Organisation (WHO). How are these different from its last update in 2005? What changes in India’s National Clean Air Programme are required to achieve revised standards? (2021)

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