Diesel under the spotlight not only for health impacts, but also for what it does to climate

Accounts for more black carbon emissions than from petrol. Transport sector is responsible for 25 per cent of global black carbon emissions

Anil Agarwal Dialogue recognises this threat; says policy should focus on countering the impacts of diesel on health and climate

  • Second day of Anil Agarwal Dialogue 2015 continues discussions on ‘The poor in climate change: How the co-benefit agenda of short-lived climate pollutants can work for or against people and the Planet’. New Delhi-based think-tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) organises these Dialogues every year
  • The Dialogue series was instituted in 2007 in memory of CSE’s founder, Anil Agarwal
  • The two-day Dialogue this year is ranging over what are known as short-lived climate pollutants – black carbon – and some of their sources: diesel emissions from vehicles, emissions from cookstoves and those from brick kilns
  • Diesel emerges as the main killjoy: CSE director general Sunita Narain says – “As many as 627,000 estimated deaths were caused by particulates in 2010, which really makes it imperative that the time to take action on diesel in urban areas has come.”

New Delhi, March 12, 2015: The bad news is diesel usage in vehicles will continue to grow across the world – including India -- and diesel remains the villain of the air pollution and mobility stage. The good news is that the technology to leapfrog to better fuels is available and governments and refineries are keen to act on this. Only the automobile industry seems to be stalling, and needs to be brought on board.

This emerged from the half-day-long deliberations on ‘clean diesel’, held on the second day of CSE’s Anil Agarwal Dialogue 2015, here. The sessions on diesel were addressed by experts such as R K Malhotra, member, Auto Fuel Policy Committee, Government of India; Neelkanth V Marathe, senior deputy director with the Pune-based Automobile Research Association of India; Elisa Dumitrescu from the Nairobi office of the United Nations Environment Programme; Gary Kleiman, senior environmental specialist, climate policy and finance, The World Bank; and Cornie Huizenga, secretary general of the Shanghai-based Partnership on Sustainable Low-carbon Transport.

Speaking on the occasion, Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director-research and advocacy, CSE and head of its Right to Clean Air programme, said: “Even the limited evidences in India point towards high contribution of diesel fuel combustion in cities to the formation of tiny killer particles – PM2.5. Some of the deadliest air toxics (the World Health Organization says some of them can lead to cancers) are related to diesel emissions. These have been blamed for killing unborn foetuses as well. Urgent action is therefore needed to deal with this menace.”
Diesel produces a higher proportion of ‘black’ carbon which absorbs light and forces heating – as opposed to biomass burning in cookstoves which produces more organic carbon that scatters sunlight. Of total black carbon emissions across the world, 20 per cent is expected to be generated by diesel.

What China has done and the emission norms tangle

Speaking at the Dialogue yesterday, Li Kunsheng, director of Vehicle Emission Management at the Beijing Municipal Environment Protection Bureau, said that China had implemented China 5 emission standards in 2013, while the Euro 5 fuel standard had been introduced way back in 2008.

“We have succeeded in reducing air pollution and are committed to reducing it further through a number of strategies which include improving emission standards, technology and phasing out old vehicles using outdated technology,” said Kunsheng.

India implemented its Auto Fuel Policy in 2010, which introduced the Bharat Stage 3 emission norms all over the country and the Bharat Stage 4 in 13 cities. The proposal to extend Bharat Stage 4 to more cities by April 1, 2015 was – however -- nixed in the meeting of the Standing Committee of Emissions held in February 2015: the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) had requested for an extension, and the meeting granted this – thereby delaying the norms further.

CSE has been demanding that the country leapfrog and the norms be enforced earlier -- Euro 5 by 2017 and Euro 6 by 2020. Speaking at the Dialogue yesterday, Michael P Walsh, special advisor for global strategy at the International Council on Clean Transportation, had iterated that it was important for India to implement Euro 6 standards by 2020.

Roychowdhury stressed on this further by adding that “India has the capability to meet this target for Euro 6 with a fiscal support strategy, and we must not let the sluggish response of automobile manufacturers slow us down. The US and Europe have already implemented Euro 5 in 2009 and Euro 6 in 2014.”

  • For more on this, please contact Souparno Banerjee at souparno@cseindia.org / 9910864339.