UN Under-Secretary-General and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, Achim Steiner and UNEP’s Goodwill Ambassador and football star Yaya Touré made their way to World Environment Day (WED) celebrations hosted by Milano Expo in a standard passenger car retrofitted with an electric engine.
The vehicle, with its internal combustion engine replaced by an electric motor by the Italian consortium Confartigianato, is an example of how old products can be reborn with new, environmentally-friendly technology. By reusing the old vehicle, and by eliminating carbon emissions from a fossil fuel-burning engine, this solution can bring benefits both in terms of reducing waste and mitigating climate change.
Present patterns of transportation – based mainly on petrol and diesel-fuelled motor vehicles – generate serious social, environmental and economic damage and are highly unsustainable. At present, transportation consumes more than half of global liquid fossil fuels, emits nearly a quarter of the world’s energy-related CO2 and generates more than 80 per cent of the air pollution in cities in developing countries. These costs to society, which can add up to more than 10 per cent of a country’s GDP, are likely to grow, primarily because of the expected growth of the global vehicle fleet.
If powered with electricity from renewable sources, electric cars can contribute significantly to climate change mitigation. They have the potential to largely improve air quality in cities, leading to an improvement of human health.
Poor air quality is a growing challenge, especially in cities and urban centres, compromising the lives of millions worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution is responsible for 7 million deaths every year.
UNEP is working with governments and other partners on improving air quality in the areas of transport emissions, indoor air pollution, chemicals and sustainable consumption and production through programmes such as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles.
Within this framework, UNEP is promoting clean low carbon transport mainly through electrification of mobility and adoption of cleaner internal combustion engines. Innovative solutions, such as the electric car tested today by Mr. Steiner and Mr. Touré can contribute to that work.
It is one of the many innovations showcased at the Milano Expo, which is supportng this year’s World Environment Day in finding new solutions to the problem of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production.