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Reproduced from UN Environment Programme; Map: Axios Visuals

A big new UN report delves deeply into an under-the-radar problem: the long-lasting carbon emissions and pollution from used cars shipped from wealthy nations to poorer ones.

The big picture: The UN Environment Programme report finds that between 2015 and 2018, the U.S., EU and Japan together exported 14 million used light-duty vehicles, with 70% going to developing nations. Africa is the largest export destination.

Threat level: The analysis finds that most importing countries have limited or absent environment and safety regulations governing used vehicle imports, while few developed nations have export restrictions.

  • The report analyzed nations' import policies and created a ranking system based on factors like emissions standards and vehicle age limits.
  • "Out of the 146 countries surveyed, 81 countries, over half, have ‘weak’ or ‘very weak’ policies to regulate the import of used vehicles," it finds.

Why it matters: Transportation overall (not just cars but also heavy trucks, planes and so forth) is a major emissions source, creating almost a fourth of energy-related CO2 output and roughly 15% of all global greenhouse gases.

And the report notes that the global fleet of light-duty vehicles is projected to at least double by 2050, with almost all the growth coming from non-OECD countries that import lots of used cars, vans, minibuses and so forth.

What they're saying: “Developed countries must stop exporting vehicles that fail environment and safety inspections and are no longer considered roadworthy in their own countries, while importing countries should introduce stronger quality standards," said UNEP head Inger Andersen.

What's next: The report recommends steps including harmonized global and regional regulations and standards, as well as more research.

It also says steps like age limits and fiscal policies like age- or CO2-based taxation can be effective.

Go deeper: Exports of Used Cars Are a Pollution Problem, U.N. Warns (New York Times)

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

General Motors puts Trump in its rearview mirror

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

General Motors (GM) is racing to prepare itself for a president and a world that takes climate change more seriously — and putting the Trump era behind them in the process.

Driving the news: GM yesterday announced an ambitious plan to end global sales of internal combustion vehicles by 2035. It's part of their wider new pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040.

Mike Allen, author of AM
4 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."

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