UN praises 'official end' of leaded gasoline in cars after Algeria halts sales

UN praises 'official end' of leaded gasoline in cars after Algeria halts sales
© Greg Nash

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on Monday celebrated Algeria becoming the last country in the world to phase out leaded gasoline.

“The successful enforcement of the ban on leaded petrol is a huge milestone for global health and our environment,” UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said in the agency's announcement.

In 2020, Algeria was the last country in the world where leaded gasoline could still be bought. The African country's state-owned oil company Sonatrach announced in September that it would cease production of leaded gasoline and decontaminated its storage over the following 10 months.

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Rob De Jong, the UNEP's head of sustainable mobility said in the announcement that leaded gasoline was "a huge mistake from the start" and that "the world would be dealing with the consequences for a century.”

The UNEP credited its two-decade campaign, the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, which led to the global elimination of leaded gasoline.

Michael Walsh, former head of motor vehicle pollution control programs for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, praised the development as being what "may be the single biggest success story in the environmental field."

As The Associated Press noted, most wealthy nations began phasing out leaded gasoline beginning in the 1970s and 1980s. However, it was still quite common in low- and middle-income countries until the UNEP began its campaign to do away with the fuel beginning in 2002. At the time of the partnership's founding, all 117 African nations were still using leaded gasoline, the UNEP noted.

“Africa has the power to demand clean fuels from suppliers,” Wanjiku Manyara, a founding member of the partnership said. “It raised the bar ensuring that the dumping of poor-quality fuels cannot take place.”