Policies to reduce fuel consumption, air pollution, and carbon emissions from vehicles in G20 nations

The transport sector consumes more than half of global oil production, and releases nearly a quarter of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. Motor vehicles and engines contribute to ambient air pollution responsible for millions of premature deaths worldwide each year.

Globally, most vehicles are sold in markets already regulated to some extent by vehicle air pollution and efficiency standards. But many of these standards lag best practice in terms of stringency and compliance enforcement.

The economies of the G20 represent over 90 percent of global vehicle sales. The policies of G20 members thus largely dictate the energy efficiency, air-quality impacts, and climate impacts of the global transport sector. As this briefing paper shows, there are significant opportunities for G20 member countries to progress further toward best-practice vehicle and fuel regulations. A collective G20 commitment would amplify the impact of these policies and promote sharing of best practices and technology developments among regions. Technical assistance among G20 countries for policy and program design, development, implementation would accelerate policy action.

This briefing paper reviews the status of motor vehicle energy efficiency and emissions control programs in G20 nations. These programs have four components: (1) low-sulfur fuel standards; (2) tailpipe emissions standards for new vehicles; (3) fuel economy and CO2 standards for new vehicles; and (4) voluntary Green Freight programs. The briefing also summarizes information on technology availability and costs, emissions reductions, and benefit-cost ratios.

Substantial benefits have accrued to those G20 nations that have adopted tailpipe emission, fuel quality, and vehicle efficiency standards: public health benefits consistently and substantially exceed societal costs, and fuel economy or CO2 standards produce significant reductions in carbon emissions and oil use while providing immediate direct financial benefits to consumers.

Because of their disproportionately high contribution to air pollution, oil consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions, heavy-duty vehicles are a particularly important target for clean transportation policies. The G20 has already turned a focus onto these vehicles in its 2014 Energy Efficiency Action Plan. To facilitate future collaboration, the paper proposes three groupings of G20 countries according to current policy status, and summarizes in detail recommended policy actions aimed at HDV tailpipe emissions and fuel efficiency.