Since 2001, UNEP has played a key role in phasing out leaded gasoline worldwide, one of the specific objectives agreed on at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Together with Governments, the private sector and civil society organizations, UNEP took the lead in developing an action plan for the phase-out of leaded gasoline in Africa, which has contributed to the introduction of clean fuels in the region.
The global Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles for cleaner air in developing countries, launched in September 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development has prioritized the global phase-out of leaded gasoline, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa.
The Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV) assists developing countries to reduce vehicular air pollution through the promotion of lead-free, low sulphur fuels and cleaner vehicle standards and technologies.
When the PCFV was launched in 2002, about half of the countries around the world were still using leaded petrol. As of early 2007, following steady Partnership efforts and engagement, there were less than twenty countries around the world still using leaded petrol.
PCFV was able to bring targeted action through public awareness, and has had several recent successes. In December 2011, the study Global Benefits of Phasing Out Leaded Fuel was published in the Journal of Environmental Health showing that the global effort to end the use of leaded petrol translates into 1.2 million fewer deaths per year with economic benefits of US$2.4 trillion per year. The study was commissioned by UNEP on behalf of The Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, and conducted by Professor Thomas Hatfield, Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health of State University Northridge in California and researcher Peter L. Tsai.
Activities for 2012-2013 include awareness raising and engagement with industry to support 6 countries (Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Myanmar, North Korea, and Yemen) to prepare national action plans and implement the phase out of leaded vehicle fuel.
In addition, UNEP is working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to promote the phase out of leaded aviation fuels by facilitating dialogue and developing a summary awareness publication.