The Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe
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Status Report on Clean Fuels and Vehicles in Central and Eastern Europe

Image credit: Szczebrezeszynski

Year of implementation:

Supporting partners:
Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)

Status Report on Clean Fuels and Vehicles in Central and Eastern Europe

"Serbia is now fully in line with EU requirements for lead, aromatics, benzene (for petrol) and sulphur (for both petrol and diesel). This latest development on fuel quality in the region is a product of regional cooperation through the Southeast European Regional Clean Fuels and Vehicles Network, supported by the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV) with financing from the European Union, the USEPA and the FIA Foundation. Serbia’s pump-level fuel quality was confirmed with support from Ice Rikalovski of the Macedonian OKTA refinery, who designed the fuel quality sampling methodology used to independently confirm fuel quality in Serbia's achievement. Laboratory support was provided through the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe’s (REC) Regional Proficiency Testing Scheme with laboratories in the Western Balkans.

Since 2005, the PCFV has supported countries in South East Europe with the technical expertise, access to global and regional networks, and funding resources needed to adopt low-sulphur diesel and petrol standards. Together with the REC, we can now confirm that Serbia has successfully transitioned to low-sulphur 10 ppm fuels as of July 2013. Low-sulphur fuels significantly lower particulate matter emissions, a known human carcinogen, from internal combustion engines. "
News item from October 15, 2013,

In 2005, the REC, with support from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), initiated an information gathering and policy formulation project aimed at introducing cleaner fuels and vehicles in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The continued use of leaded gasoline, high sulphur levels in gasoline and diesel fuel, and a lack of emissions control technology were all contributing to high levels of vehicular air pollution in urban environments in CEE and Turkey, and the study produced as a result of the project was an important step forward into a cleaner future.

The PCFV was initially launched to address the growing air pollution problems in urban areas of developing countries, although it was subsequently extended to include CEE as well. A global partnership, the PCFV builds on the activities of the Sofia Initiative on Local Air Quality (SILAQ), which was launched in 1995 by the ministers of environment of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region at the Third Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe”. Between 1995 and 2003, SILAQ was part of the work programme of the Task Force for Implementation of the Environmental Action Programme for Central and Eastern Europe (EAP Task Force), and the REC hosted the secretariat.

Assessment methodology
The Status Report on Clean Fuels and Vehicles in Central and Eastern Europe was developed on the basis of an assessment carried out in CEE between May and July 2005. The assessment was based on a questionnaire developed by the REC in consultation with UNEP PCFV, USEPA and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). The information was collected by REC country offices, or by independent consultants subcontracted by them, via interviews and desk research. Following a background chapter containing the assessment methodology and country profiles, the status report was divided into chapters on air quality; fuel quality; and vehicle emissions. The reporting year for the questionnaire was 2003.

The status report contained profiles of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Poland, Romania, the then Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo (then a territory under interim UN administration), Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey.

Recommendations and conclusions
A conference on clean fuels and vehicles took place on October 27–28, 2005, in Szentendre, Hungary, at which the REC presented its summary of the 16 case studies carried out earlier in the year. After describing the improvements to fuel quality and vehicles in their countries, participants formed three working groups to discuss ways to phase out leaded fuels, reduce the sulphur content of fuels, and promote the use of cleaner vehicles. Some of their recommendations are listed below.

  • Lead phase-out should involve: creating national regulations to ban leaded gasoline, with official deadlines; improving the monitoring and control of fuel quality; implementing public information campaigns to ensure better understanding of the issue; launching vehicle renewal programmes; improving vehicle import regulations; and improving interaction at all levels of governance.
  • Reducing sulphur should involve: raising public awareness of the benefits of cleaner fuels; imposing higher taxes on dirty fuels compared to cleaner fuels; using ISO-accredited labs that are independent of producers; making available mobile testing labs to assess fuel quality; modernising the equipment used in state-owned labs; and implementing national plans for step-by-step sulphur reduction.
  • Promoting cleaner vehicles should involve: training policy makers; improving access to information; introducing fiscal incentives and differentiated environmental taxes; launching a discussion on how to harmonise the second-hand car market through standardisation; and retrofitting older vehicles.

Conference participants jointly concluded that:

  • There is a need for coordinated national and regional action to improve vehicle fuel quality and reduce vehicle emissions.
  • The quality of fuels and vehicles and public transport issues need to be integrated into national and local environmental and sustainable development plans.
  • There should be greater involvement of CEE and Turkey in the PCFV. (All participants at the event were invited to join.)
  • A regional network of experts and practitioners should be established to support the above actions. (It was agreed that the REC, in close cooperation with the PCFV, would facilitate network operations.)
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