Paving way for a clean future

Released recently, the Bellagio memorandum advocates best practices for policies on vehicular emission reduction worldwide

By Anumita Roychowdhury
Published: Tuesday 30 April 2002

 Get going the ecoway (Credit: Anil Agarwal /  CSE)an unusual document called the Bellagio memorandum was released recently. It comprises a set of principles to guide policies for motor vehicles and transportation fuels around the world. The memorandum is unique, as it aims at best practices to benchmark progress in emissions reduction and device strategies to catch up fast for meeting global environmental and health imperatives. "The memorandum represents a set of principles that should guide all the countries in the development of their motor vehicle pollution control efforts in the future, but especially developing countries who are in earlier stages of implementing programmes. Best practice rather than average one is clearly where we want to go," says Michael P Walsh, the key architect of the memorandum.

The document is based on a consultation that happened at Bellagio in Italy last year under the aegis of Energy Foundation, usa. A group of regulators and experts from the us, Japan, China and different European countries, came together to draw up the principles. The principles are not part of any governmental negotiation or political process, but a product of the freethinking of a small group of progressive regulators and experts.

The memorandum is another attempt to address the dilemma of balancing globalised markets and profits with environmental goals, but with a difference. It is in sharp contrast to other approaches that are aimed at addressing the grouse of oil and automobile industries. These industries are racing to globalise, but resent the diverse policies in different countries that require them to design their products to meet various regulatory requirements, which increases their cost. The 'other approaches', like the World Fuel Charter, therefore, just aim at defining minimum standards according to technological advancement in different markets. Hence, they cannot help in overcoming technological backwardness in the developing countries. In contrast to this, the Bellagio memorandum demands that even developing countries chart their roadmap according to best practices to meet environmental and health objectives.

As many as 43 overarching principles have been defined in the memorandum to influence strategies about clean vehicles and fuels, conventional pollutants and toxics, greenhouse gases and phasing in of advanced technology. Among other things, these principles emphasise on the cost effectiveness of leapfrogging. The main principles are as follows:

Both industrialised and developing countries should expect and require the best technologies and fuels available worldwide. This is based on the fact that it is not cost effective for developing nations to follow improvements that are taken by the industrialised nations

Economy of scale should be improved for advanced technologies rather than making markets with weaker regulations a dumping ground for old technologies

Trade-offs should be resolved among goals of urban air quality and greenhouse gas targets. To achieve this, all fuels should have same stringent standards

Rigorous and performance-based standards should guide technology

Lifecycle approaches for product production, distribution and disposal should be considered for technology related decisions

Manufacturers' accountability, along with other strategies, should be established for reducing in-use emissions

If these principles catch on, they may facilitate enlightened decision-making in concerned countries. At a nascent stage, it is not clear how this memorandum will influence policy making. The individuals endorsing this memorandum are expected to take the lead in pushing these principles in the future work of their respective agencies to catalyse official action. But a lot depends on how structured and participatory the consultation process would be in the future.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.