Air pollution is devastating the environment, mainly in Asia, and although they're not the sole cause1, people are pointing the finger at internal combustion engine vehicles in cities all over the world. The switch to cleaner transportation is definitely under way, driven by China, the future global leader in sustainable mobility. It is time for players with a stake in the sector to anticipate and seize the many opportunities the transition is creating. Total's senior vice president, R&D strategy, shares his expert opinion.
The harm done by vehicles powered by internal combustion engines (ICE) has been well documented. Although they still provide invaluable services to their users and make a real contribution to global economic growth, their engines spew nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM10), hydrocarbons in the form of non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) and greenhouse gases such as CO2 into the air.
At the same time cities are getting denser and will only grow more so. That means the dramatic health impacts of the ensuing road congestion will keep accumulating. A report published in the medical journal The Lancet recently found that pollution was linked to one in six deaths worldwide, a toll of nine million premature deaths in 2015, with air pollution accounting for 6.5 million. Even more recently, UNICEF stressed the extreme vulnerability of children to air quality, pointing out that "almost 17 million babies under the age of one live in areas where air pollution is at least six times higher than international limits. More than three-quarters of these young children — 12 million — live in South Asia."
It would seem that the world has reached its limit. No country can afford to sit back and do nothing about the scourge of air pollution anymore. The need for action is urgent.