Zurich/Geneva, 7. November 2016
Flanked by a container full of dirty air from Ghana's capital Accra, Public Eye in Geneva today handed Trafigura a petition signed by almost 20'000 people asking the commodities giant to stop selling „Dirty Diesel“ to Africa. While Trafigura continues to deny all responsibility for its health damaging business, public pressure moved the government of Ghana to toughen its national sulfur standard by a factor of 60. This campaign success of Public Eye and its African counterparts is an important step on the way to reducing air pollution and protecting people's health.
Accompanied by the sounds of African drums and dozens of activists, Public Eye at noon today dropped off the container full of dirty air from Accra and a petition signed by almost 20'000 people at the corporate offices of Trafigura. This symbolic "return to sender" action was the last invitation for the Swiss commodities trader to stop its systematic exploitation of weak African sulfur standards and live-up to its sustainability promises by becoming the first supplier of clean diesel and gasoline. Trafigura accepted the petition but continues to hide behind the legality of its toxic business model, claiming that any such decision is the sole responsibility of African governments. Of course Trafigura is not the only Swiss company with such a profoundly unethical attitude: other dirty diesel culprits such as Vitol, Glencore, Addax & Oryx, and Mercuria put their African profit margins before the health of millions of people.
While the commodities trading firms continue to turn their backs on their responsibilities, the political authorities in other countries responded quite promptly by contrast. The biggest step was taken by the government of Ghana which significantly toughened its national sulfur standards after strong public protests. At a meeting organized by the UN environmental program (UNEP) the National Petroleum Authority announced that the legally permitted sulfur content of diesel imports would be lowered to 50ppm (parts per million) by March 1, 2017, down from a current 3000 ppm. The European standard is 10ppm. The national refinery TOR which covers only 15% of the domestic demand will have to produce 500ppm after this date and is given a deadline of 2020 to make the necessary investments that will allow it to improve its quality to 50ppm.
Ghana's historical decision provides a good template for other West African governments when they meet in early December in Abuja, Nigeria, to discuss this issue. Meanwhile, the "Dirty Diesel" report also got the political ball rolling in the ARA region (Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp) where most "African quality" fuel is produced. The city council of Amsterdam as the owner of the city's port is weighing the option of putting an end to this illegitimate Swiss business model. In concert with its African partners, Public Eye will continue to fight against the import of toxic fuel. Corporations that exploit these scandalous double standards and the governments of importing and producing countries must quit wasting time and honor the affected populations' right to health.
For more information contact
Oliver Classen, Media Director, oliver.classen[at]publiceye.ch, +41 44 277 79 06
Andreas Missbach, Head of Commodities, andreas.missbach[at]publiceye.ch, +41 44 277 79 07