Rwanda: Experts weigh proposal to raise tariffs on fossil fuel cars

Raising taxes on fossil fuel personal cars to deter the public from using them should be well studied before being implemented, climate change experts have suggested.

The reactions follow a recommendation contained in the State of the Environment and Outlook 2021 Report released last week by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA).

The report says huge tariffs on the use of fossil-fueled personal cars can deter the public from owning and using fossil-fuel cars.

The recommendation is based on the fact that the transport sector remains a major source of air pollution, contributing 40% of total emissions in Rwanda, especially in urban areas like Kigali City.

According to REMA, the main contributors to transport-related air pollution are old and used motor vehicles imported with poor or degraded emission control technology.

Vehicles manufactured before 1999 contribute 58% of toxic gas emissions of nitrogen oxides and 66% of inhalable particulate emissions that cause respiratory disease.

Between 2017 and 2019, Rwanda recorded only 0.6% progress in reducing air pollution-related mortality.

The outlook report recommended enforcing dedicated bus lanes, as planned, and emphasizing the use of public transport during peak hours.

It also recommends the use of public transport for government institutions.

There is a need to develop policy instruments to support the reduction of emissions from the transport sector, which could also discourage the use of fossil fuel personal cars.

Speaking to Doing Business, Faustin Vuningoma, coordinator of the Network of Rwandan Organizations on Climate Change and Development, recommended that the government streamline the public transport system, which could discourage the public from using personal fuel cars. fossil.

“We still have a struggling public transport system. It should be streamlined first before discouraging fossil-fueled personal cars by raising taxes,” he said.

He said the public transport system needs to be fixed and cut as many hours as commuters spend in long queues for buses.

“There is a need for a system where you move from your location knowing exactly when the bus will arrive without delay,” he noted.

He added that public transport operators should also invest in increasing large buses capable of carrying several people at once.

“If the public transport system works well on roads dedicated only to public transport, people would prefer it because it is cheaper than personal cars,” he said, adding that smart public transport should work in all the regions of the country.

Climate change expert engineer Charles Mugabo said people could forgo using fossil-fueled personal cars, “only if it comes with heavy taxes on personal car consumables like fuel, parts, spare parts and tyres,” he added; “Raising taxes on fossil fuel personal cars cannot work until an efficient public transport system is in place.”

Mixed reactions

Climate change researcher Egide Kalisa says it is still too early for Rwanda to impose huge taxes on personal fossil fuels, given that there are still few electric cars/buses currently on the roads. roads in Rwanda, charging stations and other necessary infrastructure.

“Efforts are required for the quality of imported fuel instead. We must first understand how much fossil fuel cars contribute to air pollution in Rwanda, what type of cars, buses, small cars to big cars, car age, car maintenance, driving behavior and others,” he said.

Mugabo said air pollution from the transport sector is prevalent in Kigali city.

“Rwanda’s urban population is aiming to reach 70% by 2050 and we should expect an increase in the demand for transport and cars. There are effective solutions that can be adopted rather than imposing huge tariffs on the use of fossil fuel personal cars, which is not appropriate until other congestion management strategies have been optimized,” he said.

He said several measures can be taken to increase road capacity and reduce traffic

Measures, he said, can also include increasing infrastructure for active transportation such as walking and cycling.

“Maintaining, testing and enforcing the existing fleet of vehicles would do the most to reduce air pollution. Focusing on reducing emissions from older, larger and poorly maintained diesel vehicles would yield the biggest returns. dividends,” he said.

Electric Vehicle Adoption Goals

Current efforts towards intelligent transport systems must be reinforced by the electrification of road and rail transport systems, recommends the outlook report.

“A supportive environmental policy that promotes electric vehicles while discouraging fossil fuel vehicles is needed,” he said, adding that the construction of electric car charging stations should be facilitated.

In 2018, the first electric motorcycles and cars were introduced to the Rwandan market through electric mobility initiatives.

In April 2021, an electric mobility strategy containing tax incentives for electric mobility inputs, lower electricity tariffs and other incentives was also introduced.

Electric vehicles will benefit from a reduced rate during off-peak hours, while electric vehicles, spare parts, batteries and charging stations will have to be treated as zero-VAT products.

There is also an exemption from import and excise duties and a customs withdrawal tax of five percent.

According to the Ministry of Environment, full adoption of electric vehicles and related solutions in Rwanda will require up to $900 million.

Studies show that electric vehicles could save 20 billion Rwandan francs on imported fossil fuels by 2025.

Currently, Rwanda has 221,000 registered vehicles, 52% of which are motorcycles and 38% passenger vehicles, of which at least 30,000 are in Kigali.

The number of electric vehicles is increasing by almost 12% per year and fuel import bills represent around 12% of total imports.

Low-carbon, climate-resilient energy and transportation systems require $6,875 million in public sector funding and $3,400 million in private sector investment, according to the Department of Environment. here 2050 as a long-term transition.

BRT system under development

Over the next 10 years, Rwanda aims to convert 20% of the Kigali Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) fleet of bus services to electricity at a cost of over $1 billion and 33% of motorcycles.

In order to streamline public transport with solutions, Kigali city authorities revealed that the road from the city center to Kigali International Airport will soon be used to pilot the BRT system to ease traffic congestion.

The BRT is a public bus transport system designed to have better capacity and reliability than a conventional bus system.

The system could encourage a wider public to avoid using personal cars according to the developers.

Mérard Mpabwanamaguru, deputy mayor in charge of urbanization and infrastructure of the city of Kigali, told The New Times that the feasibility study had been carried out and recommended starting with reserved bus lanes (DBL) and later converting them to a full bridged BRT system.

“We have completed the pilot study in the downtown-Giporoso road car park, and we are dealing with the World Bank so that we can obtain financing and start construction activities.

For the smart bus stops, we are starting very soon, and we have reached an agreement with the partner, and with him, we will ensure that we have 32 smart bus shelters by this year in the main corridors of the city”, did he declare. .

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