An Environmental Double-Standard
Many of the world’s construction and demolition equipment manufacturers make bold claims about their commitment to the environment and a carbon zero future. And yet, many of those same companies continue to specify and manufacture previous generation diesel engines for sale to parts of the world with less stringent emissions regulations. Is that acceptable? Is that right?
For as long as I can remember, equipment manufacturers have produced different machines for different regions of the world.
Machines destined for sunnier climes used to be offered with canopies rather than cabs.
In other regions, a sealed cab and a decent heater is way more important than air conditioning. And each country seems to have its own width and height limitations on the transportation of larger machines.
Another area in which machines differ from region to region is in their tolerance for emissions.
While we in Europe are falling over ourselves to get machines that run on only the purest unicorn tears, there are other parts of the world where Stage III compliant diesel engines are still perfectly acceptable.
But in our post COP26 world, is that acceptable? Is that right?
The climate crisis currently facing humankind does not recognise national and international borders. It draws no distinction between the greenhouse gases produced in Surrey, Cincinnati, Sydney and Shanghai. Rising sea levels are not created locally — They are created globally.
Now I realise that the cleaner the engine, the more expensive it is likely to be. All the investment that has been poured into diesel engine development in recent years will need to be recouped.
I also realise that customers in regions that continue to tolerate Stage III compliant engines will be reluctant to pay for something that is way cleaner than their local regulations dictate.
But does any of that actually matter when we’re talking about climate change and — quite possibly — the future of the planet?
Moreover, how can equipment manufacturers make sweeping environmental statements in one part of the world when they’re still supplying potentially damaging products elsewhere?
Think of it like this. Here in the UK demolition and construction industries, we are among the most heavily regulated in the world.
There is no aspect of the sector that is not legislated in one form or another.
As a result, our health and safety track record is one of the best in the world.
So imagine a UK demolition contractor or a high reach operator picked up some work in a part of the world with a more relaxed attitude to all things health and safety.
Would that company or individual dial down his health and safety compliance to better match local regulations?
No. It would be their job, THEIR DUTY to maintain their usual high standards and to help bring those around them up to a higher level.
Of course, health and safety on site is potentially a matter of life and death.
But with the planet teetering on the very precipice of an irreversible climate disaster, surely emissions are also a matter of life and death. And here’s the thing.
In the not too distant past, some equipment manufacturers have been unfairly accused of being complicit in war crimes after selling equipment to oppressive regimes around the world. We all know that this is a desperate plea for publicity by aligning a political cause to a global brand.
Such claims are wholly unjustified. Equipment manufacturers have no idea where their equipment might end up after it has been sold or the purposes for which it might be used.
That is not the case with the supply of equipment that does not meet the most exacting emissions standards.
In that instance, it doesn’t actually matter where it might end up working. The level of potential harm will be precisely the same.
All the while those manufacturers continue to supply less clean- running machines to parts of the world that still tolerate higher emissions levels, surely any claims of green credentials ring just a bit hollow.
Instead of supplying machines they know to be more harmful than other parts of their product ranges, should they not be setting an example and bringing everyone up to the same standards. And one final thought.
In the next few years, we will see equipment manufacturers beginning the switch to hydrogen power.
When that switch begins, will those manufacturers instantly cease production of diesel-powered machines. Or will we in the West get the new-fangled and clean running Hydrogen machines while other parts of the world continue to get the diesel machines.
Mark Anthony is the founder of DemolitionNews.com