Trend toward SUVs making it harder to meet climate change targets

This trend towards larger vehicles is happening throughout Europe. Sports utility vehicles (SUVs) accounted for 42 per cent of car sales in 2019 in the UK – up from 23 per cent in 2015 and 10 per cent in 2010. While there is an impact on energy consumption and emissions, there is also an impact on space. As Tom Bawden writes on the inews website, 150,000 cars were sold in the UK in 2019 that are too long to fit in a standard 4.8m long parking spot. A recent post on vehicles from the European Environment Agency showed that SUVs in Europe represented 38 % of new car registrations in 2019. Worryingly it also stated that carbon emissions from vehicles increased in 2019.


Sales of the biggest cars have tripled in a decade, with SUVs longer than parking spots

UK motorists are developing a taste for giant SUVs with close to one in ten cars bought last year too big to fit in a standard parking space.

More than 150,000 cars were sold in 2019 that were longer than the typical 4.8 metre parking lot.

That’s three times as many car-space busting vehicles that were sold just a decade ago – a trend towards much bigger vehicles that is making it harder to meet climate change targets.

These giant cars accounted for 7 per cent of total sales last year, compared to just 1 per cent in 2010, according to research commissioned by the New Weather Institute and climate charity Possible.

Call to ban some advertising

The groups have launched a campaign calling on Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden MP, to introduce legislation to outlaw advertising for any cars which are too large for a standard UK parking space.

They also want to see an ad ban on all of the ‘dirtiest third’ of new cars sold in the UK.

“We ended tobacco advertising when we understood the threat from smoking to public health. Now that we know the human health and climate damage done by car pollution, it’s time to stop adverts making the problem worse. In a pandemic-prone world people need clean air and more space on town and city streets,” said New Weather Institute director Andrew Sims.

“There’s adverts, and then there’s badverts, promoting the biggest, worst emitting SUVs is like upselling pollution, and we need to stop. In a climate emergency when we need to make the places where we live more people friendly, SUVs are in the way of progress,” he said.

Growing SUV ownership

Sports utility vehicles (SUVs) accounted for 42 per cent of car sales in 2019 – up from 23 per cent in 2015 and 10 per cent in 2010.

SUVs are typically bigger than the average car although most are still able to fit into a standard parking space.

The report comes amid emergency efforts by local authorities to create wider pavements and new ‘pop up’ cycle lanes to allow commuters to safely social distance while cycling and walking during the pandemic.

The researchers argue that the promotion of over-sized vehicles in crowded towns and cities is undermining efforts to reallocate public space away from cars for pedestrians, as well as conflicting with widespread ‘climate emergency’ declarations by local authorities.

‘Transport has the highest carbon emissions’

Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, which was not involved in the survey, said: “Slick advertising from car makers is driving this rising demand for SUVs and absolutely these ads should be banned. Bigger engines result in higher emissions, which creates bigger problems when it comes to the climate emergency.

“Alongside bold measures to significantly reduce the proportion of SUVs on our roads, the Government needs to start moving us away from polluting petrol and diesel vehicles altogether,” she said.

“Transport has the highest carbon emissions across the economy, and one of the most effective ways to tackle this is by ensuring all new cars and vans are 100 per cent electric by 2030. This is vital if we are to meet our climate targets, and will help to secure future jobs and investment in the industry,” Ms Newsom added.

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