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For the First Time Since 2000, CO2 Emissions From Cars Sold in Britain Just Rose

The UK must cut CO2 emissions by about 6% every year until 2021 if it’s to meet EU climate change targets. 

But despite this, the CO2 emissions of the average new car sold in the UK last year actually rose for the first time since 2000, according to an industry report

Campaigners have now raised concerns that the news means the UK will miss these increasingly urgent targets.

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The Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which produced the report, blamed an “anti-diesel agenda” among consumers. It said that people are buying more “gas-guzzling SUVs” and moving away from diesel engines — which are typically 15-20% more fuel efficient than petrol.

“The principal reason CO2 emissions are rising is that carmakers are selling more gas-guzzling SUVs,” said Greg Archer, of Transport & Environment, a campaign group for cleaner transport. 

“Blaming the slump in diesel sales is a smokescreen that hide their failure to fit fuel efficiency technologies to the new cars they are selling,” he added. 

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The new models being produced in 2017 were on average 12% more fuel-efficient than the models they are replacing, but consumers aren’t jumping on the reduced-emissions wagon. 

Overall, average emissions for a new car last year were 121.0g of CO2 per kilometre, according to the report — the same as levels in 2015. It means a 0.8% increase in average CO2 emissions from 2016. 

A 2017 car has, on average, CO2 emissions that are 33% lower than they were in 2000, and 20% lower than the average car in use.

Emission levels from all cars in use on UK roads, however, are down just 7% since 2000, according to the SMMT. 

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Estimates of CO2 emissions of the average new car are likely to be 20% higher as of September 2018 — which is when tests designed to better reflect normal driving will come into force, according to the Guardian.

Part of the reason, according to the report, is the emissions scandal of 2017 — sparked when Volkswagen was accused of installing illegal software on cars to evade standards on diesel emissions, and which engulfed most of the diesel industry. The scandal caused a 17% drop in diesel registrations, reported the Guardian

Meanwhile, electric cars haven’t caught on in the way that campaigners had hoped, according to the SMMT.

Some 95% of the 2.5 million new cars sold in the UK last year were still either petrol or diesel. Zero emissions battery electric vehicles took a 0.5% share of the market, plug-in hybrids a 1.3% share, and conventional hybrid electric vehicles a 2.9% share. 

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“The industry shares government’s vision of a low-carbon future and is investing to get us there — but we can’t do it overnight; nor can we do it alone,” said Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the SMMT. 

“The anti-diesel agenda has set back progress on climate change, while electric vehicle demand remains disappointingly low amid consumer concerns around charging infrastructure and affordability.” 

But for motorists to be inspired to make a change, they “must have the confidence to invest in the cleanest cars for their needs — however they are powered,” added Hawes.

“A consistent approach to incentives and tax, and greater investment in charging infrastructure will be critical,” he said.

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The UK announced in July 2017 that all new petrol and diesel cars would be banned from 2040, as part of a £3 billion plan to tackle air pollution. 

The report comes as a study published on Monday by environmental law organisation ClientEarth revealed that 60% of British parents would support the launch of “pollution exclusion zones” outside schools. 

Air pollution has been linked to an estimated 40,000 early deaths in the UK every year, and parents want traffic diverted away from streets by school gates when children are arriving at and leaving school. Just 13% of parents said they would be against the move. 

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