Decline of diesel blamed as CO2 emissions rise
21 December 2017
Author: Sean Keywood
The annual average level of CO2 emissions from new cars sold in the UK has risen for the first time in 14 years.
That's according to online retailer Buyacar.co.uk, which says figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) show that the average new car sold in the first ten months of 2017 produced 121.1g/km of CO2 - meaning the full annual figure is on course to exceed the 120.3g/km average recorded last year.
Buyacar, which blames bad publicity around diesel engines causing motorists to switch to petrol, says this reverses a continuous decline in CO2 emissions since the data was first published in 2003.
Car manufacturers must cut average car CO2 emissions across the industry to 95g/km by 2021 in order to meet EU targets. The UK Government has said it will 'intervene firmly' if emissions targets are not met.
Although sales of new electric and hybrid cars have increased by 35% this year, this only represents an extra 28,611 cars compared with 2016. The number of new diesel cars sold has fallen by more than 190,000.
Tamzen Isacsson, director of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: "If industry is to meet challenging CO2 targets, getting more of the latest low-emission diesels onto our roads is crucial, as they can emit 20% less CO2 than the equivalent petrol models."
Isacsson blamed the drop in diesel sales on "confusion around government air quality plans and taxation," and warned: "If new diesel car registrations continue on this negative trend, UK average new car CO2 levels could indeed rise this year."
A DfT spokesman said: "We will seek to maintain ambitious targets and our leadership position, and intervening firmly if not enough progress is being made.
"Our ambitious Clean Growth Strategy. includes investing nearly £1.5 billion in accelerating the roll-out of ultra-low emission vehicles by 2020 - generating business opportunities, and leading to cleaner air and lower greenhouse gas emissions."
Austin Collins, managing director of Buyacar, said: "Many customers now tell us that they're avoiding diesel even if it means spending more on fuel.
"Although switching to petrol makes good financial sense for some - especially with plenty of economical petrol, hybrid or electric cars available - diesel's fuel economy still makes it a good option for long-distance drivers or SUV buyers at the moment."
The International Council on Clean Transportation, a research group that has led the campaign against harmful diesel emissions, said that advanced petrol engines, as well as electric and hybrid technology, could cut CO2 emissions without the need for diesel.
Managing director Peter Mock said: "Quite a lot of petrol vehicles do not use the latest technologies available and still have higher CO2 emissions than comparable diesel cars.
"However, the - unfortunately often repeated - statement that diesel cars are necessary to decrease CO2 emissions is simply wrong. Instead, hybridising petrol vehicles and transitioning to electric vehicles today makes more sense for vehicle manufacturers."
Mock also said that the increasing popularity of tall and heavy SUVs, which are generally less fuel efficient than hatchbacks, had made a significant contribution to the rise in average CO2 emissions.