Backlash grows as new report reveals motor emissions could have fallen 30% without SUVs

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A report by the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI) has found that CO2 emissions could have fallen by 30% between 2010 and 2022 had the SUV trend not taken off as a backlash from environmental NGOs, local authorities and governments goes up a gear.

As of today, SUVs now represent a majority of the new car market (51%).

But their environmental impacts is being put under the spotlight by sustainability NGOs and campaign groups.

Sheila Watson, the Deputy Director of the FIA Foundation, an environmental and road safety charity, told Zag: “We need to end the global love affair with the SUV. The average new car takes up a staggering 4.2m2 of road space and has reached a record weight of 1.5 tonnes, outgrowing the urban spaces already designated for parking and pushing pedestrians and cyclists to the edges of public spaces.

“Bigger is not better for our planet or the people on it.”

Jemima Hartshorn, Founder and Director of Mums for Lungs, a grassroots environmental campaign group committed to spreading awareness of air pollution in the UK, agrees. “SUV sales have continued to rise and rise, despite the huge harm they cause. If SUVs were a country, they would be the sixth highest emitter in the world. And frankly, most people in the UK don’t need them.

“We all need to do our part to reduce toxic emissions that heat the planet and harm children’s lungs.”

The reason for the uptick in SUVs is profits, according to the GFEI. Manufacturers are seeing SUVs sell at a premium for proportionally lower manufacturing costs, bringing in the widest profit margins.

“We can’t go on like this,” Sheila said. “This report highlights what policymakers must do locally and nationally to push SUVs out of our cities and off our roads, and thereby protect us all.”

Adding to the picture, just last week the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned two Toyota SUV adverts on the grounds of breaching social responsibility concerning the environment – a first for SUV advertisements.

Dozens of Toyota cars were videoed traversing through natural landscapes as a voiceover said: “Toyota Hilux. Born to Roam.”

According to the ASA, the advert “condoned the use of vehicles in a manner that disregarded their impact on nature and the environment.”

Opposition to SUVs has ventured internationally too. Paris Mayor Anna Hidalgo has promised a city referendum on 4 February to decide whether parking fees should be increased for SUVs in the city centre. Higher parking fees would apply to thermal cars which exceed 1.6 tonnes and electric vehicles which exceed two tonnes.

The authors of the report are now calling for governments to place restrictions on vehicle sizes to reverse the SUV trend.

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