Calls to ban SUV advertising to meet climate targets

A new report has called on the UK to ban the advertising of SUVs to help it achieve its goal of reducing carbon emissions.

The report from thinktank New Weather Institute and climate charity Possible says that SUV advertising should be regarded in the same way as tobacco advertising, blaming the vehicles for creating a “more dangerous and toxic urban environment”.

It says that if the UK is to meet its goal of being carbon neutral by 2050 drivers must be discouraged from buying large, heavily polluting vehicles.

SUVs now account for 40 per cent of new car sales in the UK but due to their size and weight are less efficient and more polluting than equivalent hatchbacks and saloons. According to the International Energy Agency, the rise of SUVs in the last 10 years has been the second-greatest contributor to a global increase in CO2 emissions.

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The report's authors want the UK Government to ban advertising of any vehicles which emit more than 160g/km of CO2 or are more than 4.8 metres long. They say by doing so it will remove part of the reason for the rise in SUVs’ popularity.

Zero emissions switch

The report says: “The UK Government’s plan for reaching net zero emissions relies on British drivers quickly switching away from buying traditional petrol and diesel cars to cleaner electric vehicles instead.

“That is now starting to happen, but there’s a problem: we’ve been switching to buying SUVs even faster, and as a result the average carbon emissions of a new car sold in the UK have been going up instead of down for the past four years.”

The average new car CO2 emissions in the UK have risen since 2016 (Photo: Shutterstock)

Andrew Simms, co-director of the New Weather Institute, commented: “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.”

'Cars are cleaner than ever'

However, the trade body for car makers in the UK said that huge progress had been made in reducing the environmental impact of SUVs.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, told the BBC: “SUVs are an increasingly popular choice. To single out a particular body type (such as SUVs) is to ignore the huge advances in emissions and powertrain technology made with every new model.

"Today’s vehicles of all types are the cleanest in history, with average CO2 emissions from dual purpose cars being more than 43 per cent lower than they were 20 years ago."

After falling sharply from 2010, new car CO2 emissions have been rising since 2016, partly as more drivers opt for SUVs and partly as diesel cars, which produce less CO2 than petrol equivalents, have fallen out of favour in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal. The official quoted CO2 emissions figures for new cars have also risen due to a change in how vehicles are tested.

The UK Government wants to ban the sale of all new petrol and diesel-powered cars by 2035, including those with hybrid systems. In the lead-up to that it is expected to follow a similar pattern to the EU, which requires car makers to reduce their fleet CO2 emissions by 37.5 per cent by 2030.