In Brief

Carbon emissions rise as diesel sales plummet

Experts blame the Government’s ‘anti-diesel’ rhetoric and the growing number of SUVs

Declining sales of diesel cars could be to blame for an increase in average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for newly registered vehicles in the UK. 

According to a report by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the 0.8% hike in 2017 is the first rise in CO2 emissions since 2000. 

The SMMT’s study says the Government’s “anti-diesel agenda” led to a 17.1% decline in new vehicles using the fuel last year, with car buyers instead moving towards petrol-powered alternatives. 

Although diesel cars produce more of the toxic gas nitrogen oxide (NOx) than their petrol counterparts, they emit less CO2 and are often more fuel efficient. 

But declining diesel sales are not entirely to blame for increasing CO2 emissions.

The growing popularity of SUVs has also contributed to the increase in carbon emissions, the BBC reports, as crossovers “produce about a quarter more CO2 than the smallest vehicles”.

Greg Archer, from the campaign group Transport & Environment, told The Guardian that “the principal reason CO2 emissions are rising is that carmakers are selling more gas-guzzling SUVs.

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

Electric and hybrid sales were also “far too small to offset the drop in diesel demand” in 2017, says Autocar.

While sales for cleaner plug-in vehicles increased by 34.8% last year, the magazine says, they account for only 13,500 of the 2.5 million cars sold over the past 12 months.

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