A report from the UK’s NAO (National Audit Office) has flagged that emissions from cars in the UK are not falling as fast as expected.
In 2018 car emissions represented 19% of UK total emissions, and this headline figure has barely changed for a decade. Transport is the UK’s most polluting sector, accounting for roughly a third of the country’s CO2 emissions.
Despite significant year-on-year percentage increases in EV sales, as at September 2020 the proportion of the UK car fleet that is fully electric was a mere 0.5%. The NAO’s report states “While there has been an increase in the number of ultra-low emission cars and the required charging infrastructure, carbon emissions from cars have not reduced in line with government’s initial expectations.”
The UK Government claims that it is “is going further and faster to decarbonise transport by phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030”, but it remains that over 90% of new cars sold are ICE (petrol or diesel) and an increasing proportion of these are SUVs which are larger, heavier and less fuel-efficient than hatchbacks or saloons (sedans). These SUVs are predominantly diesel, and ones purchased now will be on the roads well into the 2030s. Transport emissions dipped slightly up to 2016 but then increased by 6% up to 2019; this is widely attributed to the larger percentage of SUVs on the roads.
Professor Jillian Anable, chair in transport and energy at the University of Leeds, said “Fossil fuel SUVs are outselling electric vehicles still 10-to-one in the current market.” “We need to ban the most polluting cars now – so that, between now and 2030, the top 10 per cent of the most polluting vehicles are not allowed to be sold in this country”.
Comment: It’s becoming quite clear that only transitioning to EVs from fossil fuel vehicles will not deliver the significant change required. A cultural shift will be required to encourage lighter weight mobility options, shared-use and increasingly micromobility and low-traffic zones in cities. Nobody is suggesting this will be easy, requiring reconfiguring the use of existing space, and almost certainly a carrot and stick approach being required to meet climate change targets.