The SMMT says "anti-diesel agenda" could hinder progress made by car industry on cutting CO2 emissions

Rebecca Smith
Carbon tailpipe emissions fell to an all-time low last year
Carbon tailpipe emissions fell to an all-time low last year (Source: Getty)

Despite UK CO2 emissions falling for the 19th consecutive year, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has warned an "anti-diesel agenda" threatens to impede progress.

The UK car industry beat CO2 targets for last year, with carbon tailpipe emissions falling to an all-time low in 2016. They were 1.1 per cent lower than 2015 and beat 2000 levels by more than a third.

Read more: VW has fixed 470,000 of the UK cars hit by the emissions scandal

The industry's rate of progress has been slowing though, due to changes in consumer buying behaviour away from diesel in 2016. The SMMT said the "anti-diesel agenda" fails to distinguish between old models and the latest cleaner vehicles, which could have a negative effect on future CO2 reduction progress.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “The automotive industry has some of the most challenging CO2 reduction targets of any sector and continues to deliver reductions as it has for nearly two decades. For this positive trend to continue, modern low emission diesels and alternatively fuelled vehicles such as plug-ins, hydrogen and hybrids must be encouraged with long-term incentives."

He added that "turning our back on any of these" will undermine progress, both on CO2 targets and air quality objectives.

Although the UK accounts for almost a quarter of EU electric and plug-in hybrid registrations in 2016, the growth in demand alternatively fuelled vehicles has slowed, from 40.3 per cent in 2015 to 22.2 per cent.

There's also an appetite for SUVs over smaller cars, which the SMMT noted made progress on CO2 reduction more difficult.

Read more: Mayor Sadiq Khan bolsters the capital's electric-only bus routes

The SMMT said progress has been made on cutting emissions thanks to billions of pounds worth of investment in new advanced engine, fuel and battery technology.

Yesterday, a group of business leaders and environmental charities wrote to the chancellor, urging him to bring in Sadiq Khan's proposals for a national diesel scrappage fund. The mayor has called on ministers to implement plans for a national "dirty" diesel scrappage fund that would financially compensate motorists and aim to bolster the government's efforts to crack down on toxic air.

The letter said:

The mayor’s proposal seeks to rebalance the financial cost of improving our air away from the individual – unlocking significant emission reductions while reducing the cost for those least able to afford to upgrade their vehicle or change how they drive.

Signatories included the Federation of Small Businesses London, the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association and Greenpeace.

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