The popularity of SUVs has soared in recent years, exacerbating climate change due to global carbon emissions reaching the startling sum of almost one billion tons, according to the International Energy Agency.
The environmental charity Possible has been comparing emissions from current SUVs with 10-yeara-old vehicles due to growing concern over the impact of SUVs on the environment. The charity’s focus has been on the U.K., where the proportion of SUVs rose from around one-fifth of all vehicles sold to almost a third in recent years. Further research has shown that three-quarters of new SUVs are registered in urban areas.
According to the study, the average car purchased in 2023 emits higher levels of carbon dioxide (CO₂) than its 2013 equivalent. This is due to the large proportion of SUVs in the mix, which tend to be bigger, heavier vehicles with larger engines. Not only can they easily weigh two tons, many of them are equipped with all-wheel drive systems, which are more common today than 10 years ago.
Together with the increase in registrations, these factors combine to practically cancel out any improvement in emissions through more electric vehicles and more efficient petrol consumption.
20% more emissions
Possible also found that SUV emissions are 20% higher than those of conventional vehicles. While CO₂ emissions of an average new SUV decreased between 2011 and 2016, when they reached 120 grams per kilometer, this figure has risen steadily ever since, and is now approaching 130 grams per kilometer.
The popularity of SUVs is not confined to the U.K. Other European countries also favor the model and, in the U.S., they account for around 50% of sales. According to the International Energy Agency, SUVs produced as many emissions globally as the U.K. and Germany combined in 2022, leading to the conclusion that if SUVs were a country, they would rank as the sixth most polluting country in the world.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition