Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders have revealed that carbon dioxide emissions from new cars in the UK have fallen by more than 3% in the past 18 months. The average new car sold in this country now emits 178.5 grammes per kilometre of CO2 compared to 185g/km in 1999.
But statistics from the ACEA, the European manufacturers' association, show that emissions in mainland Europe have fallen from 175g/km to 169g/km in the same period, due to the larger proportion of diesel sales. Manufacturers are committed to reducing average emissions to 140g/km by 2008, and the ACEA hit out at the UK Government, claiming it did not expect manufacturers' efforts to be hindered by Government taxation policies.
Under the new carbon dioxide-based Vehicle Excise Duty and company car tax systems in the UK, diesel is penalised because of fears of harmful local air pollutants due to particulate emissions.
Christopher Macgowan, chief executive of the SMMT, said: 'These latest figures show that the motor industry in the UK is doing its bit to meet European carbon dioxide reduction targets. And while we are pleased that some diesel taxes have been eased, the Government needs to do more to help. It needs to demonstrate that it too is committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by scrapping all diesel penalties.'
In 1997, 6.2% of new cars sold in the UK emitted less than 150g/km of CO2. In the first five months of 2001, this share reached 24%. The number of new cars with emissions below the 2008 target of 140g/km rose from 3.2% to 8.7% in the same period, accounting for more than 92,000 new car sales so far this year.
Figures issued by the Office of National Statistics revealed that between 1990 and 1999, overall greenhouse emissions fell in the UK, but global warming gas emissions from road transport increased 8%, mainly caused by commercial vehicles.