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Report shows emissions from cars and from car manufacturing continue to fall

The SMMT has just published the UK motor industry’s eighth annual Sustainability Report, and it reveals how the industry has improved its performance on a range of environmental indicators. At vehicle manufacturing sites energy consumption and CO2 emissions have been cut, water use has been halved and far less waste is being sent to landfill. For motor industry products, the report paints a similar picture; CO2 and other tailpipe emissions continue to fall.

Key points include:

Annual CO2 emissions from UK car and CV manufacturing have fallen 36.5 per cent, from 2.14 to 1.36 million tonnes in just four years

Energy used to make each vehicle fell from a high of 4.3 MWh/unit in 2001 to 2.5 MWh/unit in 2006

CO2 per vehicle produced came down from a high of 1.3 tonnes in 2001 to 0.7 tonnes in 2006

Water use per vehicle produced has been cut from 6.2 m3 in 2001 to 3.3 m3 last year

Total combined waste to landfill down by more than half, from 80,399 tonnes in 2000 to 39,862 tonnes last year

Average new car CO2 has dropped 12 per cent in a decade, from 189.9g/km to 167.2g/km saving an estimated one million tonnes of CO2 each year.

The report also reinforces the message that sustainable transport is not simply an issue of vehicle technology or production efficiencies. Ten per cent of CO2 emissions are produced during the manufacture of a car and five per cent when it is recycled at the end of its life. However, the lion’s share – 85 per cent – is emitted during the ‘in-use’ phase, in other words when it is being driven.

This underlines the interdependent role consumers, policy makers and fuel companies play in the drive to more sustainable motoring. Campaigns like ActOnCO2, long-term fiscal signals and wider bio-fuel distribution are just some of the measures that the industry supports, complementing investment in cleaner vehicle technologies to reduce real-world carbon emissions.

Commenting on the report SMMT president Graham Smith said, “We are proud of how far we have come on sustainability measures and remain committed to further investment for the future. As well as reporting progress annually, we will continue to work with government and other stakeholders to drive home the message that sustainable motoring – whether private car or commercial vehicle – is a partnership in which we must all take responsibility.”

As well as environmental progress, Towards Sustainability charts the economic importance of Britain’s largest manufacturing sector. Industry turnover stood at £48.5 bn last year with exports valued at £24.5 bn, 10.2 per cent of Britain’s total. However, it also reveals concerns on job losses. Since the first report was published in 1999, the number employed directly in automotive manufacturing fell by nearly 27 per cent, from 260,000 to 190,800 last year. In the last three years alone two volume car making operations have closed, underlining competitive pressures faced by the industry.

The report was launched jointly at events in London and at a UK motor industry sustainability reception in Brussels. Hosted by Malcolm Harbour MEP, co-chairman of the Forum for the Automobile and Society and Gary Titley MEP, Labour’s leader in Europe, the Brussels reception featured Vice-President and Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, Günter Verheugen, as guest speaker.

Towards Sustainability collates data from car and commercial vehicle manufacturing sites across the UK, representing more than 98 per cent of UK auto manufacturing operations. It can be downloaded from the home page of the SMMT web site at