Automotive carbon manufacturing footprint in UK falls to its lowest ever

The UK automotive industry’s production carbon footprint fell by -11.2 per cent in 2021 compared to the previous year to reach its lowest level since records began, to according to new research from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

SMMT’s latest annual Sustainability Report, now in its 23rd year, shows that automotive production and the supply chain emitted 81.095 fewer tons of CO2 in 2021 compared with the previous year. Average vehicle CO2 emissions, meanwhile, were -11.2 per cent less than their 2020 equivalents.1 Given the average car on UK’s roads is now nine years old, the carbon saving from production is the equivalent of taking 225,000 cars off the road and replacing them with the latest models. Since 1999, the industry has cut its CO2 emissions by 1.5 million tons or 70.6 per cent – ​​equivalent to taking almost 900,000 cars off the road.

Despite reduced production because of the global semiconductor shortage, the industry was still able to improve its environmental efficiency, with a -6.1 per cent reduction in water used per vehicle produced, and a -2.6 per cent reduction in waste going to landfill year on year . As a result of the industry’s commitment, -96.2 per cent less waste per vehicle goes to landfill than did at the start of the millennium. In addition, since 2015 the industry has ensured 95 per cent of a vehicle by weight goes through a takeback network to be reused, recycled or recovered.

The sector’s economic contribution is also revealed, with UK automotive-related manufacturing turnover estimated to have recovered by 5 per cent in 2021 to £67.1 billion, while automotive-related GVA is estimated at £14.1 billion, with 182,000 people directly employed in manufacturing roles .

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “With the automotive sector still trying to recover from the pandemic while transitioning to zero-emission vehicles, the improvements made in the sustainability of production this past year is a remarkable achievement. The report shows the industry delivering on its commitments, with dramatic reductions in both the energy used to make vehicles and the emissions they release when on the road. The automotive sector is central to the UK’s carbon reduction ambitions and, with government support to improve UK competitiveness, we can ensure that transition continues to create well-paid, clean-tech jobs while generating economic prosperity and growth in all regions of the UK. 2”


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