Cars and Carbon Dioxide
The accumulation of key greenhouse gases (most importantly CO2 and methane) in the atmosphere due to human activities is contributing to climate change. Unless action is taken to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, such as CO2, the whole pattern of the world's weather could change, increasing the frequency and intensity of heatwaves, floods, droughts and storms. The Climate Change Act (2008) set a long-term legally binding framework for greenhouse gas reduction in the UK. The Act requires the UK Government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 34% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 from 1990 levels in the UK. The Government has set out its plan of action for greenhouse gas reduction in the Carbon Plan (December 2011). The plan identifies that transport has a critical role in meeting the Climate Change Act (2008) obligations.
Transport is an engine for economic growth. Its role in moving people and goods around the country is vital, but it is also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2013, domestic and international transport accounted for 26% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions. The Carbon Plan identifies a wide-ranging strategy for reducing emissions from the transport sector. In the short term, the most significant greenhouse gas savings from transport are likely to come from improving the fuel efficiency of conventional vehicles and increased use of sustainable biofuels.
The CO2 emissions of a car are directly proportional to the quantity of fuel consumed by an engine. While there has been progress in reducing emissions of air quality pollutants from vehicles, there has been less progress in reducing CO2 from cars despite improvements in engine efficiency. Nevertheless, despite the tendency in recent years for cars to become heavier as showroom models arrive better equipped and with more features than ever before, consumers are increasingly choosing lower CO2 emitting vehicles and so the rate of CO2 reduction is showing some improvement.
Measures to reduce car CO2 emissions
In 1998, the European Commission and industry associations of the major motor vehicle manufacturers agreed to reduce the average CO2 emissions of new cars. This voluntary agreement aimed to cut the average CO2 emissions of new cars by over 25% by 2008/9 to 140g CO2/km, and as a result to see a 25% improvement in average fuel consumption.
In 2009 European regulation setting binding targets to reduce the CO2 emissions of new cars (EC Regulation No. 443/2009) entered into force. The main features of the Regulation are as follows:
There are several facts to bear in mind for anyone owning or driving a car who is wondering how the Regulation will affect them:
In the UK, a number of other steps have been taken to promote the purchase and use of more fuel-efficient vehicles:
CO2 Targets for Vans
In June 2011, Regulation EC/510/2011 entered into force. It follows a similar format to the cars regulation, but applies to light-duty vans (that is N1 vehicles under the definitions used in European legislation). It sets a near-term European fleet average target of 175g CO2/km to be achieved by 2017 (phased-in from 2014). A longer term target of 147g CO2/km has been set for 2020.
In the UK, a number of measures have been introduced to promote the purchase of zero-emission vans:
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