Gas-guzzling SUVs thwarting efforts to reduce carbon emissions

A new report from the International Energy Agency reveals that consumers are buying ever larger and less fuel-efficient SUVs. This trend is driving global carbon emissions.

A forthcoming report from the International Energy Agency reveals that all our talk about climate change isn’t yet translating into climate action. According its World Energy Outlook 2019, which will be published on 13 November 2019, there is a growing trend among consumers to buy more and more Sport Utility Vehicles or SUVs.

Over the past decade, the share of SUVs has more than doubled.

“In 2010, 18 percent of all car sales in the world were SUVs. In 2018, more than 40 percent of all cars sold in the world are SUVs!” IEA head Fatih Birlo told an electric energy conference in Paris last week.

The trend is universal. Today, nearly half of all cars sold in the US and one-third of cars sold in Europe are SUVs. The heavy, gas-guzzling vehicles are also popular in China, India and Africa, where they are regarded as symbols of wealth and status.

IEA energy modellers Laura Cozzi and Apostolos Petropoulos call the impact of the rise of SUVs on global emissions “nothing short of surprising”. SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global carbon emissions since 2010, just behind the power sector. This means that they surpassed emissions from heavy industry such as iron and steel production, as well trucks and aviation.

According to the IEA report, the trend towards bigger and heavier cars like SUVs is putting into doubt claims that we are soon reaching a peak in passenger car oil demand.

“SUVs were responsible for all of the 3.3 million barrels a day growth in oil demand from passenger cars between 2010 and 2018,” write Cozzi and Petropoulos. “If consumers’ appetite for SUVs continues to grow at a similar pace seen in the last decade, SUVs would add nearly 2 million barrels a day in global oil demand by 2040, offsetting the savings from nearly 150 million electric cars.”

They could also end up responsible for slowing down the developing of clean and efficient car fleets and further driving carbon emissions to dangerous new levels.

Image credit: RL GNZLZ via Flickr

 

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