Most polluting cars could be pulled from UK market
Published: 13 Jan 2020

The automotive industry has warned that post Brexit, carmakers could pull higher polluting models from the UK market in a bid to meet stricter carbon dioxide limits.

New European rules state that the average CO2 emissions of cars sold in 2020 and 2021 across the single market must fall below 95g of CO2 per kilometre. Carmakers who miss these targets will face major fines.

Currently more polluting larger cars are offset across Europe by smaller less polluting cars. Typically the UK market has favoured more polluting SUV vehicles compared to some of its European counterparts.

However after Brexit the UK will no longer be in the EU, but the UK government has said they intend to copy EU rules, with targets 'at least as ambitious as current EU CO2 emissions targets'. This will make a UK only limit harder to achieve for car manufacturers.

Last year CO2 emissions of cars sold in the UK rose for the third year in a row. Average UK emissions were 127.9g per kilometre in 2019, 35% higher than the new targets of 95g.

Carmakers who breach their individual CO2 targets will pay fines of £83 (€95) for every gram over their limit, multiplied by the number of cars sold that year.

Chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Mike Hawes, said: “Carmakers will have to look at their model mix... you’ve got to see whether that’s economic. The fines are going to be severe and all of them will do everything they can to avoid that. “It could be that you see a reduction in consumer choice through the removal of higher-emitting vehicles from not just the top end, but particular segments.”

Pulling models from the UK market would be a huge blow to the automotive industry but could prove to be environmentally beneficial as it could reduce the sale of the most polluting cars.

Government figures state cars account for over 18% of UK emissions, so action needs to be taken if the UK is to cut emissions to 51% of 1990 levels by 2025 and reach net zero by 2050.