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The UK automotive industry’s production carbon footprint fell by 11.2% in 2021 compared to the previous year and is the lowest since records began.

The research was gathered by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) for its annual Sustainability Report — now in its 23rd year. 

According to the report, the UK automotive industry and its supply chain emitted 81,095 fewer tonnes of CO2 in 2021 compared to 2020.

Average vehicle emissions also declined by 11.2%. Given that the average vehicle on UK roads is nine years old, the SMMT says this is equivalent to taking 225,000 cars off the road and replacing them with the latest models. 

Plus, since the turn of the century, the automotive industry has cut its CO2 emissions by 1.5 million tonnes or 70.6%. Again, that’s equivalent to taking 900,000 cars off the road.

“With the automotive sector still trying to recover from the pandemic while simultaneously transitioning to zero-emission vehicles, the improvements made in the sustainability of production this past year is a remarkable achievement,” says Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s Chief Executive.

“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.”

The industry was also able to reduce its water usage per vehicle produced by 6.1% and its landfill waste by 2.6%. In fact, since the millennium, 96.2% less waste per vehicle goes to landfill. Overall production has increased by 40.2%. The supply chain has also improved its sustainability, with the report’s signatories also sending zero waste to landfill and recording a 25.3% reduction in CO2 emissions per tonne of product shipped.

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