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  • Should Big Car Adverts Be Banned?

Should Big Car Adverts Be Banned?

Aug 07 2020 Read 439 Times

Advertising for sports utility vehicles (SUVs) should be banned, according to a new report from environmental thinktank New Weather Institute. SUVs emit disproportionately large amounts of greenhouse gases, exacerbating climate change and offsetting any gains made by the rise in popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) and other forms of environmentally friendly road transportation.

EVs have seen steady increases in their sales in recent years – but not as much as SUVs. In 2019 alone, over 150,000 cars of 4.8m or more in length were sold in the UK, which is too large to fit into a standard parking space. As well as taking up more room than is feasibly necessary, the SUVs also emit an average of over 160g of carbon per kilometre, which is far more than a smaller car.

Gas guzzlers

Due to their increased size and weight, SUVs encounter more wind resistance and must use more fuel to power themselves than other cars. This translates into higher emissions of damaging contaminants and, according to the International Energy Agency, is the second largest contributor to the rise in greenhouse gas emissions in the last 10 years. Their increasing popularity may be one reason why European countries are struggling to hit their emission targets for 2020 and beyond.

In a time where people are slowly becoming more environmentally conscious, the rise of the SUV is something of an anomaly. It’s an unignorable one, however. In the UK, they make up 40% of all new cars sold. By contrast, EVs account for a mere 2% of new sales. Clearly, that is a sign of a worrying trend which isn’t just confined to British shores, either.

There are an estimated 200 million SUVs on roads across the world, which is a 35 million increase (or 17.5% rise) since 2010. This sharp uptake can be attributed to a rise in marketing budgets, according to the report. Between 2016 and 2018, for example, major manufacturer Ford went from devoting half of its budget to SUV adverts to a whopping 85% of it.

Tobacco-style ban

As a result, the authors of the report have called for authorities to clamp down on SUV marketing, in much the same way that Big Tobacco was restricted in advertising its products once the carcinogenic effects became public knowledge. The parallels between the two industries are indeed striking, as highlighted by the report itself:

“Tobacco causes damage to the consumers, and tobacco companies benefit from the way that they hook their most loyal customers,” explains the report. “SUVs are marketed as providing protection for drivers, [but] their physical size, weight and pollution levels create a more dangerous and toxic urban environment for both drivers and pedestrians.”

With the UK government having committed to achieving net zero emissions within 30 years, measures like these could be instrumental in turning the tide. The promotion of EVs and other green forms of transport had led to falling tailpipe emissions for several years running, but the rise of the SUV has jeopardised that trend and in fact brought about year-on-year increases since 2017. An embargo on big car adverts could be the solution.

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