The feverant condemnation of diesel cars seems to be having a negative affect on the environment.
New industry figures have revealed that overall CO2 emissions from cars is up for the first time in 14 years.
This is due to the significant reduction of diesel cars being bought and the increase of petrol vehicles being purchased.
Department for Transport figures uncovered by Buyacar.co.uk, an online car retailer, show that the average new car sold in 2017 produces more CO2 than one sold in 2016.
This reverses a continuous trend of falling CO2 emissions that has been going since 2003.
Since 2003, CO2 emissions have declined by 4.02g/km annually.
Recent announcement such as tax rises, threat of inner city charges and revelations about how damaging diesel car fumes can be has seen a slump in diesel cars being bought in Britain.
From April 2018 diesel drivers face paying up to £500 on their car tax.
So far, sales of these cars have declined by 16 per cent compared to next year.
While diesel cars produce less CO2 than petrol they also emit harmful particulates and nitrogen oxides, which can cause breathing conditions such as asthma.
Official government statistics for the first ten months of 2017 show that the average new car produces 121.1g of CO2 per kilometre.
The full annual figure is on course to exceed the 120.3g/km recorded last year.
“Many customers now tell us that they’re avoiding diesel even if it means spending more on fuel” says Austin Collins, managing director of BuyaCar.co.uk.
“Although switching to petrol makes good financial sense for some – especially with plenty of economical petrol, hybrid or electric cars available – diesel’s fuel economy still makes it a good option for long-distance drivers or SUV buyers at the moment.”
This increase in CO2 emissions could derail the government’s ambitious climate change targets.
Ministers have stated that if emission reduction continue to stall that they will “intervene firmly.”
Car manufacturers are also under pressure to meet an EU target of cutting average car CO2 emissions across the industry to 95g/km by 2021.
Sales of hybrid and electric cars have increased in the UK by 35 per cent but they still out represent a minute margin in overall car sales.
“If industry is to meet challenging CO2 targets getting more of the latest low emission diesels onto our roads is crucial, as they can emit 20% less CO2 than the equivalent petrol models,” says Tamzen Isacsson, director of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the industry body.
Isacsson blamed “confusion around government air quality plans and taxation” for the drop in diesel sales, and warned: ”If new diesel car registrations continue on this negative trend, UK average new car CO2 levels could indeed rise this year”.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We will seek to maintain ambitious targets and our leadership position, and intervening firmly if not enough progress is being made.
“Our ambitious Clean Growth Strategy … includes investing nearly £1.5 billion in accelerating the rollout of ultra-low emission vehicles by 2020 – generating business opportunities and leading to cleaner air and lower greenhouse gas emissions.”
The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), a research group that has led the campaign against harmful diesel emissions, said that advanced petrol engines, as well as electric and hybrid technology could cut CO2 emissions without the need for diesel.
“Quite a lot of petrol vehicles do not use the latest technologies available and still have higher CO2 emissions than comparable diesel cars,” said Peter Mock, managing director of ICCT Europe.
“However, the – unfortunately often repeated – statement that diesel cars are necessary to decrease CO2 emissions is simply wrong. Instead, hybridizing petrol vehicles and transitioning to electric vehicles today makes more sense for vehicle manufacturers.”
Monk also said that the increasing popularity of tall and heavy sport utility vehicles (SUVs), which are generally less fuel efficient than hatchbacks, had made a significant contribution to the rise in average CO2 emissions.