Thursday, January 31, 2008

Can Carbon Offsetting Save Landrover?

Land Rover is offering to offset the buyer's carbon emissions for the first 45,000 miles.

By paying money to Climate Care consumers can help promote energy saving projects in developing countries. These projects include installing clean energy systems to communities that otherwise may never enjoy the benefit of a coal or nuclear power station.

This financial act then offsets your guilt for purchasing a heavy polluting vehicle in the first world. And you, the consumer can feel less bad.

Or smug - which is our experience. Which is why we don't like the scheme. Because somehow the conscience factor is lost in the current hype of carbon offsetting.

Maybe the executives at Land Rover should visit our friends over at

Citizens Inspections at Car Showrooms

Members of the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s recently visited car showrooms across the UK. We wanted to see if the dealerships are complying with UK law that requires all showrooms (and places of trade) to display the vehicle's fuel efficiency as well as the CO2 emissions. They are also required to have a comparative poster centrally located that lists all of their models for sale and ranks them according to efficiency and emissions.

What we found was surprising. Most dealers are displaying the fuel efficiency labels, but almost none have a poster.

So we've written to each of them to let them know what our 'inspectors' found, and have given them a week to comply. We will then reinspect the dealerships, and if they haven't changed, we plan to notify the trading standards authorities.

Failure to comply carries a maximum £5,000 fine, so it's not a joke.

This is just the beginning. We feel this information in the showroom is a minuscule amount of information that ethical and environmentally aware consumers are being given to help make an informed decision about their new vehicle.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Jeep is Misleading Buyers with Green 4x4 Adverts

Greenwash Alert: Jeep (Chrysler UK) is actively misleading consumers with their new advertisements for their 'green 4x4 range of the year'.

The new ads claims that the jeeps pictured are from the 'green' 4x4 range of the year. However, if you scrutinize the small text at the bottom, nowhere is the claim substantiated. Hmm... There is a tiny golden logo with a 'shimmer' on it, which is not easily legible by people with normal eyesite - on very close inspection it says 'Green 4x4 Award Gold Award'. Further research by the Alliance revealed that the 'award' was given by 4x4 and MPV driver magazine - a magazine in the business of promoting 4x4s!

While the ad claims that the four jeeps pictured are from the 'Green 4x4 range of the year', the award was only given to the Patriot model.

Let's get an unbiased look at the Jeep claims from the government's perspective. Looking in the Act on CO2 website by the DfT, which is updated by the car industry, the Jeep Patriot does not appear as the most efficient model. Go on, you can try it yourself. Look under small 4x4, manual gearbox and diesel engine.

Anyways, according to our friend John over at Honda, 'The emissions of the CR-V diesel are 173 g/km compared to the 177g/km of the 'cleanest' Jeep 4x4.'

Finally, the ad states that the jeeps emit from 170g of CO2 per km to 381g of CO2 per kilometer - the latter figure is well into band G (and the top of the worst band at that) of emissions. And, if you figure that any diesel vehicle pumps out tons of NOx and other air pollutants at a level 3-15x that of a normal petrol engine, then you can bet these aren't GREEN vehicles at all.

This is clearly misleading advertising, and using green, unsubstantiated claims. If you see the ad yourself, why not lodge a complaint to the ASA your self? It's easy and it's fun.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Almost There with Higher Congestion Charging For 4x4s

In 2005 we started our campaign along with Greenpeace to charge the most polluting vehicles more (£20) to enter London's Congestion Charge. This includes most luxury 4x4s. We prepared a report to show how this new scheme could work, overcame TfL's obstacles and we handed it to the GLA.

The consultation period period ended late last year, and while there has been some backtracking on offering incentives for people to actually switch from a large gas guzzler to a smaller and leaner vehicle, we're hopeful that there will still be a stiff charge for the most polluting cars.

As we're not against freedom of choice, it seems only fair that if someone chooses to drive a heavier and more polluting vehicle than the average citizen, then they should also be willing to accept responsibility for their choice has on the environment.

All the extra revenue from this scheme goes towards enabling better public transport

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Should Greens Demand Higher Petrol Prices?

Often the green movement and transport NGOs lobby for higher petrol prices. They argue that the escalating prices at the gas pump will decrease car usage. Witness the reaction by Greenpeace in light of the petrol protests by the hauliers in 2003. They held reactive protests asking the government for higher petrol prices.

In the USA, where the price at the pump is rising, consumers are now turning their backs on large SUVs and demanding new hybrid and cross-over models. You could thus argue that the higher prices are a good thing, and should be used by central government as a blunt instrument for change in the transport sector.

However, a recent article in the Financial Times came across our desk. According to the article, the rising cost of oil has wiped out the benefits many African countries were expecting from western aid and debt relief over the past three years, according to new research by the International Energy Agency.

They reported: "Surveying 13 non-oil-producing African countries, including South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Senegal, the IEA found that the increase in the cost of oil bought by the countries since 2004 was equivalent to 3 per cent of combined GDP. This was more than the sum of debt relief and aid received over the past three years by the countries, which have a combined population of 270m, of whom 104m live on less than $1 a day."

So, the increase in oil prices in the markets is having a much wider effect beyond the pumps. The rise has real social effects around the world.

The higher prices also stimulate an uncontrolled international gold rush towards mining ‘unconventional oil’ from dangerously toxic projects including tar sands and coal-to-liquid extractions as well as new policies promoting biofuels, which have the disastrous effect of hitting the poor much harder (food scarcity, higher food prices) than they hit us.

Therefore, pushing for low carbon cars is one of the most important measures we can take to manage oil consumption and help bring oil prices down again.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Land Rover Wins a Greenwash Award

Apparently, Landrover landed themselves in some deep *mud* with their PR firm Trimedia, winning them the award for the most counterproductive green press release of the year in December 2007.

Harrison Cowley, from Trimedia, sent a press release to environmental journalists inviting them to a tour of Land Rover’s facilities in the west of England. Although there was nothing wrong with the idea in principle, the clincher was the utterly bizarre suggestion that green hacks might think it a good idea to spend the afternoon “offroading” in Land Rover’s climate-busting high-performance vehicles. One environmental editor duly sent the release around all his NGO friends, which is how it ended up being nominated for this award.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Car Industry Still Fails to Take CO2 Emissions Seriously

The SMMT announced the 2006 sales weighted figures today for the UK. The figures show that the average emissions have fallen by a mere 1.4% to 164.9g/km

Shocking, but not surprising. This means that 10 years into an 11 year agreement, the average automobile emissions in the UK have fallen by exactly half of what the industry agreed to.

According to Tony Bosworth, senior FoE transport campaigner, “Today’s figures show another year of poor progress in cutting new car emissions. Average emissions have fallen slightly, but nowhere near the levels required and the industry will miss its 2008 emissions target by a mile. Car companies must do much more to tackle climate change, instead of fighting tooth and nail against new EU proposals. What we need is more action and less self-interested lobbying”.

What can we put this failure down to? Lazy engineering, increasingly more powerful engines, continued investment in old 20th century technology, aggressive advertising for large gas-guzzlers...

Meanwhile, in a surprising move, owners of the automotive parts manufacturers are calling for tougher CO2 regulations. Thierry Morin, chairman for the firm Valeo, says that "Valeo has already developed systems capable of reducing current car emissions by 30-40 percent."

Morin said French car makers are ahead of their peers from other countries, notably Germany, on carbon emissions.'If I were them, I would make the most of this advantage,' he said.

Road Rage - BBC1 7th January 2008 21:00

Road Rage - The Battle for Britain’s Roads will be transmitting on Monday 7th January at 9pm – Don’t miss it! Featuring our Crash Test Dummies action in Highgate and the London Naked Bike Ride 2007.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Strong Support to Charge Most Polluting Cars More

Recent polling shows that two thirds of Londoners support proposals to charge cars with the highest greenhouse gas emissions £25 a day to drive in the central London congestion charge zone and introduce a zero charge for the lowest emitting vehicles.

The results, announced late December by Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, come from polling carried out by Ipsos Mori as part of the recent consultation on the emissions based charging proposals. The survey was based on a very large survey of 3,620 Londoners, with around half of those resident in the existing congestion charging zone.

The survey found:

o 91 per cent of those questioned said that they thought climate change was "important" or "very important"

o Two-thirds (66 per cent) of respondents were in favour of the proposal upon which Transport for London has consulted, with 38 per cent strongly supporting it. Only 21per cent opposed the scheme.

o 63 per cent of respondents stated that the higher charge would act as an incentive to use a lower CO2 emitting car.

o Over two-thirds (68 per cent) of respondents believed that the proposals as consulted upon would benefit London, of which 32 per cent strongly agreed. Only 17 per cent disagreed with this.

The proposals consulted upon would see drivers of cars which make the biggest contribution to global warming, those in Vehicle Excise Duty Band 'G' and equivalent, such as some of the so-called 'Chelsea tractors', some high powered sports cars and expensive luxury vehicles, pay £25 a day to drive in the existing central London congestion charge zone.

The great majority of drivers within the zone would be unaffected, and would continue to pay the standard £8 charge.

The polling was commissioned as part of Transport for London's consultation on emissions based charging proposals.

Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone said: "These results show that the vast majority of Londoners support action to tackle climate change. The proposals consulted upon are part of a package of measures London is taking to lead the way in averting catastrophic climate change.”

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

SUVs Once Ruled The Earth But They Have Outlived Their Time

When we started our campaign, SUV's were all the rage in America. And the trend was sweeping across the UK into Europe. But the trend has been shifting. Through our campaign and the media, it's hard to hear of a conversation about 4x4s without some argument about their high carbon emissions, poor fuel economy or lack of usefulness in a city environment.

Well, now Alex Taylor III, a senior editor for the Fortune Magazine, writes that "SUVs once ruled the Earth but like the dinosaurs, they've outlived their time."

He continues, "It is an ignoble end to a proud motoring era. Not more than 15 years ago, SUVs ruled the automotive landscape and produced record profits during Detroit's last golden age. Now the most popular SUV of that era, the Ford Explorer, is headed to the scrap heap, done in by fuel economy and the lingering effects of tire-shredding and rollover issues from several years ago."

Customers in the US are demanding new crossover and hybrid models. "They have to do it," says senior analyst John Wolkonowicz. "It is what consumers want." Consumers get more from crossovers because they combine the functionality of the old truck-based SUVs with the ride and handling of a passenger car. He says the shift from truck to car engineering "probably saves 500 pounds in weight. The lower tonnage, along with improved aerodynamics that comes from sitting closer to the ground, will boost gas mileage."

Newcastle Plans To Tax Gas Guzzlers More 4 Parking

Newcastle has become the latest council to propose the introduction of increased parking charges for high carbon vehicles in the city centre. The development follows moves to differentiate parking charges between high and low carbon vehicles in London and Manchester.

The BBC reported on 11 December that Newcastle City planners are considering proposals for drivers to pay higher parking charges depending on their vehicle's tax band.

Another proposal under consideration is a charge on city centre businesses to use their own parking space.

The Liberal Democrat Council Leader John Shipley said: "In my view we are getting to the point where it is indefensible to offer free business parking in a city centre when we are trying to free up the roads here. If we are serious about climate change then measures such as emission-based charging need to be looked at."