sport utility vehicles

Sport utility vehicles are lined up for sale on April 21, 2022 at an AutoNation dealership in Valencia, California.

(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Sales of SUVs—Responsible for More Carbon Pollution Than All But 5 Countries—Still Rising

One environmental activist urged U.S. President Joe Biden to take action to "usher out the era of climate-destroying cars and trucks."

Although the total number of automobiles sold globally fell slightly last year, worldwide sales of sport utility vehicles rose significantly, with 330 million SUVs now on—and off—the world's roads emitting more planet-heating greenhouse gases than all but five nations, an analysis published Monday revealed.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports total car sales fell nearly 0.5% to around 75 million units in 2022. SUV sales, however, were up around 3% "despite supply chain obstacles and rising inflation."

"In 2022, SUVs accounted for around 46% of global car sales, with noticeable growth coming in the United States, India, and Europe," the report says.

IEA noted that "an increasing number of SUVs were electric, accounting for around 16% of total SUV sales in 2022, above the average overall market share for EVs. For the first time ever, electric SUVs last year accounted for over half of global electric car sales."

However, the "strong increase in sales of electric models was not enough to prevent carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from SUVs worldwide reaching almost 1 billion tons in 2022," the agency said.

Put another way, if SUVs were a country, it would be the world's sixth-biggest carbon polluter.

"Rapidly increasing the number of electric cars on the road in place of conventional cars is a key part of reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century," the IEA report asserts. "At the same time, SUVs require larger batteries to power them, so a growing electric SUV market would impose additional pressure on battery supply chains and further increase demand for the critical minerals needed to make the batteries."

"Addressing those risks ahead of time is possible through a number of actions: downsizing of the average car size; increasing battery swapping; and investing in innovative battery technologies," the analysis continues. "Those strategies would keep in check the investment requirements for developing the cobalt, copper, lithium, and nickel resources needed to satisfy the increasing uptake of EVs."

Climate and environmental campaigners in the United States urged President Joe Biden to take action to boost EV production.

"Cutting auto pollution by 75% by 2030 is the biggest single step America can take to prevent catastrophic global warming."

"While automakers talk out of both sides of their tailpipes, President Biden can take action to usher out the era of climate-destroying cars and trucks," Dan Becker, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Safe Climate Transport Campaign, said in a statement.

"The president needs to set standards that dramatically boost EV production and require automakers to slash the pollution caused by new gas-burning vehicles in the meantime," he added. "Cutting auto pollution by 75% by 2030 is the biggest single step America can take to prevent catastrophic global warming."

Amanda Pantoja, a sustainable communities program consultant with GreenLatinos, asserted that "our communities need clean air, not more toxic auto pollution."

"Setting the highest clean car standards is essential to achieving environmental justice for low-income communities of color disproportionately impacted by vehicle emissions," Pantoja explained. "President Biden must deliver on his commitment to advance zero-emission transportation and ensure that vulnerable populations have access to clean vehicles in their neighborhoods."

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