The UK automotive industry’s production carbon footprint fell by -11.2% in 2021 to reach its lowest level since records began, according to the latest research from SMMT’s 23rd Sustainability Report, released this week at a reception in Westminster attended by members and policymakers.
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 is quite remarkable. The report shows how the industry is delivering on its promises, with dramatic reductions in both the energy used to make vehicles, and the emissions they release when on the road.
UK automotive production and the supply chain emitted 81,095 fewer tonnes of CO2 in 2021 compared with the previous year, while average vehicle CO2 emissions were -11.2% less than their 2020 equivalents. Given the average car on UK’s roads is now nine years old, this carbon tonnage saving from production is the equivalent of taking 225,000 of these cars off the road and replacing them with the latest models. Moreover, since 1999, the industry has cut its CO2 emissions by 1.5 million tonnes or -70.6% – equivalent to taking almost 900,000 cars off the road.
The UK’s world-renowned specialist and low volume manufacturers were even more successful in delivering sustainable production, emitting -26.6% less CO2 per vehicle produced and sending no waste to landfill at all. Water use per vehicle also fell by -11.6%, while overall production rocketed by 40.2% as the sector rebuilds post-pandemic.
The report also illustrates how the wider sector continues to invest in its people, with apprenticeship positions increasing 67% and the number of training days per employee up by 5.6%, to 1.7 days per employee. In addition, the sector’s economic contribution is revealed, with UK automotive-related manufacturing turnover estimated to have recovered by 5% in 2021 to £67.1 billion, while automotive-related GVA is estimated at £14.1 billion, with 182,000 people directly employed in manufacturing roles.
Ultimately, 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.