The UK new car manufacturing sector is celebrating its smallest carbon footprint ever, according to a leading industry body. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says the industry’s production carbon footprint fell by -11.2 percent last year, taking it to the lowest level since records began.

In the SMMT’s latest annual Sustainability Report, the figures showed automotive production and the supply chain emitted 81,095 fewer tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2021 than in the previous year. That means since 1999, the industry has reduced its total CO2 emissions by more than 70 percent.

Last year also saw the average CO2 emissions of vehicles produced in the UK fall by 11.2 percent compared with their 2020 equivalents. With the average car on UK roads now nine years old, the SMMT says that means the saving from production is equivalent to taking 225,000 of these cars off the road and replacing them with the latest models.

Bentley Flying Spur production gets underway in Crewe

But sustainability is about more than carbon dioxide emissions, and even though production has been stymied by the global semiconductor shortage, environmental efficiency is still on the up. According to the SMMT’s figures, there has been a 6.1-percent drop in the amount of water used per vehicle, and a 2.6-percent reduction in waste going to landfill. Such is the reduction that the UK automotive sector now sends 96.2 percent less waste to landfill per vehicle produced than it did at the start of the millennium.

Specialist and low-volume manufacturers were even more successful in reducing their environmental impact, emitting 26.6 percent less CO2 per vehicle produced in 2021 and sending no waste to landfill at all. Water use per vehicle was also down 11.6 percent, despite production rocketing by more than 40 percent.

Nissan LEAF production in Sunderland, UK

“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 this past year is a remarkable achievement,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“The report shows the industry delivering on its commitments, with dramatic reductions in both the energy used to make vehicles, and the emissions they release when on the road. 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.”