CO2 Emissions

Excess levels of CO2 can be harmful to humans and the environment. High levels of CO2 contribute to air pollution and the greenhouse effect.

What are CO2 emissions?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) occurs naturally and should make up 0.04% of our air. However, the excess CO2 released by burning fossil fuels creates more CO2 than naturally intended.

CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It absorbs heat and releases it slowly, so this excess build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere is gradually heating the earth.

Why is CO2 harmful?

Excess levels of CO2 can be harmful to humans and the environment. High levels of CO2 contribute to air pollution and the greenhouse effect.

What causes CO2 emissions?

CO2 is released through a range of activities – both naturally and through human activities.

It is thought that increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are being caused by human activities such as burning oil, gas and coal, and deforestation.

Activities like these are often as a result of power stations, traffic and vehicle emissions, household heating, agriculture, industrial processes and manufacturing. According to UK Government emissions data, vehicles and transport account for around 25% of the country’s CO2 emissions.

How much CO2 does a car produce?

According to the SMMT New Car CO2 Report 2019, the average new car CO2 emissions are 124.5g/km in the UK.

This is just under a third lower than 2000 but is almost 2% higher than last year. This is thought to be as a result of moving towards larger vehicles and away from diesel engines.

Diesel engines typically emit 15% to 20% less CO2 than petrol engines. But we have to consider more than just CO2 alone

How to reduce vehicle-related CO2 emissions

If you want to reduce your CO2 emissions from vehicles, there are several things you can do.

First, you want to choose and  use vehicles with low CO2 emissions. This might mean considering whether to use a petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric car or van and what size of vehicle you really need.

When looking for a vehicle, don’t forget about other emissions too, like harmful urban NOx emissions. You can search the CO2 and NOx emissions ratings using our AIR Index vehicle checker and please encourage family and friends to do the same because vehicles stay in use for a long time (up to 14 years and beyond), which means the wrong choice can have a serious impact, years after the first owner has sold it.

AIR Index

Check the emissions of your car or van

The AIR Index rates vehicles tested in urban and extra-urban conditions which provides comparable CO2 emissions levels
that more accurately reflect the contribution to greenhouse gas emissions than lab-based tests.