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UK Offshoring Emissions Through Used Car Exports –Study

A University of Oxford study has found that exported used vehicles generate far more emissions per mile than those kept in the UK.

Researchers used MOT results for all 65 million used vehicles on British roads between 2005 and 2021 to compare the pollution and emissions intensity of vehicles exported to those scrapped, destroyed or driven in Britain.

The data revealed considerably higher rates of carbon dioxide and pollutant emission in exported vehicles – of the seven million vehicles exported legally, these generated at least 13% more CO2 per kilometre than scrapped cars and 17% more than used vehicles kept on British roads. Significantly more nitrogen oxide (53%) was emitted per kilometre from exported compared with scrapped cars.

Exported vehicles also had poorer fuel efficiency by 3.3 miles per gallon (1.4 kilometres per litre) compared with vehicles sent to be scrapped.

Lead author Dr Saul Newman said: “Our study reveals that the UK, a leading global exporter of used vehicles with a high vehicle emissions standard inside its own borders, offshores vehicle emissions to lower-income countries who are already suffering the most from climate change.”

Over half of vehicle exports to low- and middle-income countries originate from the UK and EU, with almost all of the remaining exports coming from Japan and the US. While all these economies have high emission standards domestically, almost all countries receiving their vehicle exports have no equivalent standards at all.

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Notably, most exported diesel vehicles (98%) failed the EU’s Euro-6 diesel emissions standards for the air pollutants nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide, and a large majority (83%) appeared likely to fail to meet standards for CO2 emissions.

“This study shows that we have been exporting dirtier cars than those we send to the scrapyard,” said Newman. “This presents an enormous opportunity to clean up emissions in lower-income countries, simply by applying our own domestic emission standards to vehicles sent offshore.”

The researchers suggest that the UK’s strict vehicle emissions standards could be applied to all exported vehicles, ensuring that dirty vehicles are not exported – in addition to minimising vehicle emissions, this would also reduce the economic burdens of vehicle ownership, as cleaner vehicles have lower maintenance and fuel costs.

Professor Melinda Mills, director of Oxford’s Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, said: “This study uses existing government data in a novel way to uncover considerable offshoring of vehicle emissions to low- and middle-income countries. The findings are striking and call for an evaluation of existing policies and practices around car pollution and exported vehicles.”

Source: E&T


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