A sharp rise in sales of gas-guzzling SUVs by the world's three largest carmakers has offset any climate gains from the companies' transition to electric vehicles, Greenpeace said this week.
The fleets of SUVs produced by Toyota, Volkswagen, and Hyundai-Kia have all posted sales increases of more than 150 percent over the past decade, meaning the companies are moving "in the opposite direction" of global efforts to curb CO2 emissions, the environmental advocacy group said in a new report.
Released a day before the United Nations COP28 climate summit is set to open in Dubai, the analysis dovetails with separate research published earlier this month by the Global Fuel Economy Initiative expert alliance, which found the trend toward bigger SUVs was preventing motor sector emissions reductions.
"The world's biggest automakers are charging full speed ahead with SUV manufacturing, pushing the planet further toward climate disaster," said Erin Choi, a Greenpeace activist focused on the East Asia region.
The Greenpeace report said that SUVs emit approximately 12 percent more carbon dioxide than sedans - but global sales of SUVs have "more than doubled" over the past decade.
Volkswagen SUV sales have soared by 270.5 percent over the last 10 years, while Toyota SUV sales have risen by 158.1 percent and Hyundai-Kia sales by 152.4 percent, the group said.
Sales of SUVs for the South Korean carmaker, which has pledged to use only renewable electricity by 2045, account for more than 52 percent of total sales, Greenpeace added.
Greater CO2 emissions from SUVs stem not just from the tailpipe exhaust of those on the road but also from the "industry-wide carbon footprint by increased steel consumption" due to manufacturing bigger and heavier vehicles, the report said.
"It's time for the auto industry to stop greenwashing," said Choi of Greenpeace.
"Hyundai, Volkswagen and other automakers must reduce the size of their SUV fleets at the same time that they electrify."
The United Nations has projected that the world will see its first full year at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels - the target set in the 2015 Paris Agreement - in the early 2030s.
The dire warning comes as the summer of 2023 was reported to be the hottest ever registered, according to the European Union's climate observatory Copernicus.