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IEA: Global SUV sales rebounding post-lockdown, offsetting EV gains

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has published a new analysis of global car sales, revealing a 10% year-on-year uptick in SUVs for 2021 that could undermine the electric vehicle (EV) revolution.

 SUVs consume, on average, 20% more energy than a mid-sized car

 SUVs consume, on average, 20% more energy than a mid-sized car

According to the analysis, global car sales rose 4% year-on-year in 2021 amid the ongoing economic recovery from Covid-19 and the lifting of lockdown in many nations. This increase in sales came after a 16% year-on-year decline in production in 2020, as recorded by the International Organisation of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA).

The IEA has highlighted how SUV sales have weathered the Covid-19 pandemic more strongly than sales for other kinds of road vehicles, with a 10% year-on-year increase in sales in 2021. This is equivalent to 35 million additional vehicles which, over their lifetime, will generate some 120 million tonnes of carbon emissions. SUVs consume, on average, 20% more energy than a mid-sized car and almost all of them (98%) are not fully electric.

While more than 30 countries have set deadlines for ending new petrol and diesel car sales, such as the UK (2030) and the EU (2035), the IEA acknowledges that many nations have not sent this clear policy signal. Its analysis reveals record SUV sales in markets including the US and India, in terms of both volume and market share.

The IEA is calling on nations to set clear deadlines for ending new petrol and diesel car sales. Indeed, its 2050 net-zero pathway recommends that sales are ended globally from 2035. Also recommended are additional policies in the interim such as increased taxes on large, high-emissions cars, and robust grant schemes for EV buyers.

But, a note of caution; the analysis notes that simply electrifying SUVs is not the most efficient way of tackling the challenge, not the method most accepted by consumers. To this latter point, the analysis states that e-SUVs only accounted for the majority of electric car sales in one major market, the US. Globally, people are more likely to choose other models.

To the former point, the analysis notes that larger cars consume more energy and “ drive up demand for critical minerals because battery-powered electric SUVs are equipped with a much larger battery (70KWh) than the average battery-electric car (50KWh)”.

Experts believe there is not enough cobalt in the world to replace every working petrol or diesel vehicle on the roads with fully electric alternatives. Bloomberg has forecast that the global demand for cobalt could increase more than 47-fold by 2030, against a 2018 baseline.

UK forecast 

In related news, consultancy New Automotive is forecasting that EV sales in the UK (encompassing new and second-hand purchases) will almost double in 2022, from 2021 levels. 

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) estimates that some 163,000 EVs were sold in the UK between January and November 2021. New Automotive, meanwhile, is forecasting at least 300,000 sales in 2022. 

This forecast takes into account increasing EV sales throughout the pandemic, compounded by increasing intent to buy in 2022 being recorded in consumer research. To this former point, EV sales were more than twice as high in November 2021 than November 2020.

New Automotive is also accounting for policy changes such as the forthcoming zero-emission vehicle mandate. From 2024, this mandate will require manufacturers to ensure that electric cars and vans account for a set proportion of their sales. Also considered are recent changes to the Plug-in Car Grant and Van Grant schemes. 

“This rapid growth is welcome news, but an additional 300,000 electric cars set against some 32 million internal combustion vehicles on the road in 2022 falls well short of what is possible and what is necessary,” said New Automotive’s head of policy and research Ben Nelmes. 

“It is crucial that the government’s plans for a zero-emission vehicle mandate sends a strong policy signal that enables manufacturers to scale up the production and sale of electric cars so that more motorists can benefit.”

Sarah George


Ibstock targets net-zero operations by 2040

Brick and concrete product manufacturer Ibstock has unveiled a new target to become a net-zero business by 2040, with a detailed strategy set to be published over the coming months.

A strategy will be published in March 2022

A strategy will be published in March 2022

Ibstock has kickstarted 2022 by becoming the latest company to commit to reaching net-zero emissions. The new net-zero commitment will originally cover Scope 1 and 2 emissions, with a strategy that encompasses Scope 3 carbon emissions – that account for around 40% of the company’s carbon footprint – to be developed later this year.

Full details of the net-zero commitment will be published alongside annual results in March, but Ibstock has stated that investments in more efficient production processes and projects to offset residual carbon will be introduced.

Ibstock’s chief executive Joe Hudson said: “Whilst we know we have much more to do, I am delighted that we are making progress on our commitments and are able to announce further carbon reduction targets in such an ambitious timeframe. These new carbon commitments, including our pledge to be net-zero by 2040, represent a bold step on our journey to address climate change and move the business into the low carbon economy.

“I am proud of our colleagues across the business who are driving forward our sustainability agenda and securing its place at the core of our purpose as a business and I look forward to presenting further details on our ambitions and targets in March 2022.’’

Ibstock has already achieved an existing goal of delivering a 15% reduction in carbon emissions per tonne of production, with a new goal now in place to deliver a 40% reduction by 2030 that will build towards the net-zero commitment.

The company has previously invested more than £115m on decarbonising its factories. Last year, the manufacturer confirmed that its Atlas factory in the West Midlands would act as a “pathfinder project” to trial decarbonisation in line with a net-zero trajectory. According to Ibstock, the Atlas factory will focus on reducing process emissions and improving thermal efficiency to cut the intensity of brick manufacturing. This will deliver a 50% reduction in emissions, with the remaining to be offset. Investments have also been made at the Nostell site while the company also procures 100% of its electrical needs from renewables.

Ibstock Brick’s energy and environment manager Michael McGowan has won an edie Sustainability Leaders Award for the past two years. In 2019, he won the Energy Efficiency award – read up on why here – while in 2020 he was crowned the Energy Management Leader of the Year.

Matt Mace


Less than one-third of UK businesses have net-zero strategies, survey reveals

A survey of senior decision-makers at more than 1,000 UK businesses has revealed that less than one-third (29%) have a strategy for reaching net-zero before or in line with the Government’s 2050 target.

The survey, conducted by YouGov on behalf of waste management firm Veolia, polled small and large businesses alike across a spread of sectors, asking for their approach to decarbonisation.

It revealed that, despite a growing trend to setting net-zero visions, less than one-third of the businesses represented (29%) have published a strategy with details on how they plan to cut emissions. Strategy development was found to be more advanced in larger companies with 250 staff or more than at smaller firms.

Promisingly, 56% of the representatives of businesses with a net-zero strategy said their organisation has a budget for delivering decarbonisation. Also, eight in ten people in this cohort say they are confident about meeting targets. Nonetheless, overall, four in ten of the survey respondents say they feel “overwhelmed” by the prospect of the net-zero transition.

Key challenges flagged by respondents included a lack of investment – internally and externally – and a need for better legislation and regulation. Veolia also said some businesses stated a feeling that one single step from one organisation would not make a big difference to the future of the planet.

The survey was conducted online in November 2021.

“In the wake of COP26, we need to work together, share expertise, innovate and research new sustainable solutions so carbon net-zero can become a reality, rather than a goal,” summarised Veolia’s executive vice president for Northern Europe, Gavin Graveson.

Since the UK Government enshrined its 2050 net-zero target in law, it has continuously faced calls to clarify sector-specific targets and interim plans in a bid to ensure it is credible.  A recent survey from Microsoft and Goldsmiths University, which covered 1,707 UK-based business leaders and more than 2,100 of their employees, found that just 41% of organisations represented are credibly prepared to transition to net-zero by or before 2050. 

A stocktake of corporate sustainability goals

In related news, clean energy marketplace Squeaky has published the findings from a survey of 250 UK-based sustainability and energy managers at FTSE250 firms, conducted to collect information on how they work with the C-Suite.

The good news is that most of the respondents (86%) agree that their executives are keen to advance the sustainability agenda, rather than holding it back. However, the survey did highlight several areas of disconnect.

For instance, more than one-quarter of the respondents (27%) said they often feel out of depth in their role. Most of these respondents had been transferred from another department and required to learn on the job. Another common challenge is small teams. One-third of the respondents said they would like their executives to formalise more sustainability training in 2022.

The survey also found that eight in ten respondents believe that executives have, at times, had unrealistic expectations of sustainability targets. Common issues include executives envisioning targets that are too ambitious, or, on the contrary, failing to understand the importance of best practice and ambitious targets. This points to a potential lack of sustainability literacy in boardrooms.

“Those who set unrealistic goals, or have unrealistic expectations, will only create a poisoned chalice for their business, and indeed, the future leaders of that business,” said Squeaky’s managing director Chris Bowden.

“The UK has reached a critical point on its road to net-zero and, in order to aid progression, we need commitment and action from the nation’s biggest businesses. Collaboration is key to this, both within the business itself, and in the wider marketplace as well, to create a cleaner business and a greener world.”

Sarah George



The Russian state-controlled gas giant Gazprom, which has been accused of causing Europe’s energy crisis, has cashed in a £179 million dividend from its London-based international trading arm. The huge payout is likely to intensify calls for a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies that have profited from the energy price chaos, which is set to pile immense pressure on household bills. Gazprom Marketing & Trading Ltd, which makes its money betting on swings in gas and power prices, said it had capitalised on the global lockdowns, which led to a drop in global demand for energy and therefore prices. It said in accounts filed at Companies House that the gas and power trading businesses were “well placed to take advantage of highly volatile market conditions” in 2020.

Times 2nd Jan 2022 read more »


Juliet Davenport

Having stepped back from the day-to-day running of Good Energy, Davenport sits on the boards of a string of companies that are helping tackle the climate crisis. Perhaps her most notable role is as chair of rooftop solar innovator Atrato Onsite Energy, whose flotation in November made it the first company with an all-female board to list on the London Stock Exchange. Davenport says she was no longer content with “turning up and doing the same thing” when she realised that, after decades of hard-learned lessons in the industry, she could spread her wings and help new energy firms navigate the market. Good Energy was in need of some new skills too – notably in digital innovation. Proving that sometimes being ahead of the curve means recognising when others are further ahead, Davenport said she wanted to bring in “someone who was better at digital than I could ever be”. She remains a director of the London-listed company, which she says is in a good position to weather an energy crisis in which dozens of small suppliers have gone bust. The company has always hedged its exposure to global commodity prices by buying plenty of energy in advance, she says, and has negotiated supply deals directly with local renewable energy projects, which also helps to establish a fixed price. As chair of Atrato, Davenport has her mind on investment: it’s just weeks since the rooftop solar venture raised £150m in an oversubscribed market listing. The company plans to use rooftop solar installations to unlock the largely untapped potential of commercial properties. Its strength lies in bringing together staff who have “a significant understanding of the commercial property market” with experts in renewable energy development. In time, Atrato expects to create standardised contracts that can make the still-niche decision to fit a leased office block with solar capability a “plug and play” option.

Observer 1st Jan 2022 read more »


Green Investment Bank

The Green Investment Bank — set up with taxpayer funds but controversially sold off four years ago — racked up bumper profits last year in the race to net zero, raising fresh questions about its sale. Launched in 2012 by the coalition government to help spur investment in green projects such as wind farms, the bank was sold by Theresa May’s government to Australia’s Macquarie for £2.3 billion five years later. The UK Green Investment Bank reported a £144 million profit for the year ended March 2021, compared to a £34 million profit the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House.

Times 2nd Jan 2022 read more »



Low-cost carbon offsets may make consumers feel better about taking a flight, but they are doing little to reduce the climate impact of aviation, environmental campaigners have warned. Almost all airlines now run offset schemes offering customers the chance to invest in green projects to negate the carbon impact of their flight. But analysis by i reveals that some offset prices fall are below the true cost of removing CO2. Low prices are common, with the cost of offsetting a return flight from London to Athens ranging from £2 to £7, while a return flight from London to New York can be offset for as little as £5. Some airlines are offering to offset shorter haul journeys for free.

iNews 1st Jan 2022 read more »


Politics – Scotland

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have published the agenda for its hybrid Spring Conference to be held on 11-12 February. If this seems a bit premature for Spring, it’s being deliberately set as far out from the Scottish Council elections as possible. Every council seat in Scotland is up for election in May. Members will gather in-person in Hamilton and those of us, probably including me, who are too worried about Covid to attend such a big gathering, will be able to join virtually. The agenda has much potential for robust debate, including a motion that would see the party take an explicitly anti-nuclear weapons stance. And Highland Liberal Democrats call for us to be open to putting nuclear energy back on the menu.

Lib Dem Voice 29th Dec 2021 read more »


Electricity Supply

Britain’s electricity system got dirtier in 2021 for the first time in eight years as low wind speeds left the country burning more gas to keep the lights on and as demand recovered from the pandemic. The “carbon intensity” of the power system, a measure of emissions per unit of electricity supplied, has rebounded from 2020’s historic lows, according to figures from National Grid ESO, the electricity system operator. Gas and coal-fired power generation both increased in 2021, while wind and nuclear output fell, according to a provisional analysis of the electricity mix by Carbon Brief, a climate website. Demand for electricity increased as the economy recovered from the lockdown restrictions of 2020, but remained well below pre-pandemic levels of 2019.

Times 28th Dec 2021 read more »


Future Homes Standard

The Government has finally published what it calls its ‘Future Homes and Buildings Standard’ that will regulate new homes from June 2022. Amongst a lot of fog generated about lofty future ambitions the reality is that the new building standards are not strong enough to do more than get 2-3 kW of solar panels installed on an average new home. That’s all you need to achieve the target reduction in emissions that the Government has set. The rest is pushed into a might-be land of 2025 (safely after the next General Election?). That is easily a long enough delay for the gas industry and laggards in the building industry to postpone radical emissions reductions again. Now of course getting some solar pv on (some) new homes and buildings is a welcome step forward, especially for the struggling solar industry. However it is a relatively small step towards the net zero target and it is one that implicitly leaves it much more difficult to play catch-up later on. That is because the new homes and buildings standard is nowhere near big enough to induce building developers to install (electrically powered) heat pumps. Heat pumps will cut the carbon emissions from energy used to heat buildings by at least threefold in new buildings, and that is just in the short term. In a future when all electricity is generated from renewable energy sources the carbon emissions will be reduced to zero.

100% Renewables 26th Dec 2021 read more »

The Future Buildings Standard: Summary of responses received and Government response.

Dept for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities 15th Dec 2021 read more »

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