"It's all right, this one runs on bubbles"

When a set of industry figures shows a decline,  it doesn’t usually make people rub their hands together with glee, but there must certainly be a bit of that going on as the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) announce their latest statistics.

Before we’re accused of wishing the downfall of the motor industry –we’re talking about the 2011 new car CO2 figures. And this year’s figures mark not just one year, but a whole decade’s worth of solid decline in vehicle carbon emissions.

Hurrah!

The topline figures are encouraging enough – a 3.5 percent drop from the previous year in emissions from new cars, and emissions below 140g/km for 56 percent of new cars sold in the UK during 2010. But what we’re feeling most encouraged by is a visible shift over the last ten years.

In 2000, less than one percent of all vehicles produced CO2 emissions of less than 130g/km. Now, it’s nearly two vehicles in five. The overall decline in new-car emissions since the decade began is 20 percent: from 2000’s average of 181g/km to 2011’s 144.2g.

So, even as music, fashion, phone, social media and a gazillion other trends have evolved with increasing speed, there’s only been one trend in town where the scientists and motor industry engineers are concerned – driving those emissions down.  Maybe the noughties weren’t so naughty after all.

The news from SMMT also follows the recent clamour around some extremely fancy-looking low-carbon cars displayed recently at both the Detroit and Geneva expos, which we looked at in previous blogs. It’s early days, but there’s no denying a real buzz, both in the industry and among consumers, who really seem to be ready for something to happen.

In the meantime, let’s remember that – as with so many other things – it’s not just about the thing itself, but also what you do with it: these figures are partly down to the cars themselves, but they also reflect changes in both regulations and driver behaviour. Driving green is the best way to cut emissions – and save fuel – without buying a new car.