A car with a deflated tyre in Clapham

Climate activists deflate tyres of “gas guzzler” SUVs in Clapham

Climate activists deflated the tyres of at least eight SUVs in Clapham on Sunday night to dissuade drivers from owning the large vehicles in urban areas.

Members of the activist group Tyre Extinguishers also left leaflets on the SUVs overnight in Clapham which claimed that they emit more air pollution than smaller cars and pose a greater physical threat to pedestrians.

Similar incidents were reported in Manchester, Bristol and Brighton throughout March as the group’s website claims they want to make it impossible to own a 4×4 in the world’s urban areas.

One Clapham resident, whose partner’s car was targeted, said: “What is deflating tyres going to do to save the planet?

“There are more important things to be doing to help the planet than letting down tyres.”

LET DOWN: A Land Rover Defender targeted by Tyre Extinguishers

A 2021 model Land Rover Defender and a 2018 Porsche Cayenne were among the 4×4 “gas guzzlers” targeted by the group in Clapham.

The leaflet left on the cars refers to research by the International Energy Agency (IEA) which found that SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions from 2010-2018, contributing more than shipping and aviation.

A Tyre Extinguishers member justified the group’s actions by citing the IEA’s finding that SUV drivers create 700 million tonnes of CO2 annually, while the UK only produces 329 million tonnes.

This means that if 4×4 drivers were a country, they would be the seventh largest contributor of carbon emissions, between Germany with 644 million tonnes, and Iran with 745 million tonnes.

The activist said: “Any benefit of people switching to electric cars is being wiped out by other people switching to SUVs because they put out so much more pollution than a normal car.”

Sales of SUVs have grown in recent years as they made up 21.2% of total vehicles sold in the UK in 2018, up from 6.6% in 2009 according to the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).

DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY”: The leaflet left by the climate activists

The Tyre Extinguishers member believes that similar incentives to those found in Norway could help to encourage drivers to exchange older, more polluting cars for newer electric or hybrid models.

In Norway, electric car buyers receive various benefits, such as a VAT and road tax exemption, as well as free municipal parking in cities and access to bus lanes. 

The Mayor of London launched a £61 million scrappage scheme in London last year which offered drivers £2,000 to scrap cars that would breach ULEZ rules, but reportedly ran out of money in November after it received excess applications.

Tyre Extinguishers has also argued that 4x4s pose a greater threat to local communities as they claim the larger cars are more likely to kill people in collisions.

In 2020, a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) of 79 vehicle crashes found that SUVs did cause more serious injuries on average, which researchers believe was caused by their taller, squared-off bonnet. 

In collisions between 20 and 39mph, 30% of pedestrians struck by SUVs died in comparison with 25% of pedestrians struck by medium-sized cars.

At speeds of 40mph or greater, the number of fatalities in the crashes surveyed rose to 100% compared to 54%.

The term SUV generally refers to cars with increased ground clearance and four-wheel drive systems which allow them to drive over a wider range of terrain.

The IEA estimates that SUVs require 25% more fuel to run than medium-sized cars due to their larger size and weight.

While 4x4s are intended to drive off-road, they have been mockingly called “Chelsea tractors” due to a pejorative association with the wealthy London borough.

However, a 2021 report from the New Weather Institute and climate action charity Possible lended credibitility to this stereotype, as it found that three quarters of SUVs sold in the UK in 2019-20 were actually registered to an urban address.

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