Is action against high carbon vehicles really an attack on the poor?

A familiar narrative crops up whenever a city tries to introduce charges for high-emission vehicles. Last month it raised it’s ugly head again when Rishi Sunak scrapped the phase-out date for new petrol and diesel car sales.

The “spin doctors” tale is that policies to reduce petrol and diesel cars will mean that those who can only afford to drive cheap old petrol or diesel cars have to pay, while the wealthiest drive around in electric vehicles.

Thanks to the work of Possible, who have crunched the numbers, we now know that this is simply NOT the case. In fact, when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, it’s the complete opposite, as the video below shows.

Put simply, action against high carbon vehicles is NOT an attack on the poor.

The truth is that due to the growth in demand for bigger, heavy vehicles, it is the newer and more expensive petrol or diesel cars that are the worst for the climate*.

Cheaper, older cars aren’t the biggest problem for the climate. It’s the shiny new SUVs that we need to worry about (and the most polluting of those come with a price tag much higher than a typical electric vehicle). 

What next?

Presenting bold policies to address the UK’s climate impact as a threat to working people, is a strategic way to turn the public against positive climate action, and to fuel a culture-war which could put the UK back decades when it comes to tackling the climate crisis. 

Join Possible‘s campaign to do all we can to spread the word and help tackle this harmful narrative by making sure people know the truth.

*The evidence:

Walker, P (2023). ‘SUVs emit more climate damaging gas than older cars do, study finds.’ The Guardian, 16 October. Available at 

Mishra, S. (2023). ‘New SUVs are ‘reversing climate progress’ by emitting more pollution than old cars.’ The Independent, 17 October. Available at

Lee, C (2023). ‘Study finds richest in ‘SUV capital of Britain’ buying cars with more emissions.’ South London News, 18 October. Available at

Tomasso, E (2023). ‘The Rise of SUVs: A Threat to Carbon Emissions Reduction Efforts.’ Motor Mouth, 17 October. Available at

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