About 15 years ago, travelling along an eight-lane highway in Alabama surrounded by sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and trucks, I thought: We aren’t going to stop climate change. At least back then the problem was mostly an American one. Now, huge cars have gone global. SUVs last year accounted for a record 46 per cent of the world’s car sales, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). If we’re serious about keeping the planet liveable, we have to regulate and tax huge cars out of existence.
Let’s not turn this issue into anything so boring as a culture war. If you feel an automated rant coming on about metropolitan elites persecuting ordinary folk, remember that huge cars are mostly driven by the rich. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the average SUV costs more than the median full-time pre-tax salary of about £33,000 (S$54,000) – leaving aside petrol. Generally, it is the rich who emit most carbon dioxide. Getting rid of huge cars is about reducing emissions first, and road accidents second.