Faced with the increasing numbers of these vehicles in our cities, Ecologistas en Acción has produced “4x4s: Wrecking the Planet?” a thorough study that proves the high potential of environmental destruction that pose these vehicles. One of the things we learn from this report is that, even though the impacts that these vehicles cause are common to all cars, the incidence rate in the case of 4x4s is higher.

The data are devastating:
Concerning emissions, most of the 4x4s display very high CO2 emissions levels, usually higher than the average car. Out of the top 20 best-selling 4×4 vehicles in Spain for 2006, almost all of them emit well above 200 gr/km (according to Faconauto, the European federation of car retailers, in 2006 the average CO2 emissions in Spain by new vehicles was 152 gr/km). Considering the current situation, in which the contribution of transport to climate change keeps increasing, 4x4s represent an unsustainable option. On top of that, their emission levels of other polluting agents are also higher, contributing to worsen heart and respiratory diseases and aggravating the poor quality of the air in the cities.

The impact of these vehicles on the environment must not be disdain. It involves an increasing pressure to environments that were not accessible before. We must also underline the degradation that 4x4s produce in the network of forest trails and tracks, which in Spain, covers more than 600000 km.

The study uncovers the false belief about the “safety” of 4x4s. We present data that question the safety of these vehicles for their passengers. In 2003, USA's Traffic Safety Agency informed that the risk of rolling over is higher in 4x4s, and the mortality rate in the case of rolling over is three times higher for 4x4s than for saloon cars. At the same time, consequences in case of running over or accident are worse, for the passengers of the vehicle involved as well as for the pedestrians. A recent study carried out in the USA has shown that a pedestrian struck by a large size 4×4 vehicle is twice as likely to die than one who has been struck in identical conditions by a normal size saloon car.

The cause of this concentration of negative impacts is the same essence of these vehicles: they are bulkier, heavier, more powerful, and therefore they consume and emit more. For these reasons, 4x4s have become the icon of unsustainable transport. They are the spearhead of a mobility scheme based on the car, of which social, environmental and economic impacts have local and global important effects.

Ecologistas en Acción considers it necessary to break with the myth that advertising has created with the only purpose of selling a type of vehicle that is absolutely unnecessary in the city and questionable in the countryside. A change in the perception that society has of 4×4 drivers is necessary: far from being a model of social success, they are unquestionable representatives of the waste of resources and the lack of solidarity with the rest of the planet.
The report ends displaying a list of good practices and measures that the Administrations may take, some of them related specifically to 4x4s.

Note: this study is framed in a European campaign that will develop, during the next two years, several activities and public actions to increase critical thinking about these vehicles. This campaign is related to the process that is ongoing in the European Union regarding CO2 emissions of the new vehicles. Ecologistas en Acción considers that the EU must establish a mandatory limit of 120 gr/km for the new vehicles from 2012. This measure may wipe out 4x4s from our cities.

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