Climate activists have deflated the tyres of SUVs in some of London’s wealthiest postcodes to protest against the emissions from such vehicles.
About 40 SUV-owning residents of Kensington and Chelsea, Dulwich, Primrose Hill and Marylebone woke to find their tyres flat, with fake “parking fines” on their windscreens informing them that “if SUV drivers were a nation, in 2018 they would have been ranked as the seventh biggest emitter of CO2”.
The cars are often nicknamed “Chelsea tractors”, since although the vehicles were originally intended to be used on difficult terrain, they have become ubiquitous in well-off urban areas.
A recent study found that three-quarters of the 360,000 SUVs sold in 2019 in the UK were bought by people living in towns and cities, and the royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea is in the top three districts for the sale of large SUVs. More Range Rovers were sold in Kensington and Chelsea than anywhere else; with one in 10 new cars registered in the borough belonging to the Land Rover brand of SUV.
The Dulwich Society, a community representing the interests of local people in the leafy suburb of Dulwich, condemned the action. A spokesperson said: “Several cars were vandalised in Dulwich last night with tyres deflated and this poster left on windscreens. We are environmentally friendly but this is not who we are as a community.”
However, the activists said the tyres were let down without damage, and that the action was necessary to educate the vehicle owners about the fossil fuels emitted by the large cars.
They pointed out that petrol and diesel SUVs produce 25% more CO2 on average than a medium-sized car and are far more deadly. SUVs are significantly more likely to kill pedestrians in crashes and those driving them are 11% more likely to die in a crash than people in normal cars.
A spokesperson for Last Gasp said: “We disarmed these SUVs because they are a growing and needless part of the system that is killing us. Nobody needs a planet-wrecking SUV. To drive an SUV in an urban area with good public transport is a luxury – and it’s a luxury that has terrifying consequences for our planet. SUVs poison our children’s lungs, cause so many deaths on the road, and spew out carbon dioxide into a climate on the brink of collapse. If you are worried about getting your tyres deflated, our advice is: don’t own an SUV. We do not intend to stop, and many more will follow us.
“We wish we had other effective means to defend ourselves, but luxury emissions must stop now. Spend one afternoon reading the science and it is clear – people must take action now to defend life itself.”