The government has announced plans to cut CO2 emissions by 34 per cent by 2020, a move which has been backed by car makers.
The white paper forms part of wider government targets to cut CO2 emissions in all areas of the economy.
Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive, said: “The UK motor industry has made significant progress in cutting CO2 emissions but greater achievements can be made in the short, medium and long-term by pursuing a portfolio of technologies, including traditional petrol and diesel engines right through to hydrogen fuel cell and electric vehicles. “The industry has established a technology roadmap and researched priorities to deliver ultra-low carbon transport solutions and we are encouraged by the support government has given this within its strategy. Industry wants close collaboration with government to support a stronger automotive sector and a more sustainable environment.
“Vehicle manufacturers are committed to cutting CO2 emissions and commercial vehicles are a growing part of modern road transport. In partnership with government, SMMT has already implemented practical ways of informing van drivers of their environmental choices.
"These decisions will have a significant impact on the operating costs of all businesses, making close consultation between industry, operators and government essential.”
Part of the government’s plan includes the £250 million electric car scheme announced in April.
Further details released today show the government will spend £230 million offering grants of between £2000 and £5000 for customers buying a plug-in hybrid or electric car.
The other £20 million will be spent on creating a network of charging points. The government is already supporting the trial of 500 plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles and hopes its backing of the scheme will allow the UK to become a mass-market producer of the cars.
The UK car industry has already cut its CO2 emissions on new car sales by 19.8 per cent since 1997. By 2050, emissions will have to be 80 per cent lower than they are today.