March 20 (UPI) -- Fuel efficiency gains in the western world slowed from 2015-2017 compared with the speed of advances in previous years, mainly as the popularity of SUVs and light trucks alarmingly surged.
"The recent slowdown in average vehicle fuel efficiency improvement of light-duty vehicles is cause for alarm," said Dr Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency.
"Sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and pick-ups now represent nearly 40 percent of the global car market, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday in a report. In North America and Australia, the share had reached nearly 60 percent in 2017.
Global fuel economy has improved by an average of 1.7 percent per year for the last 12 years, the IEA said, but the rate of improvement dropped to and average of 0.2 percent per year between 2015 and 2017.
Additionally, from 2015 to 2017 as many as 27 western countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom and Sweden, saw the fuel economy of their fleets stagnate or worsen.
Unlike the western world, improvement in fuel efficiency gains in Asia accelerated to 2.3 percent, but there has been a surge in new car registrations, the IEA said.
China saw new car registrations increase 17 percent annually from 2005 to 2017, and India saw a 9 percent increase in that period.
"Much more effort will be needed to reverse the slowdown and put the world on track to meeting its energy security and sustainability objectives," Birol added.
In coming years, light-duty vehicles need to work to become twice as fuel efficient by 2030, the IEA said.
The report comes as the United States is seeing a push to ease fuel standards, based on an argument that as the world's top crude oil producer efficiency should no longer be a priority, the New York Times reported.