Climate change activists have been letting down tyres of SUVs in southwest France as part of global protests against the larger, more polluting vehicles.
The activists have also been leaving flyers on the owners’ windscreens, reading: “Your SUV kills. We have let down one or several of your tyres. Don’t take it personally; you’re not the target, your vehicle is.”
The notes are then signed, ‘les dégonfleurs de SUVs (the SUV [tyre] deflators)’, which is a collective of several independent groups fighting under the same cause.
One of the activists, who wanted to remain anonymous, told le Toulousain that the group has been increasing its actions in recent weeks. He said: “Since the start, we’ve seen good media coverage, and it’s working well.
“Large vehicles no longer have a place in large towns. They pollute up to 25% more than a regular car. In today’s climate change, it’s unbelievable to see so many of them on our roads.”
He said that the activists will stop when the government takes “significant measures”.
[Nouvelles actions] On nous indique dans l'oreillette que 60 tanks ont été désarmés à Toulouse dans la nuit du 4 au 5 octobre ️— Les dégonfleurs de SUVs (@deflate_SUVs) October 5, 2022
Le mouvement anti-SUVs prend de l'ampleur en France, rejoignez-le pic.twitter.com/UA6k5HmjR0
The actions in France were inspired by a similar movement in England, called ‘Tyre Extinguishers’, which has spread worldwide. Now, the Toulouse-based activists said that the group includes “citizens of all ages who have an ecological conscience”.
The Toulouse activist said: “The majority of us get around by bike or public transport. Only those who live in the suburbs drive cars to get to our protests.”
So far, the activists have stopped short of puncturing the SUV tyres, and have only deflated them. However, the representative said: “We haven’t ruled out the possibility of puncturing them. Slashing the tyres remains an option.”
The group said that the government’s action on climate change has so far been “ineffective”, so they may need to be “more disruptive” to make a point.
The activist said: “Nothing significant has been achieved. The Low Emission Zones, besides being an anti-social measure, are not effective. The government has put in place small levers that don't solve the pollution problem.
“[We will stop when the government] takes significant action on SUVs,” he said.
The activists say that they are not afraid of “alienating public opinion” with this “extreme action”. The representative said: “We are denouncing the actions of a minority, and trying to mobilise the majority, who don’t drive these tanks.
“We’re being asked to turn off our Wi-Fi or heating…but people are still allowed to drive around in SUVs…” he said.
It comes after multiple groups in France have denounced SUVs, including the NGO WWF France, which said that they have a “crushing” impact on the environment and “have been the second-biggest contributor to a rise in French emissions in the past 10 years”.
Tyre-deflating has been seen in other French cities too, including Paris and Bordeaux.
If caught, activists letting down tyres risk a fine. In 2006, members of the Solid’air collective who let down the tyres of 4x4 vehicles had to pay a fine of €300 each, plus €1,500 in damages to the car owners.