UK buyers of new Land Rover vehicles from the 2007 model year onwards will pay GBP85-GBP165 to offset the CO2 emissions produced by their vehicle, calculated on the emissions level for each model and based on 15,000 miles a year, the SUV maker said at the London motor show.

"Research has shown that Land Rover customers are prepared to play an active role [in reducing CO2 emissions]," the Ford-owned company said in a statement.

Land Rover estimates the programme could offset over two million tonnes of CO2 over the pilot period - equivalent to the output from 125,000 homes in the same time. Engineers from parent Ford's R&D centre at Gaydon in Warwickshire will work on the programme.

The company has attracted unwanted attention from environmentalists due to the CO2 output and fuel-guzzling habits of its large luxury Range Rover SUVs.

In May 2005, about 35 Greenpeace activists invaded the Solihull factory and disrupted production, with some chaining themselves to an assembly line, protesting at what they claimed were the "climate wrecking" emissions from Range Rovers, Land Rover's premium model line. Land Rover was at the time launching the new Sport line which included a turbocharged V8 petrol-powered engine option.

Only last week, London's mayor Ken Livingston proposed hiking the city's congestion charge from GBP8 to GBP25 for vehicles whose CO2 emissions are above a certain level which would include Discovery and Range Rover models.

Land Rover claims its emissions offset programme is the largest and most comprehensive undertaken by an automotive manufacturer in the UK.

The pilot has been established specifically for Land Rover and supports Ford's GBP1bn investment in the UK announced on Monday.

The pilot will run to the end of 2008, and it is estimated that it will offset over 2m tonnes of CO2 over the period - equivalent to the amount generated by 125,000 average homes in the same time.

It has two key components: offsetting emissions generated by vehicle assembly at the two factories in Britain; and providing a mechanism for customers to offset emissions from the use of their vehicle. The scheme is to be run independently by Climate Care, a CO2 offset provider, and will be overseen by a governance committee.

Previous Climate Care initiatives have included wind turbines in India, installing low energy lighting in South Africa and providing renewable energy cooking stoves to schools in India.

Emissions from the Solihull factory have been cut by 30% since 1997.

Production of the redesigned Freelander unveiled this week was transferred to Ford's Jaguar X-type factory at Halewood, near Liverpool as part of the model change-over.

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