In an effort to improve its image after a history of poor environmental performance, Land Rover has set up a CO2 offset programme, and appointed some leading environmentalists to oversee it.

An independent board of governance, specially formed for the purpose, will include, among others, one of the first people to raise awareness of climate change, the former government adviser and diplomat, Sir Crispin Tickell.

He’ll be joined by the director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford, Diana Liverman, the director of the business programme at the sustainable development charity, Forum For The Future, Sally Uren, and the government adviser and former director of environment policy at B&Q [a UK version of America’s Home Depot], Alan Knight.

Further appointments will be announced later.

Land Rover said it had cut emissions with each successive model in its range and is developing technologies to make further improvements. The CO2 emissions from its main manufacturing plant at Solihull in Birmingham, central England, have been cut by 30% over the past 10 years.

Nevertheless it has attracted much criticism from environmentalists who have successfully waged war against SUVs in recent months.

In May 2005, a group of protestors broke into the Solihull plant and several chained themselves to unfinished vehicles on an assembly line, halting production.

Land Rover and its parent company Ford are cited as ‘climate criminals’ by Greenpeace in the UK.

Land Rover said its offset programme is a key part of an integrated approach to further reducing CO2 emissions and will offset all of the gas generated by its manufacturing operations and the first 45,000 miles of vehicle use by its UK customers. This programme is run by offset provider, Climate Care.

The ultimate goal is CO2 neutrality with investments being made in renewable energy projects such as wind and solar, technology change and energy efficiency.

Uren said: “Offset schemes are a useful way of engaging the public on the climate change agenda. However, offsetting is a transition mechanism at best, as it will be investment in new technologies that will provide the long-term solutions to climate change. Land Rover recognises this and we look forward to seeing new advances in technology reach the market in the not too distant future.”

The board will meet every four months and will ensure due diligence is exercised throughout the offset process to make certain it is accountable, efficient and transparent.