Environmental claims can be a powerful marketing tool. In the race to tackle dangerous climate change, it is essential that Australians are provided with accurate information about the products and services that are being advertised to them.
Greenwashing is becoming more common and harder to spot as a record number of energy companies make climate pledges in response to growing public pressure to act on climate. Our expert lawyers work with clients and consumers for increased transparency in the corporate sector and to hold companies to account for the environmental claims they make.
We’ve sent a legal letter to the regulator asking the ACCC to investigate the Australian Gas Network (AGN) for misleading or deceptive claims that gas is a renewable, green and climate-friendly product.
Gas is a fossil fuel which, when burned, contributes to dangerous climate change. Claims made by the AGN about gas could be greenwashing, and in breach of Australian Consumer Law.
On behalf of the Australian Conservation Foundation, we’ve outlined these claims to the ACCC for investigation. ACF is particularly concerned that AGN is seeking to position their products as renewable, instead of being clear that using gas to produce hydrogen still causes emissions.
What are the claims?
AGN owns and operates gas transmission and distribution pipelines across Australia, delivering gas to over 1.3 million homes in South Australia, Victoria, Queensland, NSW and Northern Territory.
Our client is concerned that AGN’s advertisements are misleading because they provide the general impression that hydrogen is renewable and has zero carbon emissions, when not all forms of hydrogen are renewable, and hydrogen produced with gas produces greenhouse gas emissions.
AGN also fails to be clear that most of the product currently being developed is not “renewable” hydrogen because it is being produced by blending with gas.
Overall, AGN’s advertisements overstate that gas is renewable, to give everyday Australians the impression that gas is a green and climate-friendly product, despite the fact it is a dangerous fossil fuel.
Why is this issue important?
Floods, bushfires, droughts, sea level rise – the impacts of climate change are accelerating, destroying lives, livelihoods and natural habitats. We have no time to waste in phasing out coal and gas to avoid catastrophic climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that emissions from fossil fuels, including gas, are the dominant cause of global warming. Gas companies need to be held to account for the claims they make about their product and future in a low-carbon world.
Businesses are not allowed to make statements that are false, misleading, or deceptive. This applies to their advertising, product packaging, and any information provided by their staff or online on their websites or online shopping services.
Misleading information not only effects the choices consumers make but it can also divert investment unfairly away from ethical or sustainable companies towards those continuing to fuel the climate crisis, including stopping or slowing investment in renewable energy.
In this case, our client is concerned that AGN’s claims could impact on the development of renewable industries who are competing with the “renewable” hydrogen gas or providing hydrogen made with renewable energy.
Greenwashing obstructs effective and timely responses to the climate crisis. In the race to reduce emissions and limit dangerous climate change, we cannot afford any form of greenwashing on climate pollution.
Complaint to Ad Standards
Our lawyers also lodged a complaint to Ad Standards on behalf of ACF outlining our client’s concerns that AGN’s broad representations of “renewable gas” and hydrogen in its advertising on Facebook, YouTube and its website are misleading and deceptive.
The Ad Standards Community Panel (the Panel) considers complaints about advertisements which may breach one or more industry Codes. The Panel determined that AGN’s advertisement did not breach Section 1 c) of the Environmental Code in determining an earlier complaint.