Dutch watchdog rules KLM’s ‘Carbon Zero’ advert is misleading
The Dutch advertising watchdog (like the UK’s ASA) ruled that a KLM promotion telling customers they could fly carbon-emission free is misleading. The ad’s tag line, “Be a hero, fly CO2 zero,” is an absolute claim, the Dutch Advertising Code Committee said in their verdict and the company had the burden of proving the statement – it could not. While the ruling is limited to only one airline it touches on broader pressure on airlines to lower their carbon footprint and ‘flight-shaming’ campaigns to get people to stopping flying. Commercially viable alternatives like electric and hydrogen powered jetliners are decades away – so all airlines can do at present is “offsetting” carbon emissions (that is not an effective measure). Offsets such as tree planting and forest protection are no proper compensation for carbon emitted, by a journey or other burning of fossil fuels. There is no real chance of genuinely low carbon aviation fuel being available in significant amounts, without causing various other environmental problems. KLM has two weeks to decide whether it wants to appeal.
Dutch Watchdog Rules KLM’s ‘Carbon Zero’ Ad Is Misleading
By Diederik Baazil (Bloomberg)
8 April 2022
The Dutch advertising watchdog ruled that a KLM promotion telling customers they could fly carbon-emission free is misleading.
The ad’s tag line, “Be a hero, fly CO2 zero,” is an absolute claim, the Dutch Advertising Code Committee said in a verdict seen Friday by Bloomberg. As such, the company has the burden of proving the statement and didn’t meet that test, the committee said.
A spokesman for the airline, the Dutch arm of Air France-KLM, declined to comment.
While the ruling is limited to only one carrier, it touches on broader pressure on airlines to lower their carbon footprint and ‘flight-shaming’ campaigns to get people to stopping flying. Commercially viable alternatives like electric and hydrogen powered jetliners are at least a decade away so carriers are relying on measures like carbon offsetting to reduce impact.
Airlines are now buying carbon offsets, or offering customers the option pay extra for them, to convince travelers that, on a net basis, their trips won’t contribute to global warming. These programs, which include tree planting and forest protection, have been criticized as insufficient, misleading or impossible to validate. A similar debate swirls around so-called sustainable aviation fuel, an element in airlines’ CO2-reduction plans.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG has been touting a “fly CO2 neutral” program, which it says “enables passengers to keep an eye on their travel activities and to compensate for the CO2 emissions inevitably caused by their flight.” EasyJet Plc says it has been offsetting carbon emissions from fuel used on all flights across its network since November 2019.
KLM buys Golden Standard certified carbon credits for a reforestation project in Panama, and offers customers options to fly CO2 neutral at added cost. The scheme results in a certain “level of offsetting” of emissions but is not “adequate” to claim absolute carbon neutrality, the watchdog said.
The case was brought by an individual under The Stichting Reclame Code, a self-regulatory system for advertisers in the Netherlands that also has consumer representation. KLM has two weeks to decide whether it wants to appeal.
ASA rule against Ryanair ad (greenwash) claim to have the lowest airline CO2 emissions
Ryanair has been accused of greenwashing after the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned an ad campaign, that tried to make out the airline has the lowest CO2 emissions of any major airline in Europe. It has been ordered to withdraw the misleading claims about its “green” credentials. Ryanair is in fact one of the top 10 carbon emitters in the EU, due to the number of flights. Ryanair probably has lower CO2 per passenger kilometre than many other airlines, as it has newer planes, and crams its planes full. But its rapid growth has meant its CO2 increased by 50% between 2013 and 2019. The ASA pointed out failings in the way Ryanair compared itself to other airlines, to make its carbon claims; it did not include all airlines or seating density; it did not substantiate its claims. The growth of Ryanair, and of air travel in general, in Europe has been due to the sector paying no jet fuel tax, making flying artificially cheap. The CO2 emissions of all flights departing from EU airports have grown from being 1.4% of total EU emissions in 1990 to 3.7% today.
Complaint submitted to Advertising Standards Authority about misleading Ryanair emissions advert
A complaint has been made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about an advert Ryanair has placed in newspapers saying it is “Europe’s lowest fares, lowest emissions airline” on the grounds that it is systematically misleading about the airline’s carbon emissions. While that may be true in terms of carbon emissions per seat kilometre flown, it is certainly NOT true for the airline as a whole. Ryanair is in fact now the 10th largest carbon emitter in Europe, on an assessment of power stations, manufacturing plants and airlines. Its emissions were around 10 million tonnes CO2 in 2018, up 6.9% on 2017. The complainant says the “unqualified statements” in the advert combine to make the advert “comprehensively misleading as to the impact of both past and future expansion of low-cost air travel on carbon emissions, an expansion which was, and is still, being led by Ryanair.”
The Ryanair advert:
Shell and its plans to produce “sustainable” jet fuels, using plant oils and animal fats
Shell is an enthusiastic proponent of so-called “Sustainable Aviation Fuels” (SAF). They claim that “SAF can be made from renewable sources such as used cooking oil, municipal waste and woody biomass. It is … has the potential to reduce lifecycle emissions by up to 80%, compared with conventional aviation fuel.” But Biofuelwatch and others are seriously concerned about the use of plant oils, including palm oil, that Shell considers acceptable. Used cooking oil could be seen as a genuinely lower carbon fuel, but there are limited amounts of it. There have been frauds involving companies making money by claiming virgin oils are “used.” Biofuelwatch says Shell has signed a contract to buy 2.5 billion litres of aviation biofuels over a 5 year period from a refinery sourcing soya and animal fats, currently under construction in Paraguay. Cattle ranching – the source of the animal fat – is the main cause of the destruction of the Chaco forest. Shell plans to produce biofuel in Singapore, where there is pressure from Malaysia and Indonesia to use palm oil, directly or indirectly linked to habitat loss and deforestation. With immense world demand for palm oil, for human food, this cannot be justified.