The European Union has prohibited the use of deceptive environmental statements that depend on offsetting.
The EU will prohibit terms like “climate neutral” or “climate positive” that use offsetting by 2026 in an effort to crack down on deceptive environmental statements.
MEPs voted on Wednesday to prohibit the use of terms like “environmentally friendly”, “natural”, “biodegradable”, “climate neutral”, or “eco” without proof. They also imposed a complete ban on utilizing carbon offsetting programs to support these statements.
Under the new directive, only sustainability labels using approved certification schemes will be allowed by the bloc. It comes amid widespread concern about the environmental impact of carbon offsetting schemes, which have often been used to justify labelling products “carbon neutral”, or imply that consumers can fly, buy new clothes or eat certain foods without making the climate crisis worse.
“This new legislation puts an end to misleading advertising for supposedly environmentally friendly products and thus enables consumers to make sustainable choices,” said Anna Cavazzini, the Green MEP and chair of the Committee of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection.
“I am very happy that terms like “climate-neutral” or “climate-positive”, which rely on offsetting CO2 emissions, have been fully prohibited in the internal market. Companies are encouraged to invest in climate protection projects and can still communicate these efforts,” she stated. “However, it should no longer be acceptable for actions such as planting trees in the rainforest to be used as a way to claim that industrial production of a car, organizing a soccer World Cup, or producing cosmetics are climate-neutral. This misleading practice is now a thing of the past. This is a significant achievement for the environment, the climate, and consumers.”
After several months of discussions, a decision has been made on how the EU will regulate environmental assertions. The agreement was finalized in September and was officially endorsed by legislators on Wednesday. Member countries must implement the updated regulations within the next two years.
In January, the Guardian released a collaborative report on forest carbon offsets that were endorsed by the top certifier in the world and utilized by major corporations for their sustainability pledges. The investigation revealed that over 90% of the offsets from a significant number of projects were deemed to have no value.
Environmental non-governmental organizations have expressed worries about assertions made about offsets, such as the 2022 World Cup in Qatar being marketed as a “carbon neutral” occasion.
Lindsay Otis, a policy expert on global carbon markets at CMW, stated that this agreement is a significant move towards promoting transparency in commercial practices and ensuring that European consumers are well-informed. The European Union is setting an example in the fight against greenwashing. Otis also emphasized that carbon neutrality claims have proven to be confusing for consumers and should be discontinued. This agreement signifies the end of exaggerated and unsubstantiated advertisements that make false promises to European consumers about carbon-neutral flights, clothing, and food.
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