Carbon neutral illusion – Parents fight “deceptive” climate branding by energy firms

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
4 Min Read

Energy companies are “duping” Aussies with false carbon neutrality product branding, according to a group of parent climate activists.

Parents for Climate want to put an end to “greenwashing” climate marketing, which they say companies use to dodge taking meaningful action on carbon emissions.

Companies have long used carbon offset and credit schemes to advertise their products as being better for the climate by funding other emission-reducing projects such as renewable energy production or tree plantation.

But Parents for Climate says this allows companies to get away with doing nothing to reduce the amount of carbon emissions they produce in the first place while tricking Australians into thinking their products are environmentally friendly.

The group is currently suing EnergyAustralia for what they say are misleading climate claims relating to the electricity and gas services with their “go-neutral” option.

The energy firm provides power to more than 400,000 Aussies nationwide and advertises their carbon-neutral selections to have a “positive impact on the environment.”

Something Parents for Climate CEO Nic Seton told Build-it simply isn’t possible.

“I wish it were true, but we need genuine reductions in emissions to prepare a safer climate for our kids, so that’s why it’s an issue,” Mr Seton said.

“These offsets are just a way for big companies in Australia to avoid taking the necessary steps for direct emissions reduction.”

Mr Seton told Build-it that carbon-neutral labels were “pollution rebranded”.

“It’s just spin – creative accounting at best and marketing spin at worst,” he said.

“You shouldn’t be able to use these labels as a licence to use more fossil fuels.”

Parents for Climate recently filed a claim against EnergyAustralia for false or misleading advertising, saying the company’s GoNeutral product misled consumers into thinking it had no polluting impact on the climate.

The EnergyAustralia website says customers can opt in for carbon neutral and “have a positive impact on the planet.”

“We calculate the emissions associated with your household energy use – your electricity or gas, or both – and purchase corresponding carbon offsets to cancel out the emissions, making your home energy use carbon neutral.”

Possible ban on greenwashing litigation

However, a new federal government proposal for a three-year ban on corporate greenwashing litigation could give energy companies further time to make emission-reducing changes.

Parents for Climate strongly oppose the ban, saying the time for action is now.

“The arguments for a ban like this might have made sense 20 years ago, maybe even 10. But it’s 2023, and temperatures are already dangerously high for our kids. A ban like this seems to take no account of that – we don’t have endless time to coddle big polluters.” he warned.

Group chair Harriet Fesq says they just want energy companies to be upfront about the emissions produced by their products.

“All parents want the label to match what’s in the tin when we’re in the supermarket. And parents who want a safe climate for our kids buy the cleanest energy we can when shopping for power,” she said.

“A policy like this protects polluters at the expense of our kids’ safety. Parents for Climate strongly urges the federal government to find alternatives to a ban which would deny justice to those harmed by misleading climate claims.”

Share This Article
Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.