Australians are in the midst of a climate crisis. From megafires to megafloods, heatwaves and drought, unnatural disasters and extreme weather events are happening more often, and becoming more severe.
To prevent further and potentially catastrophic harm from climate change, all policy-makers, businesses, and industries must start pulling in the same direction: towards deep and rapid cuts to our greenhouse gas emissions this decade. Australian businesses can and must be a part of the solution, but need the right incentives and regulatory frameworks in place to kickstart a genuine energy transformation. The fossil fuel industry, in an effort to stop this from happening, uses widespread greenwashing tactics to actively delay the market shift away from their harmful products. This must stop.
The draft guidance on Environmental and sustainability claims, issued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in July 2023, provides an important and much-needed opportunity to strengthen and clarify the obligations Australian businesses have when making claims about their environmental impact. Regulatory action should prioritise ensuring that high polluting industries are not engaging in greenwashing, or making unsubstantiated environmental claims that downplay the outsized role these companies play in fuelling the climate crisis.
Serious and systemic greenwashing from high-polluting industries does real harm. It can confuse and mislead individual consumers, who may be unaware they are being presented with inaccurate information. It leaves businesses who are making genuine efforts to reduce their emissions at a disadvantage to their competitors, who get to benefit from making the same environmental claims without putting in the work. And as Australia responds to the urgency of the climate crisis, it delays and diverts critical investment away from the sectors and projects that will actively reduce emissions, and create thriving, new, clean energy industries.
It is therefore the Climate Council’s recommendation that the draft guidelines issued by the ACCC be substantially strengthened to explicitly address and enforce accuracy in climate-related claims from high-polluting industries. This should include sending a clear message to high-polluting industries, and in particular the fossil fuel industry, that they must not:
- Make environmental claims about net zero when they are in the process of opening up new fossil fuel projects
- Make environmental claims that rely on extensive use of offsets rather than genuine emissions cuts
- Make environmental claims that do not consider the full lifecycle emissions of their product.