As part of the Climate Desk partnership, this article was originally published by Canada’s National Observer and is reprinted here.
One month after healthcare professionals raised concerns about one of its advertising efforts, Canada’s Competition Bureau is looking into a well-known gas industry advocacy group for possible greenwashing.
Dr. Melissa Lem, a representative for the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), the organization that brought the complaint against the Canadian Gas Association, described this as revolutionary (CGA). The Competition Bureau is looking into the gas industry for deceptive claims for the first time.
Just one month after the successful application by environmentalists for the Competition Bureau to examine RBC for allegedly misleading Canadians about its climate performance, the bureau decided to launch an investigation, as CAPE stated on November 10.
The main focus of the complaint against CGA is an advertisement campaign from last November called Fuelling Canada, which portrays so-called natural gas as affordable and clean when, in reality, the gas is primarily composed of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that causes more immediate harm to the environment than carbon dioxide. The campaign ran on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in addition to having a website.
Methane should not be referred to as pure because it is 25 to 80 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, according to the complaint. It also took issue with advertisements that claimed the fuel was reasonable, given that heat pumps are often less expensive to operate and that gas is anticipated to cost more as economies switch to low-carbon energy sources.
The association and its member businesses, which include Enbridge, TC Energy, FortisBC, energy, and about a dozen others, would be required to stop promoting methane gas as clean and affordable, issue a retraction, and possibly face a $10 million (Canadian) fine if the investigation finds that CGA’s statements are false and misleading, according to the CAPE press release.
President and CEO Timothy M. Egan of the CGA said the organization will work with the Competition Bureau and is confident in its stance in an email statement to Canada’s National Observer.
According to the statement, natural gas plays a significant role in Canada’s energy mix, providing 38% of the country’s energy demands, a figure that is rising. Natural gas fulfills the requirement of Canadians for reliable energy availability.
According to the CAPE press release, the bureau’s decision to look into both CGA and RBC shows that net-zero claims and the misinformation surrounding fossil fuels are receiving more attention. However, it also shows that more extensive regulation is required to address the scope of this issue.
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The introduction of a new UN study describing what a credible net-zero pledge must look like has made greenwashing a major topic at COP27, so the bureau’s judgment couldn’t have come at a better moment, according to Lem.
Given the effects on air quality and human health, Canadian doctors and other health professionals have been spearheading a campaign against fossil fuel advertising and have urged the federal government to outlaw and regulate it similarly to the cigarette business.
Unfortunately, Lem added, these false promises are raising demand. She noted that the business is aware that consumers want to purchase items that are reasonably priced and environmentally sustainable, which is why tailored messaging is used. The history of the industry’s use of its substantial resources to refute the reality of climate change is well known. They are now reverting to the tactic of greenwashing as a result of the fact that it is now obvious that it does (exist).
According to research released in March by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Canada and other wealthy countries that produce fossil fuels must cease all production by 2034 if the world is to have a chance of keeping global warming to 1.5 C. Canada will continue to boost oil and gas output, in contrast to the conclusions of that and several other reports.
We need to be more intelligent than that, added Lem, as the industry is doing everything it can to maintain the market for fossil fuels. In order to safeguard customers, we must ensure that false advertising doesn’t increase demand.