The EU is set to ban unsubstantiated climate-neutral claims by 2026 following an agreement on carbon offsetting and neutrality.
That means several ‘eco-friendly’ products on shelves will need to provide accurate proof, including an expected product lifetime, to be able to market their products as green. It also means that these companies cannot rely on offsets to advertise themselves as eco-friendly.
The aviation industry in particular will require sweeping changes, as the EU will now force a revision of booking interfaces that offer clients to pay extra fees for “climate-neutral” flying.
The crackdown is only set to get harsher as another two similar laws aimed at aligning products with the EU’s goal to be the first climate-neutral continent are set for approval.
The initiative, which has been described as a “milestone” in eradicating greenwashing, will challenge companies to report their environmental claims with clear evidence.
The changes come in the wake of longstanding complaints of greenwashing by consumer advocates, who have argued that consumers are paying extra for ‘green’ products with misleading environmental evidence.
“There is no such thing as ‘carbon-neutral’ or ‘CO2 neutral’ cheese, plastic bottles, flights or bank accounts. Carbon-neutral claims are greenwashing, plain and simple,” said Ursula Pachl, the deputy director of EU consumer advocates BEUC.
“The EU is sending a powerful signal to the voluntary carbon market: the era of offsetting is over,” said Gilles Dufrasne, policy lead at Carbon Market Watch.
In practice, the impacts of the measure are still uncertain. “Companies are smart, and we’ll need to observe how they react to this,” said Elisa Martellucci of the standards group Ecos.