PIAC’s overarching concerns for the regulation of environmental claims in marketing are ensuring consumers have as much usable and accessible information as possible in order to make an informed choice; that product providers do not make false or misleading claims; and that environmental claims produce positive outcomes for consumers and the environment.
In the emerging market in carbon offset products there are particular issues arising including: a lack of uniform assessment methods and accreditation standards; misleading terminology for example, carbon neutral versus carbon offsets; whether purchased offsets are in addition to those that would have occurred otherwise, and are dependent on the offset taking place in the future.
In its submission to the ACCC inquiry into the marketing of carbon offset products, PIAC discusses these issues, gives examples of problematic advertising of offset products by energy retailers and airlines, and makes recommendations, including:
- that the ACCC consider producing guidelines for minimum standards of information to be provided to consumers about offset products.
- consumers be informed about the relative effectiveness of offsets versus reducing consumption and improving energy efficiency in responding to climate change.
- for the ACCC to be aware of PIAC’s development ( in partnership with other NGOs) of Carbon Offset Watch
- a website comparing the available Australian offset products for the price, quality of information and contribution to reducing carbon emissions.