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Greens slam greenwash decision by ad watchdog

9 November 2007

Greens slam greenwash decision by ad industry watchdog

The Green Party today expressed disbelief at a decision by the Advertising Standards Complaints Board that a coal mine can successfully claim to have a 'low environmental impact,' and will be appealing the decision.

Green Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons had lodged a complaint in June against Pike River Coal Ltd's pamphlet advertising a share offer, in which it made claims of environmental friendliness.

"When it is eventually burnt, the coal from this mine will release around 45 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, equivalent to more than New Zealand's entire CO2 emissions in one year. How can this not have a massive environmental impact?" Ms Fitzsimons says.

"The Complaints Board has accepted Pike River's spin and ruled that the claim of 'low environmental impact' does not apply to the coal, but refers only to the coal mine.

"It is absurd to suggest that a flyer inviting investment in an enterprise can make positive environmental claims, regardless of the climate change impact of the products that it makes," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"The Board's stance is strikingly at variance from that adopted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Protection Agency, which has warned companies they face prosecution for making invalid 'green' claims in their marketing. In particular, the ACCC singled out a coal power station claiming to be 'clean' - a claim that, it argued, misleadingly ignored the coal's greenhouse gas emissions.

"Our advertising watchdog agency has virtually ignored the greenhouse gas emissions arising from the coal, and has dedicated itself to finding wiggle room for the company.

Pike River claims - and the Board accepted - that their coal can be considered as having 'low environmental impact' because it has a lower ash content that other coals. On the other hand, they gave no weight to the fact that Pike River coal's 1.9% sulphur content is higher than some other coals.

"New Zealanders are not stupid. They will be alarmed that a company can get away with pretending that the business of coal mining does not have a major environmental impact.


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