13 June 2024
The NZ aviation industry is making bold climate claims—and risking anti-greenwashing litigation

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Air New Zealand’s purchase of its first electric aircraft and Christchurch Airport’s achievement in decarbonization standards signal positive progress in reducing aviation emissions. However, these bold climate claims also come with the risk of facing legal action for potential greenwashing practices.

The aviation industry in New Zealand has recently made some bold claims about their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. On the surface, it may seem like great news that Air New Zealand has purchased its first fully electric aircraft and Christchurch Airport has achieved a new standard for decarbonization. However, the reality is more complex and potentially risky.

 

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As the global climate continues to warm, the aviation industry is facing increasing scrutiny for its sustainability claims. Climate litigation is on the rise, and the concept of “net zero” strategies is being challenged. The United Nations High-Level Expert Group has established guidelines to combat “greenwashing” and ensure that corporations take ambitious climate mitigation actions based on rigorous science-based targets.

 

These targets must encompass emissions reductions from the entity’s entire value chain and activities, including both direct and indirect emissions. The use of voluntary carbon credits, or offsets, is no longer considered sufficient for meeting interim emissions reductions on the pathway to Net Zero 2050. Carbon offsetting has been shown to be problematic and, in some cases, fraudulent.

 

Several key players in the global aviation industry have already faced climate litigation due to unsustainable claims. Airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa, and Etihad have faced formal complaints and advertising bans for misleading consumers with their greenwashing tactics. Delta is currently facing a class action lawsuit for misrepresenting its carbon neutrality claims, and KLM is being sued for misleading advertising while increasing its number of flights.

 

These cases raise important questions about Air New Zealand’s own sustainability strategy, known as “Flight NZ0,” which focuses on sustainable aviation fuel, next-generation aircraft, carbon offsetting, and operational efficiency. While the airline promotes its recently purchased electric aircraft, it also plans to significantly expand its long-haul network and aims to provide an “ultra long haul experience.” This contradiction between growth and decarbonization strategies presents a challenge for the airline.

 

It’s not just airlines that are facing scrutiny. Airports, including Christchurch Airport, have also made significant climate claims but often fail to account for scope 3 emissions, which are primarily associated with flights in and out of the airports. These emissions make up a significant portion of the total emissions but are not taken into consideration when claiming climate neutrality.

 

Stakeholders, such as the Christchurch City Council and the New Zealand government, which own a significant portion of the airport, are also exposed to accusations of greenwashing. Industry groups, like Tourism Industry Aotearoa, have awarded Christchurch Airport for its environmental initiatives but need to ensure that their awards keep up with developments in the field and the increasing risk of litigation over unsustainable sustainability claims.

 

As consumers and environmentalists become more discerning about climate claims and carbon reduction strategies, it may become more challenging for Air New Zealand and other players in the aviation industry to defend their net zero pathways. It is crucial for these companies and organizations to ensure that their claims are based on comprehensive and rigorous science and that they are genuinely committed to reducing their carbon footprint.

SOURCE: The NZ aviation industry is making bold climate claims—and risking anti-greenwashing litigation

https://phys.org/news/2023-12-nz-aviation-industry-bold-climate.html

FAQs

Question:

What are net zero strategies and why are they being challenged?

Answer:

Net zero strategies refer to the goal of balancing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced with an equivalent amount of emissions removed from the atmosphere. These strategies are being challenged because some corporations are accused of using “greenwashing” tactics and not taking sufficient actions to reduce their emissions.

Question:

What are scope 3 emissions and why are they important?

Answer:

Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions that occur as a result of an organization’s activities but are produced by sources not owned or controlled by the organization. In the aviation industry, scope 3 emissions are primarily associated with flights in and out of airports. These emissions are important because they make up a significant portion of total emissions and need to be considered when claiming climate neutrality.

Question:

What are carbon credits or offsets and why are they no longer considered sufficient?

Answer:

Carbon credits or offsets are a mechanism used to compensate for emissions by investing in projects that reduce or remove greenhouse gases. They are no longer considered sufficient because they do not directly address the need for emissions reductions. Voluntary offsets are seen as problematic and potentially fraudulent, and organizations are expected to take more ambitious actions to reduce their own emissions.

Question:

What is greenwashing and why is it a concern in the aviation industry?

Answer:

Greenwashing refers to the practice of making misleading or unsubstantiated claims about the environmental benefits of a product, service, or company. It is a concern in the aviation industry because airlines and airports may falsely portray themselves as environmentally friendly without taking significant actions to reduce their carbon footprint. This can mislead consumers and undermine genuine efforts to combat climate change.

Question:

What are some examples of climate litigation faced by the aviation industry?

Answer:

Examples of climate litigation faced by the aviation industry include formal complaints and advertising bans against airlines like Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa, and Etihad for misleading consumers with their greenwashing tactics. Delta is currently facing a class action lawsuit for misrepresenting its carbon neutrality claims, and KLM is being sued for misleading advertising while increasing its number of flights.



Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Climate litigation, Greenwashing, Carbon offset

Climate change litigation
Climate change litigation, also known as climate litigation, is an emerging body of environmental law using legal practice to set case law precedent to further climate change mitigation efforts from public institutions, such as governments and companies. In the face of slow climate change politics delaying climate change mitigation, activists...
Read more: Climate change litigation

Greenwashing
Greenwashing (a compound word modeled on "whitewash"), also called green sheen, is a form of advertising or marketing spin in which green PR and green marketing are deceptively used to persuade the public that an organization's products, aims, and policies are environmentally friendly. Companies that intentionally take up greenwashing communication...
Read more: Greenwashing

Carbon offsets and credits
Carbon offsetting is a carbon trading mechanism that allows entities such as governments or businesses to compensate for (i.e. “offset”) their greenhouse gas emissions. It works by supporting projects that reduce, avoid, or remove emissions elsewhere. In other words, carbon offsets work by offsetting emissions through investments in emission reduction...
Read more: Carbon offsets and credits

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