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Australian Parents for Climate Action (AP4CA) has filed a claim against a major Australian energy provider in the Federal Court of Australia, for the false marketing of its Go Neutral product as “carbon neutral”. 

AP4CA alleges that EnergyAustralia is misleading over 400,000 consumers about the climate impact of its Go Neutral product, claiming that it has “a positive impact on the environment” when it is primarily generated by burning fossil fuels, which the company claims to have “offset” simply by buying carbon credits.

This will be the first Australian civil action brought against a company for marketing a specific consumer product as “carbon neutral” and follows a recent agreement by lawmakers in the European Parliament to ban this act overseas.

AP4CA estimates that Go Neutral customers spend hundreds of millions a year on fossil fuel energy, while being led to believe that it is “carbon neutral”.

Senior Associate at Equity Generation Lawyers, David Hertzberg, representing AP4CA, said that this is the first case in Australia targeting the marketing of consumer products as ‘carbon neutral’.

“Our client argues that EnergyAustralia’s promotion of its Go Neutral product amounts to misleading or deceptive conduct, which is a contravention of the Australian Consumer Law,” Mr Hertzberg said. 

“If our client is successful, it will force EnergyAustralia to stop claiming that its Go Neutral product is ‘carbon neutral’. It will also set a precedent for other companies, helping to strip back some of the greenwashing faced by everyday consumers.

“Consumers deserve to know the truth about what they are buying. And the truth is that fossil fuel energy can never be ‘carbon neutral’.”

EnergyAustralia responds – 11 August

A spokesperson for EnergyAustralia said that the company denies the allegations of misleading or deceptive conduct in relation to its Go Neutral and PureEnergy products and intends to defend the proceeding. 

“EnergyAustralia is disappointed that the AP4CA group has chosen to commence court proceedings rather than engaging with EnergyAustralia to share ideas about ways to ensure that consumers can make informed choices,” the spokesperson said. 

“In respect of the Go Neutral product, EnergyAustralia has complied with the Climate Active certification process and ensured the statements we make about the product are consistent with the nature of certification under the Climate Active Standard. 

“Climate Active is an ongoing partnership between the Federal Government and Australian businesses to drive voluntary climate action. The brand represents Australia’s collective effort to measure, reduce, and offset carbon emissions to lessen our negative impact on the environment.

“EnergyAustralia is committed to ensuring that consumers can make informed choices in respect of our retail energy offering.”

AP4CA comments

CEO of AP4CA, Nic Seton, said that Australian parents want their energy to be clean and renewable, because their children rely on them to create a safe and sustainable world for their future.

“We’ve had enough of power companies misleading us into buying polluting products. So we’re taking a stand against EnergyAustralia’s greenwashing on behalf of Australia’s parents and our children,” Mr Seton said. 

“We simply cannot solve the climate crisis while the world’s biggest polluters rely on buying ‘offsets’; it is not scientifically possible for fossil fuel-based products to be truly ‘carbon neutral’. ‘Offsets’ are a form of marketing spin based on creative accounting, allowing fossil-fuel burners to maintain climate destroying practices and delay decarbonisation.

“Consider the analogy of discovering your child smokes cigarettes. Your child can’t just pay other children not to smoke, and then tell you their smoking is ‘health neutral’. This is fundamentally deceptive behaviour and doesn’t solve the problem. Your child is still smoking.

“Why would we stand for it when energy companies mislead consumers into thinking their energy is good for the climate while continuing to pump climate-wrecking pollution into the atmosphere? These companies should instead be switching to genuinely sustainable and renewable energy.

“When companies burn fossil fuels, they harm the climate. It’s as simple as that. So when they use marketing spin like ‘offsets’ to justify business as usual, they’re cheating our kids out of a safe future.”

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