Fossil fuel adverts should be banned unless they carry a tobacco-style health warning over climate change, green lawyers said as they launched a complaint against BP.
ClientEarth claims BP is misleading consumers about its focus on low carbon energy and climate solutions in advertising campaigns running in the UK and elsewhere.
The environmental legal charity has triggered an official complaint under the guidelines of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international set of rules governing corporate conduct.
The complaint is being submitted to the Government’s UK National Contact Point, which is responsible for implementing the complaints mechanism relating to the guidelines.
ClientEarth is also calling for a ban on all fossil fuel advertising unless it comes with a tobacco-style health warning about the dangers to the planet and people.
The lawyers say BP’s “keep advancing” and “possibilities everywhere” campaigns are potentially misleading, with a focus on the company’s renewable energy investments when the large majority of its investment is in oil and gas.
They have also raised concerns over statements on how clean gas is, its role in the energy mix and the need for greater use of gas in the coming decades.
ClientEarth climate lawyer Sophie Marjanac said: “BP is spending millions on an advertising campaign to give the impression that it’s racing to renewables, that its gas is cleaner, and that it is part of the climate solution.
“While BP’s advertising focuses on clean energy, in reality, more than 96% of the company’s annual capital expenditure is on oil and gas.
“According to its own figures, BP is spending less than four pounds in every hundred on low-carbon investments each year. The rest is fuelling the climate crisis.”
She added: “We see real parallels with fossil fuel companies and the tobacco industry, which knew about the risks their products posed but used misleading marketing campaigns to sell them regardless.
“Make no mistake, this is a climate emergency. You only need to see the increase in extreme weather events around the world – from flooding in the UK, to wildfires in the US and Australia.”
ClientEarth says the OECD sets guidelines on environmental communications and advertising that state the public requires accurate, clear and comprehensive information to make informed decisions on the sustainability of the products they buy.
There are also provisions to ensure disclosure of information, promotion of environmental awareness, and consumer education, which ClientEarth claims BP’s advertising campaign is in conflict with.
The legal charity is calling on BP to cease its advertising campaign until it complies with the OECD guidelines, issue a correction and ensure all future advertising complies with the rules.
In a statement, a spokesman for BP said: “We have not seen this complaint, but we strongly reject the suggestion that our advertising is misleading.
“BP has clearly said that the world is on an unsustainable path and must do more to reduce emissions. We support a rapid transition of the world’s energy system.
“BP is of course well known as a major oil and gas producer. We are also committed to advancing a low carbon future.
“So one of the purposes of this advertising campaign is to let people know about some of the possibilities we see to do that, for example in wind, solar and electric vehicle charging, as well as in natural gas and advanced fuels.”