Watchdog backs DfT climate change advert

A clever television advert claiming car pollution is the worst contributor to global warming has been cleared by advertising watchdogs.

The campaign, by the British Department for Transport (DfT) showed an image of what appeared to be an industrial chimney pouring pollution into the atmosphere.

The shot opens to reveal the chimney was, in fact, a car exhaust emitting fumes and was run as part of the government’s Act on CO2 campaign.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) criticised parts of the campaign run by the Department for Energy and Climate Change earlier this year.

But, more than 50 people complained to the ASA about the voice over of the DfT which stated: “Scientists say rising CO2 emissions are causing our climate to change … car travel is the single biggest contributor to this.”

The on-screen text stated ‘UK Government data, 2009’ The voice-over went on to say ‘but together we can begin to make a difference by driving 5 miles less a week’.

Fifty-two viewers challenged whether the claim that car emissions were the ‘single biggest contributor’ to human-produced CO2 emissions, could be substantiated.

Two viewers also challenged whether the claim car emissions were the ‘single biggest contributor’ to CO2 emissions, could be substantiated because they believed that emissions from livestock were greater.

The DfT explained the purpose of the campaign was to make viewers aware of the contribution car travel made to CO2 emissions and to incentivise people to reduce their emissions by driving five miles less per week.

The Department believed the ad made clear they were claiming that 40% of UK CO2 emissions originated from individual actions, of which they believed 26% came from personal car use.

DfT emphasised they were not claiming that car use was the greatest contributor to human produced CO2 emissions, but that it was the single biggest contributor to CO2 emissions caused by actions taken by individuals.

The ASA dismissed the complaints ruling the ads ‘made clear to viewers’ that it was referring to an individual’s contribution to emissions through activities such as the use of heating, electrical appliances and transport, rather than the contribution made by human beings as a whole through industrial production or rearing of livestock.

Luke Walsh

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