Decision comes during COP27 in response to complaint filed by six concerned Canadian doctors, nurses and public health advocates against gas industry lobby group and its members such as Enbridge, ATCO, Fortis, and Énergir
OTTAWA, SHARM EL-SHEIKH, November 10, 2022 – The Canadian Gas Association (CGA) is under investigation for alleged false and misleading claims in its advertising that “natural” gas is clean and affordable, Canada’s Competition Bureau has confirmed.
The announcement comes as world leaders converge in Egypt for COP27. On Tuesday, the United Nations High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities – led by former federal minister Catherine McKenna – released its report and recommendations to serve as “a roadmap to prevent net zero from being undermined by false claims, ambiguity and ‘greenwash.’”
Competition Bureau Canada is a federal law enforcement agency responsible for protecting consumers from companies making false and misleading statements to promote their business interests. The inquiry responds to a complaint filed in September by Dr. Melissa Lem, Dr. Ulrike Meyer, Dr. Genevieve Ferdais, Jacqueline Avanthay Strus, RN, Dr. Leah Temper, PhD, and Melissa Daniels, supported by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, asking for an investigation into the CGA for greenwashing.
If the Competition Bureau inquiry confirms that CGA’s statements are misleading and false, the CGA and its member companies would be forced to stop advertising methane gas as clean and affordable and issue a retraction. They could also be ordered to pay a $10 million fine.
The complaint alleges that the CGA’s representations of “natural” gas as “clean” are false and misleading. When properly accounted for, “natural” gas has comparable greenhouse gas emissions to coal, in part because methane, the main ingredient in “natural” gas, has up to 80 times the climate-warming potential of carbon dioxide. The extraction and production of gas also pollutes the air and contaminates water sources, while closer to home, gas appliances cause indoor air pollution and pose a serious health risk for children’s respiratory health.
The complaint further alleges that the CGA’s claims of methane gas being more affordable than other home energy systems are misleading. It cites a 2022 report from Natural Resources Canada showing that low-carbon heat pumps are already cheaper than gas heating in most of Canada. It also flags the CGA’s own undisclosed studies forecasting that the price of methane gas to customers will increase significantly due to climate policies.
Last month, the Competition Bureau opened an inquiry into RBC’s allegedly false advertising regarding its climate commitments while it is one of the biggest financiers of fossil fuels in the world. These cases show that the Competition Bureau is increasing its scrutiny on fossil fuel disinformation and net zero claims, but that broader regulation is necessary to tackle the scale of this problem.
Dr. Melissa Lem, MD, says: “In a year where tens of millions of people across the planet have been displaced, sickened and killed by extreme weather events, it is unconscionable for the fossil fuel industry to continue to greenwash its deadly products and drive consumer demand for fossil fuels that harm our health. As the world converges for COP27, decision-makers and regulators in Canada and beyond must step up to end corporate greenwashing.”
Dr. Geneviève Ferdais, MD, says: “Saturday, November 5th was the warmest November day on record in Montreal. We know that the climate crisis is caused by fossil fuels. Yet when I recently went with my family to an Alouette’s game on another abnormally warm Sunday, 20,000 people were fed greenwashing ads from the fossil industry in Canada. I feel relieved that the Competition Bureau takes our request seriously. Canada and every country present at COP27 must act to stop greenwashing and take bold actions to solve the climate emergency.
Melissa Daniels, RN, BScN, says: Indigenous people have been calling out greenwashing by fossil fuel companies for decades and I am relieved that the brands responsible for the climate crisis – and the powerful PR machines behind them – are finally being held accountable for deceiving the public and prioritizing corporate interests over the wellbeing of our people and the natural world.”
Dr. Leah Temper, PhD, says: “Greenwashing is a crime. We know that disinformation about climate change is one of the biggest obstacles to action. Fossil fuel companies have switched tactics from climate denial to climate delay and greenwashing. These tactics are aimed at stymieing the just transition we need to address climate change and other impacts of fossil pollution. We are heartened to hear the Competition Bureau is launching this inquiry and hope this sends a clear message to big polluters that they won’t get away with greenwashing their dirty business and spreading disinformation to block climate action.”
Dr. Melissa Lem, MD, is a Vancouver family physician, president-elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and a clinical assistant professor at the University of British Columbia.
Dr. Ulrike Meyer, MD, is a family physician in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and a member of the British Columbia committee for the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.
Jacqueline/Jack Avanthay Strus, RN, M.Sc.N., PhD(c), is president of the Canadian Association of Nurses for the Environment and a professor at the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Université de Saint-Boniface. Their expertise lies in climate health inequities, social justice and the ecological determinants of health.
Dr. Genevieve Ferdais, MD, is a family physician in Montreal, Quebec. She teaches clinical work at the Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Medicine. She is a board member of the GMF-R Clinique Médicale du Sud-Ouest in Montreal and also a member of For Our Kids Montreal, a volunteer climate advocacy organization.
Dr. Leah Temper, PhD, is the Campaign Director of the Fossil Fuel Ads Make Us Sick campaign at the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.
Melissa Daniels, RN, BScN, is a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and works with CAPE’s Toxics Program. She has a background in nursing and law and is a long-standing environmental and social justice advocate.
The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) is a non-profit organization working to secure human health by protecting the planet. Since its founding in 1994, CAPE’s work has achieved substantial policy victories in collaboration with many partners in the environmental and health movements. From coast to coast to coast, the organization operates throughout the country with regional committees active in most provinces and all territories.
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National Communications Director
Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
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