Claims that B.C. LNG will reduce global emissions are inaccurate, misleading and distort scientific data

Advertising Standards Canada finds pro-LNG ads guilty of greenwashing

Unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-waututh) Nations (Vancouver) | May 28, 2024Advertisements touting the environmental benefits of the fossil fuel liquefied natural gas (LNG), paid for by Canada Action, are inaccurate, misleading, and distort the true meaning of statements by scientists, according to a unanimous interim ruling by Ad Standards. The ruling was anonymously shared with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) in light of its campaign to ban fossil fuel advertising. 

The Canada Action ads’ claim that “B.C. LNG will reduce global emissions” is found to have “distorted the true meaning of statements made by professionals or scientific authorities,” “promised a verified result without competent and reliable evidence” and created an “overall misleading impression… that B.C. LNG is good for the environment, amounting to greenwashing,” according to the self-regulatory body tasked with administering the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards to ensure ads are truthful and accurate. 

Canada Action’s multi-channel, pro-oil and gas advertisements appear on a distinctive green background, which the ruling said was “used to emphasize an environmental benefit that liquefied natural gas does not truly have.” The federally-registered non-profit organization claims to be a non-partisan, grassroots effort to encourage support for the Canadian oil and gas industry. It has spent more than $5 million on advertising between 2017-2022, according to public filings. It has not publicly disclosed its funding sources, which include over $7 million in corporate sponsorships, but investigative reporting uncovered payments from the oil and gas industry, including $100,000 from ARC Resources.

The Ad Standards council reached its decision on January 30, 2024, but only notified the advertiser and complainants on May 7, 2024. The ads have continued to run, notably in prominent locations in large urban centres in Ontario and B.C., including on billboards, radio, public transit and in major newspapers, including a full-page, front-cover advertisement in the Times Colonist newspaper on May 4. (Ontario ads state “Canadian LNG will reduce global emissions.”) In contrast to other self-regulatory advertising bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority in the U.K and the National Advertising Division in the United States, Ad Standards Canada´s decisions are confidential and are not made public. 

According to Dr. Melissa Lem, a Vancouver family physician and the president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. “These ads are textbook cases of greenwashing, right down to the colour of the ads. We felt compelled to make this decision public because people in Canada have the right to not be misled about LNG’s harmful impacts on the climate, the environment and our health.”

CAPE has raised the alarm for many years over the significant harms to human health, ecosystem health and climate change caused by natural gas extraction and burning, especially in B.C. This includes emerging research linking fracking with adverse birth outcomes (preterm birth, birth defects, low birthweight), childhood leukemia, respiratory and cardiovascular issues, and premature mortality. 

Led by CAPE, health organizations in Canada have been advocating since 2022 for a tobacco-style ban on fossil fuel advertising to protect public health, due to concerns that disinformation campaigns from the oil and gas industry obstruct climate action and allow continued harms to health and the environment, similar to the way tobacco deceived the public for years about the harms of its product.

Consequently, CAPE has sent a letter to companies where the ads are known to have run, including TransLink, BC Transit, the Times Colonist, out-of-home advertisers Branded Cities, Pattison and Lamar, amongst others, requesting that the “B.C./Canadian LNG will reduce global emissions” and other similarly misleading Canada Action campaign ads be taken down, for correction ads to be placed, and for a comprehensive system to screen green claims to be put in place going forward. 

The ads have caused controversy with a petition to Translink and BC Transit garnering thousands of signatures. In February, the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs called on the federal and B.C. governments to address misleading LNG advertising campaigns, which they warned “threaten climate change efforts and informed decision-making.”

Quotes

Dr. Melissa Lem, Vancouver family physician and president of Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

“These misleading ads are deeply offensive to every healthcare worker who has to treat patients suffering from the health effects of climate change – heat illness, asthma exacerbations from wildfire smoke, or anxiety and depression after wildfire evacuations – and they must end. Just as Canada’s ban on tobacco advertising protects public health, we need a ban on fossil fuel advertising to stop stoking demand for products that harm our health.”

Naxginkw, Tara Marsden, Wilp Sustainability Director for the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs

“The Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs are grateful for the growing voices demanding truth and accountability in Canadian fossil fuel ads. Already this year, extreme wildfires have displaced thousands of people from their homes, highlighting the urgent need to combat disinformation from the oil and gas industry. These misleading campaigns not only threaten climate action but also pose serious risks to public health and the environment. We applaud CAPE for their leadership in holding this industry accountable and for their efforts to protect and care for the well-being of all.”

Leah Temper, Health and Economic Policy Program Director, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)

“The fossil fuel industry is exploiting gaps in Canada’s regulatory system to confuse and mislead the public about how their products harm the environment, public health, and the economy. It is unconscionable that corporate interests can spend millions lying to the people of Canada and that the public doesn’t have the right to learn the truth even when they are caught out. The system is broken and we need government action to stop the greenwash and to shut down the disinformation machine.” 

Dr. Margaret McGregor, family physician, health policy researcher, and co-author of The human health effects of unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD): A scoping review of epidemiologic studies, Canadian Journal of Public Health, March 2024

“Let this be a wake-up call to the BC government. LNG is no climate solution. There is increasing evidence of higher rates of impaired fetal growth, premature birth, asthma flares, childhood leukemia, heart failure, and mortality in communities exposed to the fracking industry.  It is time for the BC government to consider the emerging science on fracking and human health in their energy policy decision-making.”

– 30 – 

Resources

About CAPE

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) is a physician-directed 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, www.cape.ca 

Media Contact in B.C.

Allison Murray
604-442-1846
allison@MurrayCommunications.org 

National Media Contact

Reykia Fick, Communications Director, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)
647-762-9168
media@cape.ca 

Gitanyow Media Contact

Chasity Daniels/Xbiisuunt, Communications Coordinator
ghc.communications2023@gmail.com 

 

Share