UN climate summit sponsor EDF rapped for ‘greenwashing’

Advertising watchdog sides with anti-nuclear campaigners against French utility’s claim 98% of its electricity is carbon-free

France gets the bulk of its electricity from nuclear plants (Pic: Flickr/Dean Calma/IAEA)

France gets the bulk of its electricity from nuclear plants (Pic: Flickr/Dean Calma/IAEA)

By Alex Pashley

Campaigners say a verdict by a French advertising standards panel will put pressure on a court to probe a top sponsor of December’s UN-led climate conference for “greenwashing the public”.

EDF launched an ad campaign months before the ‘COP21’ conference, in which it dubbed itself the “official partner of a low carbon world” and claimed 98% of its electricity was generated without emitting carbon dioxide.

The French Network for Nuclear Phase-out said that figure was deceptive, as it neglected to include emissions from the use and disposal of uranium, used to generate atomic power.

This week, the Paris-based Jury of Advertising Ethics responded to the group’s September complaint.

(credit: www.edf.fr)

The corrected ad with asterisk. ‘98% of carbon-free electricity production in France. Since 1990, EDF has cut in half its carbon emissions’ (credit: screengrab www.edf.fr)

The formerly state-owned utility couldn’t claim to be a partner of a low carbon world through being “partner of the COP21”. The slogan “may mislead the public on the ecological reality of the actions of the advertiser,” the watchdog concluded.

EDF, which denied the ad was misleading, later added an asterisk in October to acknowledge the 98% figure didn’t include all emissions over the life cycle of fuel used in electricity generation.

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In 2013, nuclear power made up 85% of the EDF’s energy generation in France, according to a company sustainability report cited in the jury report.

The company owns a suite of coal power plants abroad, which together with French utility Engie reportedly generate the equivalent of half of France’s emissions.

Spokeswoman for the anti-nuclear group Charlotte Mijeon accused EDF of “greenwashing the public” and said the “moral authority” of the ethics panel would put pressure on judges to consider their complaint in court.

Read more on: COP21