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Air France and Germain airline Lufthansa tried to sneak false environmental claims into their ads—they’ve now been banned

Smiley N. Pool/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

Air France and Lufthansa were among airlines that misled customers after they suggested that there was an environmentally friendly way to fly by plane, a watchdog has ruled.

In separate rulings delivered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Wednesday, Air France-KLM, Lufthansa, and Etihad Airways each had adverts banned in which they implied they could fly in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way by choosing the airlines for their trips over competitors.

Lufthansa was cited in March by the ASA when it ran an advert saying it was “protecting our future.” This was followed by a July ad urging customers to “fly more sustainably” by choosing the airline.

In its advertisement, Air France-KLM boasted: “Air France is committed to protecting the environment: travel better and sustainably.”

Lufthansa said in its response to the ASA that it had sent a Google Callout to customers to advertise its “Green Fares” option, where the airline uses some sustainable fuels for flights while offsetting the remaining CO2 emissions by engaging in environmentally friendly programs.

The airline said it couldn’t fit this information into the ad and it had subsequently removed the “Fly more sustainably” phrase to avoid confusion.

However, the ASA ruled that the claims would make consumers think that Lufthansa could offer a more sustainable way to travel compared with other airlines, and it banned the ad from appearing altogether, alongside those of Air France and Etihad.

“The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim that people could “Fly more sustainably” with Lufthansa to mean that they offered a way to travel by air that had a lower environmental impact than alternative airlines,” the group wrote.

The watchdog said there was no evidence the airlines had found a solution to allow consumers to travel with “total peace of mind” that they were protecting the environment while flying.

Air France, Lufthansa, and Etihad Airways didn’t immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

Carbon offsetting in the spotlight

Aviation continues to be an intense net polluter contributing toward man-made global warming.

It accounted for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Most airlines have plans to go carbon neutral by 2050.

There is a slow push to carbon-free air travel to hit that target, through the use of sustainable fuels and the development of electric planes, but these technologies are still in their nascent phase.

While several airlines engage in carbon offsetting programs like reforestation, methane capture, and investment in renewable energy, there is not currently a way to fly in a plane without emitting high levels of CO2.

The ruling is significant because it increases growing claims that those carbon offsetting programs—which have become popular for high-polluting companies to purge their climate guilt—are insufficient to erase businesses’ impact on climate change.

It will also add to growing claims that the schemes are a ploy after widespread criticism from experts and scientists.

Most companies engage in carbon offsetting by investing in renewable energy like wind, solar, and hydro. But because these fuels are so cheap, they have been criticized because they drive minimal funding to carbon offsetting projects.

Businesses are now starting to cool on the carbon offsetting scheme altogether. Bloomberg reports that purchases of carbon offsets by banks, airlines, and other industrial giants fell for the first time in at least a decade last year.

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