Brussels plans to outlaw vague environmental claims labelling consumer products as “climate neutral” in an attempt to crack down on greenwashing.
“Nature’s friend”, “biodegradable” and “eco” are all words set to be banned from EU packaging under new rules that will take effect by 2026.
The new regulations will make the EU’s stance on greenwashing consumer products the world’s strictest.
Only firms that prove “excellent” environmental credentials will be allowed to make such statements, which comes after negotiators from the European Parliament and Council reached an agreement late on Tuesday night.
“We are clearing the chaos of environmental claims, which will now have to be substantiated,” said EU lawmaker Biljana Borzan, who led negotiations on the law.
The move will also prevent companies from claiming they can offset their products’ carbon footprint by alternative methods, such as planting trees.
Labels from unverified sustainability schemes are also targeted under the planned legislation.
The decision to clamp down on spurious claims comes after growing concern that many companies were exploiting climate-conscious consumers.
Industry experts have warned for years that there is no such thing as “carbon neutral” vegetables, flights or plastic wrapping.
Planting trees, for example, takes many years and is far less effective than actually reducing emissions, they argue.
An investigation for the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, previously revealed that more than 150 samples of adverts and packaging with environmental statements were “vague, misleading or unfounded”.
The crackdown on greenwashing is the EU’s latest environmental policy, as it aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero by 2050.
But like in the UK, where Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday was accused of watering down the Government’s net-zero targets, climate policies also face political scrutiny in Brussels.
One key battleground has been food chains and how much responsibility farmers and industry should take, with some politicians warning they already struggle with high inflation, rising wages and elevated energy costs.