EasyJet faces investigation over greenwash adverts during COP26

The aviation industry doesn’t have a credible plan to reduce emissions in the near, medium or long term

Europe’s biggest airline, EasyJet, faces investigation by the UK advertising regulator following complaints against its latest ‘Destination Zero Emissions’ advertisements. Campaign groups Adfree Cities and Badvertising have accused the airline of misleading the public by using unfounded promises about future aviation technology to sell flights.

Also highlighting the issue at the COP26 protests in Scotland, climate campaigners from the Stay Grounded and Brandalism networks have hacked over 50 bus stop ad spaces in Glasgow with spoof EasyJet posters. The poster artworks depict extreme weather events from summer 2021 with captions reading “Flooded landscapes from €14.99” and “Raging wildfires from €22.99”. They also feature the logo of EasyJet's advertising agency VCCP.

The original easyJet advert stated, "We are championing a future of Zero Emissions flights." with directions to a web page with further information on electric planes and hydrogen engines. The web page states the technologies could be available in 2035. Campaigners argue neither technologies are fully emissions free even if they were to reach maturity and therefore the adverts were misleading and in breach of advertising regulation codes.

Campaigners against the expansion of Bristol Airport also gathered in Glasgow to support the intervention ahead of an international day of action against aviation greenwash and Fridays for the Future school strike today (5th November).

Robbie Gillett from Adfree Cities said:

“The aviation industry doesn’t have a credible plan to reduce emissions in the near, medium or long term. Companies like easyJet are capitalising on rising climate concern around the COP26 to push more flights. They offer speculative promises of technological improvements in the next decade to justify increasing emissions today. National government and the advertising regulator must put an end to this deception.”

Campaigners are dismayed that aviation’s contribution to greenhouse emissions is not being discussed at the COP26 talks. Tree planting, carbon offsetting and emissions trading have formed the bulk of aviation industry solutions and are often featured in airline advertising. Campaigners argue these schemes are greenwash: they have failed to deliver emissions reduction in the past, are scientifically and practically unsound and cannot be relied upon. For example, trees planted for offset schemes can and do burn down in fires worsened by global heating. They also avoid any serious discussion of reducing emissions and refuse to discuss the long term prospects for workers in the aviation industry.

Peter Marcuse from Brandalism said:

“All week politicians and billionaires have arrived in Glasgow in private jets, publicly dismissing aviation as a serious problem, and even suggesting we can merrily carry on flying. Our posters are here with a serious message: the aviation industry is driving natural disasters and reducing air traffic is the only way guaranteed to cut emissions from planes at the scale and speed required. That means fewer flights for the rich.”

A spokesperson from Bristol Airport Action Network attending protests in Glasgow said,

"The prospect of low carbon commercial flight through electric, hydrogen and sustainable fuels is going to remain a dream for many years yet. It’s total greenwash from airlines and government to say that we can continue to fly and pretend we’re not trashing the planet."