In a recent European Parliament vote on proposals intended to combat vehicle CO2 emissions, Euro MPs voted in favour of requiring tobacco-style CO2 emission warnings in all European car ads. Are EU-wide “Driving can damage your health” panels in ads now just around the corner? Ray Coyle downshifts.
Who: European Parliament
When: October 2007
Law stated as at: 1st November 2007
On 24th October 2007, the European Parliament called for new European rules that would require car ads and promotions to carry detailed information about fuel economy and CO2 emissions. The now distinct prospect of tobacco-style warning messages is undoubtedly a major blow for the advertising industry, which has recently effectively lost its battle over junk food advertising and is also grappling with vaunted proposals for yet more alcohol ad restrictions.
The proposals, included in an Own Initiative Report by Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, were voted on by the plenary session of the European Parliament. The debate also included possible strategies on CO2 emission reductions on new cars.
The suggestions would require EU car ads and promotions to carry detailed information about fuel economy and CO2 emissions, which might involve taking up 20% of any ad space or time with messages about CO2 emission levels, in Chris Davies’s words, “a bit like health warnings on cigarette packets”. In addition to that, the European Parliament voted proposals for a binding European code to outlaw false green claims in advertising.
Many of the recommendations are unsurprising; tax incentives for lower emission vehicles and penalties for those that exceed specified targets, lower top speeds etc.
Why this matters:
The EU target, adopted only last month, is to cut CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020 in order to try and keep climate change in check – despite some scientists say that 30% reduction is absolutely vital. An independent study, presented by the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament a couple of weeks ago, showed that “only by introducing strict limit values for passengers cars as soon as possible will the sector be able to contribute”. In practical terms, the European Parliament recommendation means that an average CO2 emission limit value of 125 g/Km must be introduced by 2015 if cars are to do make their contribution.
Mr Davies in a statement ahead of the vote said that “It is time to insist that advertisements give car buyers more details of the fuel economy and emissions performance of vehicles on sale. The information should be upfront and bold, not buried away in the small print”.
The advertising industry is very concerned because such drastic measures could lead to the opposite result of having car manufacturers refrain from advertising, which would in turn damage businesses that are reliant on ad revenues. Private media are also alarmed as the advertising industry funds TV programmes, the press, radio and internet content. They claim that there are rules already in place to control misleading claims as well as detailed self-regulatory guidelines on how to handle environmental issues.
The proposals voted by the European Parliament were to amend the European Commission’s original proposals. However, it was a non-binding vote and the EC’s regulatory proposals have some way to go before coming into law, expected to be in 2009. In the meantime it is certainly important that, as the European Parliament has recognised, specific legislative proposals and requirements should be debated and explained far ahead to allow all stakeholders a proper opportunity to have their say and if necessary adjust production processes for both cars and advertisements.