Christchurch Airport Ditches ‘Climate Positive’ Claim Amid Greenwashing Claims

New Zealand’s Christchurch Airport has decided to drop the phrase “climate positive” in its marketing, even though the facility maintains the phrase is factually accurate.

That claim was made following the purchase of carbon offsets the airport made, which it says more than compensate for CO2 emissions from the airport’s operations.

But according to a report from Radio New Zealand (RNZ), a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority said this was misleading because the tally did not include carbon emissions from flights in and out of the airport, which make up more than 90% of the airport’s total climate impact.

Last year, the airport’s own reporting showed that these flights created almost 700,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide – about 1% of New Zealand’s emissions.

The RNZ report says a complainant cited a UN expert report recommending companies disclose their full climate impacts (including from third parties using their products, such as airlines, in this case) and focus on reducing those, rather than offsetting them.

The airport responded that it was reducing its direct emissions and was “working with airline partners” to get their flying emissions down. According to one study, aviation is about 12% of New Zealand’s emissions, and has been growing.

The complaint was settled when the airport told the ASA it had stopped using the phrase “climate positive” since late 2023.

However, the airport denied the phrase was incorrect, saying an independent certifier had backed up its claim that climate projects the airport paid for had offset 120% of its “controllable” emissions (not including flights by airlines enabled by using its airport).