Apple's 'carbon neutrality' claims are misleading, EU groups say

Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple's carbon neutrality claims are under fire, with European environmental groups and consumer watchdogs insisting that they are misleading. .

At its launch in September, Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 9 as its first “carbon-neutral” product, but it quickly became the target of criticism from a Chinese environmental research organization as a form of “climate washing.”

Apple now faces even more opposition from European groups over the issue.

“Carbon neutrality claims are scientifically inaccurate and misleading to consumers,” BEUC chief executive Monique Goyens told the Financial Times. “The EU’s recent decision to ban carbon neutrality claims will rightly clear the market of such bogus messages, and the Apple Watch should be no exception.”

Goyens refers to a September agreement between the European Parliament and the Council that sought to ban “misleading advertising”, including those that use claims “based on emissions offset schemes that a product is neutral, reduced or positive environmental impacts.”

Although the decision has been made, it has not yet been adopted into law in Europe.

Gilles Dufrasne, policy director of Carbon Market Watch, also said it was “misleading consumers by making it seem like buying a Watch has no impact on the climate at all. These are accounting tricks.”

Issue Tree

Apple believes that purchasing carbon credits counts toward emissions associated with manufacturing, transportation, and the lifetime charging of the Apple Watch. These credits are generated through forest plantations and reforestation projects on previously deforested lands in Paraguay and Brazil, where trees sequester carbon.

However, Niklas Kaskeala, chairman of the board of the Compensate Foundation, believes that the value of carbon credits from forest plantations has “systemic flaws”. As trees are processed into pulp, cardboard or toilet paper, “the carbon contained in these products is released back into the atmosphere very quickly.”

One of the conservation trust's Apple-backed Forestal Apepu programs is planting trees on land previously used for growing crops, leaving up to 25 percent as “natural forest.” However, just over a decade later, most of the trees planted are cut down and sold as timber.

Apple explained that its approach to decarbonizing its products “offers a rigorous plan for how businesses can do their part by prioritizing deep emissions reductions across our value chain before applying high-quality carbon credits.” Apple continued, adding that it is “committed to driving new innovations to reduce emissions and scale natural carbon removal as progress accelerates toward 2030.”

In 2020, Apple committed to becoming 100% carbon neutral by 2030.

The path to carbon-neutral products was “proof of one of the boldest climate commitments.” in the industry today,” Apple said in its report. “To achieve global climate goals, we need immediate action to sharply reduce emissions, coupled with investments in carbon conservation and large-scale removal.”

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