Opportunity Green take on cruise companies for greenwashing over use of LNG

Earlier this year we reported on the increasing problem of cruise ship pollution around European ports. 

A study by Transport & Environment expressed concern about the use of liquified natural gas (LNG) by ships in order to reduce their CO2, SOx and PM emissions. The problem being that combustion of LNG releases methane (which is the main component of LNG) into the air. And methane is a potent greenhouse gas, over 80 times more climate warming than CO2.

Now, campaign group Opportunity Green, have published a new report, which will be accompanied by legal action, calling out the manner in which cruise companies cite their use of LNG as sign that they are being environmentally responsible.

The report, titled (Un)Sustainable from Ship to Shore, examines how cruise companies have been promoting LNG’s supposed climate benefits and how those claims stand up against the laws and ‘soft law’ guidance and advertising codes that apply in the UK. It concludes that there are grounds to suspect that such claims could fall foul of relevant regulations. Greenwashing, essentially.

Carly Hicks, Legal Director at Opportunity Green says: ‘We were astounded at the extent to which cruise companies are advertising fossil LNG as a climate solution, when the science suggests that this is pure greenwash. ‘Sustainability’ sells, but the climate emergency will not be solved by meaningless marketing that does nothing other than help ensure the sustainability of a cruise company’s balance sheet.’

The report identifies three key communication strategies being used by several companies that risk breaching advertising rules in the UK. These are:

  • Advertising the use of fossil LNG as reducing emissions
  • Advertising fossil LNG as environmentally friendly
  • Advertising the use of fossil LNG as specific initiative of reaching net zero by 2050

It cites two examples of such misleading hyperbole:

‘As our first LNG-propelled new cruise ship, MSC World Europa is a huge step forward [in the mission to set a sustainable standard for the cruise industry]. This next-generation power hugely reduces emissions and marks a milestone on our journey to zero emissions operations.’ (MSC Cruises website)

‘SunPrincess and StarPrincess, our newest ships, are powered by liquified natural gas (LNG). LNG is a cleaner fuel with less carbon emissions than marine gasoil, minimizing our environmental footprint.’ (Princess Cruises, Facebook, 8 June 2023)

Isabela Keuschnigg, Legal Officer at Opportunity Green says: ‘Despite what the cruise companies investing heavily in the fuel would like to suggest, fossil LNG is and will remain a polluting fossil fuel. It is not an alternative fuel solution that is consistent with the 1.5°C temperature goal as enshrined in the Paris Agreement.

‘Cruise companies might be quick to point out carbon emissions savings or air pollution benefits linked to the use of fossil LNG in cruise ships. But they keep quiet about the fuel’s methane emissions, even though research has shown that these can cancel out the supposed climate benefits. Not only does the production of fossil LNG result in significant methane emissions across the supply chain before it reaches the ships as a fuel, but burning it on the ships themselves releases unburned methane into the atmosphere, which is devastating for the climate.’

As a result of the research in the report, Opportunity Green is calling on cruise companies to:

  • Stop advertising fossil LNG as a climate solution which risks misleading consumers as to the true sustainability of their holiday.  
  • Stop investments into climate-damaging fossil LNG as a purported climate solution.
  • Back their net zero pledges with credible transition plans which include investments into real zero emissions solutions supported by the best available science.
  • Remove advertisements where these have misleadingly advertised the climate benefits of fossil LNG.


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