Energy efficiency campaign on the rocks

A Government advertising campaign to promote energy efficiency in the home which is achieving little success suffered a second blow in March when the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the advertisements drew an unjustifiably strong connection between recent storms and global warming.

The "Helping the Earth Begins At Home" campaign was launched last November by the Departments of Environment and Energy, which plan to spend £10 million over the next three years on advertisements to encourage householders to reduce energy consumption in their homes. The campaign is part of the Government's strategy to combat global warming.

The initial advertisements featured six photographs of the effects of the great storm of 1987, including a ship driven ashore, a car crushed by a tree and a train on a collapsed bridge. Beneath the headline: "Global Warming: We have been warned", the accompanying text said that "scientists are not yet able to say if the Great Storm of 1987 and the 'hurricanes' of 1989 and 1990 are among the first signs of global warming."

Responding to complaints from unknown sources, the ASA ruled in March that the impression given by the advertisements was that a causal connection existed between the 1987 storm and global warming. In doing so it failed to convey adequately that no scientific consensus existed on the matter, the ASA says. The Government has been asked to make clear in future advertisements that any connection drawn between the two phenomena is a matter of opinion.

The ruling has compounded the campaign's already grave problems. In 1990, official advertisements on energy efficiency and global warming costing £406,000 attracted just 9,034 requests from the public for information packs - an average cost of £45. According to information obtained by Friends of the Earth, the new campaign has fared little better, attracting 20,000 requests for information at a cost of £400,000.

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