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Government pollution advert did not break guidelines

A Government campaign likening a car exhaust to pollution from an industrial chimney did not break advertising guidelines, a watchdog ruled today.

The television advert for the Department for Transport's (DfT) Act on CO2 campaign showed an image of what appeared to be pollution from a factory chimney but was revealed to be fumes from a car exhaust.

A voice-over stated: "Scientists say rising CO2 emissions are causing our climate to change. In the UK, over 40% of these emissions are caused by the things we do as individuals. Car travel is the single biggest contributor to this."

On-screen text attributed the figure to 2009 UK Government data before the voice-over went on to say: "But together we can begin to make a difference by driving five miles less a week."

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 52 complaints from viewers who challenged whether the claim that car emissions were the "single biggest contributor" to human-produced CO2 emissions could be substantiated.

Two viewers believed that emissions from livestock were greater.

Defending the ad, the DfT said it aimed to make viewers aware of the contribution car travel made to CO2 emissions and to encourage people to reduce their emissions by driving five miles less a week.

The ad clearly pointed out that 40% of UK CO2 emissions came from individual actions, of which 26% came from personal car use, the DfT said.

The department said it was not claiming car use was the greatest contributor to human-produced CO2 emissions, but that it was the single biggest contributor to CO2 emissions caused by actions taken by individuals.

It supplied figures for CO2 output from 13 individual activities, arguing that personal car use including the commute to work but excluding business travel amounted to 26.1% of individual CO2 emissions, exceeding that of space heating, water heating and personal flights.

The ASA rejected the complaints, saying the ad clearly referred to individuals' contributions to CO2 emissions through activities such as the use of heating, electrical appliances and transport rather than industrial production or the rearing of livestock.

Last month, the ASA banned two Department of Energy and Climate Change adverts for exaggerating the potential dangers of climate change.