Ban Fossil Fuel Advertising; a Dutch Citizens’ Initiative

Why are fossil fuel companies still being allowed to mislead and seduce us with advertising and marketing? The fight against climate change is hard enough as it is. We don’t need advertisements that manipulate us to continue living in a fossil fuel world.

We, citizens of the Netherlands, are asking Parliament for a law that:

1) bans fossil fuel advertising by companies like Shell, Exxon and KLM
2) warns consumers at the time of purchase of the dangers of fossil fuel.

We plea for a ‘Tobacco-style Act’ for the fossil fuel industry. Below is the text in English. Check our sign-on form in Dutch.

Feel free to copy-paste it to convince your government to ban fossil fuel ads!

THE NEED FOR A BAN

Given the urgency to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, methods such as nudging, activating and educating no longer suffice. Climate change is a threat to life in many parts of the world. Here, too, in a country primarily below sea level, a speedy reduction of coal, oil and gas emissionsis in all our best interests. Yet fossil fuel companies are strengthening their position with advertising in which they present themselves as (much) greener than they actually are. In reality, they are 98% dirty and 2% green. But watching and reading their ads, one gets the impression that it’s exactly the opposite. In addition, there are the daily ads enticing us to buy airplane tickets and gas cars. 

THE PROBLEM WITH FOSSIL FUEL ADVERTISING

  • it leads us to believe that fossil fuel is ‘normal’
  • it misleads us about the role of oil and gas companies in exacerbating the climate crisis
  • it seduces us into more frequent flying or buying bigger gas cars

SOLUTION: A BAN ON FOSSIL FUEL ADVERTISING

An advertising ban for fossil fuel (including a warning at the time of purchase) is a no-regret measure that would:

  • limit the demand for fossil fuel
  • make clear the dangers of fossil fuel
  • stop greenwashing
  • create space for a sustainable market
  • help the government achieve its climate goals more quickly

A ban (supply-side restriction) is a normal policy instrument to help resolve a serious threat to society that cannot be resolved by the market. Climate change is such a threat.

Self-regulation has proven ineffective in preventing fossil fuel deception: in many cases, misleading advertising never leads to a claim. Moreover, a reprimand from the Advertising Code Committee is always reactive: the deception, or seduction, has already taken place.

In 30 years of Dutch climate policy, an advertising ban for the fossil fuel sector has never been discussed in the House of Representatives. That is why we, the citizens of the Netherlands, are now asking for a ‘Tobacco Act’ for the fossil fuel industry.

A ‘Tobacco Act’ for the fossil fuel industry would protect (future) citizens from the dangers of fossil fuel by preventing deception and seduction through advertising, and providing clarity at the time of purchase about the dangers of fossil fuel.

WHICH FOSSIL FUEL ADVERTISING SHOULD BE BANNED?

A. AN OUTRIGHT ADVERTISING BAN FOR FOSSIL FUELS AND A WARNING AT POINT OF SALE (BASED ON THE TOBACCO ACT) OF DANGERS TO THE CLIMATE

For companies that sell fossil fuels, we are asking for an outright ban on advertising, greenwashing, (child-oriented) marketing, PR, sponsoring, branding, branded activities, educational materials and giveaways.

That means a ban on the use of brand, logo and name outside points of sale.

Points of sale for fossil fuels will be required to display a warning about the dangers of those fuels, such as a warning sticker on the gas pump. That way, anyone who is about to purchase fossil fuel will know how dangerous it is.

An outright advertising ban is essential, just as in the tobacco industry. The fossil fuel industry has known for 30 years that coal, oil and gas emit dangerous greenhouse gases. And for 30 years, their advertising and marketing has been aimed at concealing this fact. In the next ten years, fossil fuel companies aim to increase their oil and gas production by 40%.

B. A BAN ON ADVERTISING THAT PROMOTES DANGEROUS FOSSIL FUEL CONSUMPTION

Fossil fuel advertising seduces us into making choices that will inhibit the government from achieving its climate goals. For example: ads for air travel and fossil fuel engine cars. Unlike ‘A’, this advertising ban does not apply to the company, brand, or logo, but to that portion of their products and services that are of non-renewable fossil origin. In this way, we hope to stimulate companies to make their products and services more sustainable, more quickly.

Points of sale for fossil fuel transportation (airplanes, cars, motorcycles) will be required to display a warning to inform consumers of the dangers of their purchase and inform them as to how they can limit those dangers. This warning will prevent uninformed choices.

A ban on advertising is not a ban on usage.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

In thirty years of Dutch climate policy, an advertising ban for the fossil fuel industry has never been discussed in the House of Representatives. Together we can change this!

By signing the Citizens Initiative, you can truly make a difference. If we get 40,000+ signatures, the House of Representatives will be obliged to discuss this Initiative.

A citizens’ initiative is a policy instrument and has more impact than a petition. To make certain your voice is heard, we are asking for more personal information than we would for a petition: your date of birth, address, and nationality.