Worldwide initiatives to ban fossil fuel advertisements
The louder the call for climate policy, the more fossil fuel industry advertises.
Their advertisements keep us invested in a fossil fuel world. They’re meant to prevent regulation to their industry. That’s why people have recently started fighting fossil fuel ads. All over the world. We keep this page updated.
Do you know of an initiative that’s missing? Please let us know!
Laws that ban fossil fuel ads
FR – As the first country in the world, France has a ban enforced that forbids advertising fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel. 22 august 2022
This is a shadow of the original proposal by the citizen’s assembly for law that banned advertising for fossil fueled cars, air travel and fossil fuel industry.
Campaigns for a law that bans fossil fuel ads
CA – Citizens initiative in City of North Vancouver for a tobacco style law that bans ads for big oil, air travel and cars with fossil fuel engines. And they ask to re-direct fossil fuel money used for marketing into an unbranded fund that helps the transition.
Parliamentary initiatives for a law that bans fossil fuel ads
Local government initiatives on a ban on fossil fuel ads
NL – City of Amsterdam. On december 17th the majority of the city council in Amsterdam has decided it wants a ban on all fossil fuel ads and fossil fuel (kids) festivals in public space. On May 3rd Amsterdam took the first step and banned ads for cheap tickets and polluting cars from the subwaystations.
NL – Following Amsterdam 7 other Dutch cities – The Hague (2021), Utrecht, Leiden, Enschede, Haarlem, Nijmegen, Amersfoort – pass motions to bans fossil ads. The motions from Haarlem and Nijmegen also include meat from bioindustry.
The Hague (2022) missed an opportunity to include a fossil ad ban in the local ordinance at an inch. Arnhem will come forward with a fossil ad policy. The first part of the Utrecht ban takes effect in the tender for 2023. (2022)
Media that ban fossil fuel ads
Calls for media to drop fossil fuel ads
BE – Politico should drop its branded content for Shell
NL – Trouw, as the ‘green’ newspaper of the Netherlands, should ban fossil fuel ads.
Chief editor of Trouw wants his newspaper to ban ads from the fossil fuel industry and for air travel. He writes this in an editorial in which he reflects on the talk he and his publisher had with Reclame Fossielvrij. The publisher has promised to discuss it with the board of DPG Media.
Public Transport that bans fossil fuel ads
(Court) cases against fossil fuel ads
CA – Doctors, nurses and health professionals filed a 10 million dollar complaint on CGA’s “Fuelling Canada” advertising campaign, which represents gas as environmentally friendly,
“clean,” affordable, and part of a sustainable energy future.
USA – The Congressional Hearings could be the ‘tobacco moment’ for the fossil fuel industry, like Shell and Exxon. The hearings are part of an investigation by a Congressional Committee into the fossil fuel industry’s long-running campaign to spread disinformation about climate change and greenwash its role in causing global warming.
FR – Greenpeace France, Friends of the Earth France, Notre Affaire à Tous and ClientEarth take legal action against TotalEnergies and it’s net zero marketing. The case argues that Total’s ads are misleading and breach EU consumer law and asks the court to order Total to stop misleading ads and prohibit the company from making the misleading claims in the future.
USA – A House subcommittee is demanding that executives of
Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell, Chevron and other major oil and gas companies
testify before Congress about the industry’s decades-long effort to wage
disinformation campaigns around climate change.
USA – The state of Massachusetts sued Exxon for deceptive advertising to Massachusetts consumers and for misleading Massachusetts investors about the risks to Exxon’s business posed by fossil fuel-driven climate change—including
systemic financial risk.
NGO reports and regulator reports
“A behavioural lens must be applied consistently across all government departments, as too many policies, from planning and building standards to advertising regulations, are still encouraging high carbon and low nature choices.“
In our hands: behaviour change for climate and environmental goals (House of the Lords, 2022)
- Participants tended to believe that carbon neutral claims implied that an absolute reduction in carbon emissions had taken place or would take place. When the potential role of offsetting in claims was revealed, this could result in consumers feeling that they had been misled
- Claims in air travel, energy and automotive advertising tended to attract more attention, and the potential role of offsetting, when revealed, could result in greater disappointmen
Influence Map: Big Oil’s Real Agenda on Climate Change 2022
“InfluenceMap found that none of the companies have aligned their climate policy engagement activities with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and retain a dense and global network of industry associations globally, which are highly active in their opposition to Paris Aligned climate policies
The findings raise serious and persistent questions for regulators and the companies’ shareholders, as well as PR and advertising agencies, media, and social media platforms that work with the companies.”
Geoffrey Suppran (Harvard University) and Algorithmic Transparency Initiative – Three shades of Greenwashing – content analysis of social media disourse of European oil, car and airline companies
“We also observe that these companies, which are primarily invested in fossil fuel-based products and operations, devote the majority of their social media content (60% overall) to communicating a narrative of ‘Green Innovation’. Fossil fuel producers and car companies not only foreground ‘Green Innovation’ over their core business operations, they also collectively talk more about sports, youth empowerment, charity, LGBTQIA+ issues, fashion and design, and other social goods (a narrative that we term ‘Misdirection’) than they do about their multibillion-dollar primary operations. The net result
is that fossil fuel interests – particularly oil and gas and car companies – are publicly presenting
themselves primarily as green, innovative, charitable organizations, while sidelining their core businesses and the climate crisis they contribute to.”
Scientific research/scientists about advertising and climate change
Interesting paper makes a warm plea for regulation as opposed to nudging. Also about (fossil) advertising and marketing.
“When a brand advertises heavily or exclusively in a news medium, this reduces the likelihood of the news medium to cover negative stories about the brand.”
“The climate benefits attributed to offsetting activities are significantly less certain than the climate harm caused by GHG-emitting activities, which means that no equivalence between the two can be assumed. Offsetting claims must therefore be considered to be factually incorrect: In the absence of equivalence, offsetting activities do not, and cannot achieve the promoted “compensation”, “neutralization” or “offsetting” of the climate harm caused by GHG-emitting activities. This is liable to influence the choices made by consumers who are concerned about the climate, which means that offsetting claims constitute misleading commercial practices. Recent decisions by the Dutch advertising authority confirm this view.”
Advocating Inaction: A Historical Analysis of the Global Climate Coalition (Brulle, 2022)
“Ever since climate change became a political issue in the late 1980s, a number of industry coalitions have formed to oppose mandatory carbon emissions reductions. One key coalition was the Global Climate Coalition (GCC). This paper conducts a historical and empirical review of the activities of this coalition. This review shows that the GCC engaged in four distinct activities to obstruct climate action: 1) monitoring and contesting climate science, 2) commissioning and utilizing economic studies to amplify and legitimate their arguments, 3) shifting the cultural understanding of climate change through public relations campaigns and 4) conducting aggressive lobbying of political elites. Through these activities, the GCC played an important role in obstructing climate action, both in the U.S. and internationally.”
Fossil ads can help people to legitimize and normalize their harmful behaviour. Awareness campaigns don’t moderate that effect. “The study shows that it might be problematic to blame individuals for the full environmental damage of their consumption choices when they are simultaneously confronted with advertising messages every day. As long as status is assigned to flying, may it be through advertisements, articles or travel bloggers, individuals will have a social incentive to fly – and to morally disengage from their actions.”
Do online environments promote sufficiency or overconsumption? Online advertisement and social media effects on clothing, digital devices, and air travel consumption
Banning advertisings that promote consumption (including air travel) is more effective than advertising that promotes sustainable behaviour (without an ad ban).
Quantifying the potential for climate change mitigation of consumption options
Ban on advertising of high carbon goods and services, like ads for flying, cars and meat are high ranking in the options with the highest mitigation potential and potential actions towards overcoming the main infrastructural, institutional and behavioral carbon lock-ins.
IPCC – sixth assessment report: mitigation of climate change
Regulating advertising to limit emissions. That is one of the solutions that the IPCC proposes to limit global warming to 1.5C through large-scale behavioural change. This is stated in the new climate report of the UN climate panel IPCC on climate measures. It is the first time that the IPCC considers the effect of (fossil) advertising on climate disruption.
Climate Obstruction and Facebook Advertising: How a Sample of Climate Obstruction Organizations Use social media to Disseminate Discourses of Delay (2022) – The very purpose of what social media could achieve in a democracy has vanished or did not exist so far that capital forces have used it to facilitate and shape the public view on fossil fuel use. This means that obstruction actors can use messaging that appeal to people’s everyday life to mitigate their concerns over climate change and transform the perceptions of these industries as supporting solutions to the problem, continuing business as usual. This practice can be considered greenwashing, where the public see images of an industry that is part of the environmentally positive solution to the climate crisis. As greenwashing is in the eye of the beholder, the response is to potentially accept this solution and reinforces the hegemony of fossil fuels.
Well-oiled histories and corporate sponsorships in Dutch Museums
How does corporate sponsorship shape the narration and curation of Dutch
history in public museums? This article evaluates the significance and
impact of private funding in the Dutch heritage and museum sector. By
focusing on three museums that have received funding from Dutch oil and
gas companies the researches foreground specifically the nexus heritage, oil, and
funding. They show how a particular type of ‘energy literacy’ is promoted,
a narrative that is favourable to the agenda of the gas and oil sector. (Plets and Kuijt)
Dissociating Controllable and Uncontrollable Effects of Affective Stimuli on Attitudes and Consumption
This research studies a fundamental and seemingly straightforward question: Can basic advertising elements, such as the presence of attractive imagery, have uncontrollable effects on consumers’ attitudes and consumption decisions? The answer is yes. (Hütter and Sweldon)
The clean energy claims of BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell: A mismatch between discourse, actions and investments
Conclusion: the transition to clean energy business models is not occurring, since the magnitude of investments and actions does not match discourse. Until actions and investment behavior are brought into alignment with discourse, accusations of greenwashing appear well-founded.
(Li, Trencher, Asuka, February 2022)
Big Oil in City Hall
In the city council of Regina (Sasketchewan, Canada) an amendment was proposed to a sponsorship motion, which proposed the fossil fuel industry wouldn’t be able to sponsor city events and buildings anymore. This report investigates the overwhelming, and in some cases, coordinated response by the oil industry and its allies.
(Enoch, Korpan, for Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, December 2021)
‘The role of public relations firms in climate change politics’: this paper provides an exploratory overview of the extent and nature of involvement of PR firms in climate political action by organizations in five sectors: Coal/Steel/Rail, Oil & Gas, Utilities, Renewable Energy, and the Environmental Movement. The analysis shows that the engagement of public relations firms by organizations in all of these sectors is widespread.
(Brulle, Werthman, published in Climatic Change, November 2021, pdf of entire paper)
Rhetoric and frame analysis of ExxonMobil’s climate change communications
Computational assessment of how ExxonMobil has used language to subtly yet systematically frame public discourse about climate change. The study shows that ExxonMobil uses rhetoric mimicking the tobacco industry to downplay the reality and seriousness of climate change, to present fossil fuel dominance as reasonable and inevitable, and to shift responsibility for climate change away from itself and onto consumers. (Supran, Oreskes, May 2021)
All fossil fuel ads are misleading, because they serve to normalise an extremely harmful product and industry. That’s why a total ban, like the ban on tobacco is the best regulatory solution. (Kaupa, Journal for European Consumer and Market Law, February 2021)
UNEP identifies a ban on advertising of large, high-carbon private vehicles and to a restriction on airline and flight advertising as mechanisms for lifestyle change which can have a substantial mitigation potential to reduce emissions. Also carbon labelling at point of sale for vehicle fuel and other fossil fuel products is mentioned.
(UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2020, December 2020)
Research reveals the power inequities surrounding climate discourse by suggesting that wealthy industry trade groups employ a discursive practice of distraction and appropriation of U.S cultural values and mores, essentially shifting public dialogue from climate change and potential environmental policies to how these policies would hurt the industries and adversely affect the average U.S. citizen. (B. Miller Gaither & T. Kenn Gaither, July 2016)
ExxonMobil’s use of a didactic, greenwashed frame stifles criticism and discourages examination of ideologies of consumption by exploiting the ethos of the scientist and highlighting technological solutions to problems that are deeply tied to a culture of consumerism. The definition of green energy is controlled by those with the power to generate persuasive public messages about the sources and production of energy. (Plec & Pettenger, April 2012)
Agencies that protest fossil fuel ads
Creatives for Climate
“We arm creatives with the skills, knowledge and connections they need to tackle the climate emergency!
Through live events, workshops, learning resources, open discussion forums and collaboration we bring together an active group of committed change agents to learn, develop their skills, and take action for the planet.”
Grassroots and NGOs fighting (fossil) ads
Berlin Werbe Frei
“The city becomes a commodity and the public space is being commercialized (commodification). Private economic interests define the image of our city. The city has, in a sense, entered a partnership with the advertising industry to the detriment of the citizens. The referendum-initiative Berlin Werbefrei stands up to this trend by proposing a concept of a bearable use of advertisement within the public space.”
Werbe Frei Hamburg
“Wir sind Hamburger:innen, denen ihre Stadt am Herzen liegt. Uns bewegen Themen wie Meinungsfreiheit, Umweltschutz, Ästhetik, Architektur, Stadtplanung und Verkehrssicherheit. Wir agieren unabhängig von Parteien und Organisationen.”
“The science couldn’t be clearer: we are facing a climate crisis that threatens the future of life on Earth. But we have the power to fix it.
We work in partnership across borders, systems and sectors. Our work focuses on changing the system – informing, implementing and enforcing the law, advising decision-makers on policy and training legal and judicial professionals. Because a future in which people and planet thrive together isn’t just possible: it’s essential.”
New Weather Institute UK
“The New Weather Institute is a co-op and a think-tank, created to accelerate the rapid transition to a fair economy that thrives within planetary boundaries. We find, design and advocate ways of working and living that are more humane, reasonable and effective.“
“‘Badvertising’ is a campaign to stop adverts fuelling the climate emergency. This includes ads for cars, airline flights and fossil fuels. We ended tobacco advertising when we understood the harm done by smoking. Now we know the damage done by fossil fuel products and activities, it’s time to stop promoting them.”
New Weather Institute Sweden
“The climate and nature are changing faster than we are. Warming and species extinction threaten our civilization and ecosystems, but despite climate laws and conventions, nothing has changed fundamentally, politics-as-usual is what we see. Through projects and campaigns, we aim to inspire and lift the debate to a level where system change and action are in focus.”
“Fossil fuel companies, carmakers, airlines and maritime companies use advertising and sponsorships as a smokescreen to distract attention from their climate-wrecking business, while their activities continue to plunge us deeper into the climate and human rights crises. This has to stop. Now, we have the power to change the law with the European Citizens’ Initiative. Act now for a historic ban on fossil fuel ads and sponsorships!”
“The Subvertisers’ International is a international movement of individuals and organisations concerned with how advertising affects society. We are local and national groups of activists, artists and collectives, NGOs and not-for-profits, teachers and parents, scientists and doctors, public and private citizens. We are all concerned with how commercial media is shaping our lives, and determined that the time to act is now.”
“Brandalism is a revolt against the corporate control of culture and space. We are an international collective of artists that challenge corporate power, greed and corruption around the world.”
Fossil Free Culture NL
“We are a collective of artists, activists, researchers and critics working at the intersection of art and climate activism. Our goal is to confront oil and gas sponsorship of public cultural institutions in the Netherlands. We are committed to eroding the fossil fuel industry’s public image and their social license to operate.”
BP or not BP
“We are BP or not BP? – a merry troupe of players who came together in 2012 aghast that our beloved Bard’s works and memory had been purloined by BP in a case of greenwash most foul. We are like a drop of water that in the ocean seeks another drop. Together, we will make a flood.”
“We campaign for a law in the Netherlands that bans advertisements for fossil fuel industry and polluting travel (air, cruises and fossil fueled cars). To create momentum we urge frontrunners like cities and media to take the lead.”
Social Tipping Point Coalitie
“We urge the government to take measures that elicit a social tipping point that is needed to prevent a cascade of physical tipping points. One of these measures is a fossil ad ban.”
Canadian physicians association for the environment
“CAPE takes action to enable health for all by engaging with governments, running campaigns, conducting research, and drawing media attention to key issues. Amongst others they plea for a fossil fuel ad ban.”
Fossil Free Politics
“We can no longer afford to let the fossil fuel industry undermine our democracy as we try and halt climate chaos, fix our energy system, and protect people and planet.
To tackle the climate emergency, and ensure that climate policy is conducted entirely in the public interest, we must cut fossil fuel interests out of politics, similar to existing restrictions on the tobacco industry. Before it’s too late.”
Art not Oil
“Art Not Oil has mobilised against Big Oil cultural sponsorship since 2004. It was a Rising Tide UK campaign from that date until 2013, when it became a coalition of autonomous organisations united around the aim of ending oil sponsorship of the arts, and sharing its resources as the Art Not Oil Coalition.”
“We are a research, engagement and campaigning organisation which aims to end fossil fuel sponsorship of culture.
We call on arts and cultural organisations to cut their ties to fossil fuels, with the aim of undermining the social legitimacy that the industry gains from these relationships.”