The new European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “Ban fossil fuel ads and sponsorship” has brought together thirty organisations demanding a new law to achieve carbon-neutrality in Europe.
Written by Sophia Stille // 12.11.2021
Banning fossil fuel ads
During the past two weeks, activists, policy-makers and scientists got together at the COP26 conference in Glasgow to continue the urgently needed talks on how to make the world’s economies carbon-neutral and reduce global warming to 1,5° celcius. This has placed the urgency of climate action once again in the centre of our lives. One of the biggest tasks will be to cut down the use of fossil fuels and shift towards carbon-neutrality. Many companies have already shifted away from fossil fuels or at least will do so in the near future. Or not?
In October 2021, a new European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), called “Ban fossil fuel ads and sponsorship” started their signature collection phase. The organisers of the ECI demand a new law in the European Union that prohibits any kind of advertisements coming from companies using fossil fuels and sponsorship towards these companies. This would apply to direct fossil fuel advertisements, as well as air-, road- and water-transportation advertisements. Means of transport of general economic interest would be exempted.
The ECI mechanism was created to make it possible for citizens to get involved in EU policy-making. For an initiative to be successful, the organisers need to collect 1 million valid signatures from EU citizens of at least 7 different EU countries. If this is the case, the European Commission needs to consider the claims and present an answer.
A new law to make Europe carbon-neutral
The organisers propose a new law which would fall into shared competences between the EU and the member states. This means, once passed, the law would overrule national regulations concerning the same issues. The law would fall into the area of internal market regulation to establish fair competition rules which is an EU competence, and could be justified by the resulting enhancement of consumer protection, public health and environmental protection, which are shared competences. More specifically, the organisers call on the European Commission to:
- Prohibit advertisements for fossil fuels, as well as air, road and water-way transportation (other than transport services of general economic interest) powered by fossil fuels;
- Prohibit advertisements from any undertakings active in the market for fossil fuels, in particular by extracting, refining, supplying, distributing or selling fossil fuels;
- Prohibit sponsorships by undertakings defined under point 2 above, or using trademarks or commercial names used for fossil fuels.
Why to ban fossil fuel ads?
Big, multi-national fossil fuel companies are among the largest polluters of the environment and therefore contribute directly to climate change and global warming. However, their profits are highly dependent on fossil fuels. According to ‘The Guardian’, only twenty companies using the world’s coal, gas and oil reserves can be directly linked to one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions! Therefore, a law that would ban their advertisements would reduce their visibility and less people would know about their products and services. One needs to keep in mind that this would be a huge interference in the market and the companies would definitely not receive it with open arms. However, saving our planet requires radical changes in our behaviour.
The companies are aware of their negative public image and are applying a range of techniques to appear ‘green’ and climate-friendly. A recent study by DeSmog found that 63% of the social-media posts by the six largest fossil fuel companies in Europe between December 2019 and April 2021 present the company as ‘green’. Only 16% of the posts talked about the companies’ continued use of fossil fuels. This is considered green-washing, a business strategy to appear environmentally-friendly to consumers even though this is not the case in reality. Many of the companies refer to their “net-zero” strategies, which sounds like they would aim at cutting down and phasing out their carbon emissions. In reality, these strategies often refer to carbon-offsetting (compensating for emissions), technologies that have not yet proven effective and plans to plant new tree plantations without even having enough space on earth for all of these trees.
These alarming developments show that we need a law that prohibits the advertisement and sponsorship of fossil fuel companies, in order to force them to truly cooperate to stop climate change! Thirty organisations have come together to start this ECI, including Greenpeace and ActionAid.
How can you help?
If you agree that the biggest polluters should do their share to make it possible to achieve a carbon-neutrality in Europe, you can support the initiative in different ways:
Sign the ECI here in order to bring the organisers one step closer to the required 1 Million signatures!
Share the ECI on your social media and with friends and family!