The “Fossil Fuel Ad Ban” campaign includes billboards, posters, digital ads and an open letter signed by 200 health professionals and organisations concerned about the danger pollution and a destabilised climate presents to human health. The letter cites research from Yale that found pollution from the burning of coal, oil and gas caused 8.7 million premature deaths in 2018.
“It is less obvious than smoking,” said Noble of the effect of climate change on public health. “It’s also worse than smoking. Burning fossil fuels causes more deaths globally than tobacco does.”
“Fossil fuel industries have unique access to mainstream media via advertisements, shaping narratives of media reports, and exerting political influence in countries like Australia.
The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report
Chief executive of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Julie Flynn said the body was aware of the push and the advertising industry was “very much engaged with this issue”. The AANA is a partner of the World Federation of Advertising’s Planet Pledge, a set of guidelines aimed at reducing greenwashing.
“All of our members and the wider industry need to understand that greenwashing is a serious issue. Consumers aren’t stupid and if you don’t treat your consumers with respect you are going to find yourself on the wrong end of this debate.”
The AANA will review its environmental claims code, upheld by the industry’s self-regulatory body Ad Standards, later this year. The code says claims must not be misleading, overstate environmental benefit or “imply the product or service is more socially acceptable” than reality holds.
“That [review] will be an opportunity for Comms Declare and everybody else to have their say about the code as it currently exists and whether or not it needs to be changed or altered to reflect the situation we’re in now,” Flynn said. “The matter of bans is a matter for government. This industry will always comply with whatever the legislative requirement is.”
Flynn noted that France had banned the advertising of fossil fuel energies and high-emitting cars like SUVs. Companies branded as carbon-neutral will have to supply data proving the claim, and they’ll be compelled to show the carbon emissions created by their products or services.
In April, Yarra Council became the first Australian jurisdiction to ban ads by fossil fuel companies on council property.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report singled out the role of advertising and PR in delaying climate action in Australia.
“Fossil fuel industries have unique access to mainstream media via advertisements, shaping narratives of media reports, and exerting political influence in countries like Australia,” wrote the report’s authors.
A spokesperson for Glencore said: “We include images of renewable energy in our campaign because, in addition to producing coal, we are also one of Australia’s largest producers of metals (cobalt, nickel, zinc and copper) which are essential for building renewable energy technologies and electric vehicles.”
AGL, Glencore and Santos cited their aims to get to net zero by 2050 (2040 for Santos).
“We have the largest renewables and storage portfolio of any ASX-listed company, having invested $4.8 billion over two decades in renewable and firming generation,” AGL said. Ampol said their campaign acknowledges the energy transition and “how we are evolving to ensure we can continue to meet our customers’ energy needs.”
In response to a letter sent by Comms Declare to the prime minister calling for a ban on gas, coal and oil ads, communications minister Michelle Rowland said advertising regulation in Australia “strikes a balance between legitimate commercial interests and appropriate community safeguards.”
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Read More: Climate activists push for ban on fossil fuel ads