Scotland’s capital city has banned advertisements for airlines and sports utility vehicles, along with ads for cruise lines and oil and gas companies, in what campaigners are calling a “historic” step-up in action to tackle climate change.

On Tuesday, Edinburgh’s council announced it had moved to exclude adverts and sponsorships for “high-carbon products and services” that “undermine the council’s commitment to tackling the climate emergency.” The ban covers airlines, car companies that advertise SUVs, and cruise operators, as well as “all firms and associated sub brands or lobbying organisations that extract, refine, produce, supply, distribute, or sell any fossil fuels.”

Polluting companies and arms manufacturers have also been banned from sponsoring events in the city.

The decision makes Edinburgh the first British capital, and Europe’s second capital city, to enact such a ban. In 2020, Amsterdam became the first major city in the world to ban fossil fuel advertising, along with ads for air travel. Other British towns to have enacted similar bans include Cambridge, Liverpool and Norwich.

“Where national action has been slow or non-existent, cities are once again showing climate leadership from below by aligning policies on advertising with their health and climate commitments,” said Andrew Simms, author and co-founder of the U.K.’s Badvertising group, which campaigns against advertising that promotes polluting companies. Edinburgh’s action “could be described as historic in that it is the most thorough and complete policy passed yet by a national capital,” he told me.

In its policy document [PDF], the City of Edinburgh Council explained that reaching its climate targets “requires a shift in society’s perception of success, and the advertising industry has a key role to play in promoting low-carbon behaviours. Conversely, the promotion of high-carbon products is incompatible with net zero objectives.”

Responding to Edinburgh’s move, Scottish Green Party Councillor Ben Parker, who formulated the policy, said: “We’re pleased the Council has taken a lead on the issue of fossil free advertising and sponsorship. It’s just basic common sense that if the Council is serious about its commitment to climate justice, we cannot allow council advertising space to be used to promote fossil fuel companies.”

The bans on ads for “high-carbon” products and services follow in the footsteps of moves in the 1990s and 2000s to ban tobacco advertising, on the grounds that such marketing was designed to encourage an activity that harms human health. The same logic is now being applied to products that contribute to climate change, which research shows is intensifying extreme weather events globally, and harming the lives and livelihoods of millions.

Unlike more costly climate actions, such as retrofitting homes and building infrastructure, Simms told me that banning adverts was a relatively quick fix. “Politically, banning the adverts doesn’t prevent people flying, driving or taking resource-intensive, luxury cruises,” he said. “But, like with the tobacco ban, it stops their promotion so that fewer people will take those options.”

The aviation and SUV markets are among the most polluting industries outside of oil, gas and coal. While paper flying contributes a relatively small proportion of overall greenhouse gas emissions—around 2.5% of the global total—its contribution to climate change is much higher, as jets release large volumes of nitrogen oxides, water vapour, sulphate and soot particles high in the atmosphere. These add to what scientists call the “radiative forcing” effect that traps heat, warming the atmosphere. Meanwhile, in a report released this month, the International Energy Agency noted that, if SUVs were a country, they would be the world’s fifth largest emitter of CO2.

While Edinburgh has received praise for its move, it stopped short of enacting a ban on ads for meat, which is regarded as another key, high-emitting product. The council’s policy paper notes that such a ban would be “highly controversial,” but also appeared to suggest that such a ban may be forthcoming in the future, beginning with a ban on “advertising of processed meat, which has been declared as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization.”

The new ad ban, meanwhile, is likely to see pushback from some firms and advertisers. Media company JCDecaux was quoted by Edinburgh Council as claiming that the ban could cause a “10% fall in revenues” for the city, should it go ahead. But campaigners say there is no evidence for such a claim, as free ad space is almost immediately taken up by alternative firms.

Article source:

Leave a Reply