UN Secretary-General Calls for Fossil Fuel Ad Ban

Should fossil fuel ads appear on our television screens? UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says no.

During a special address, Guterres called for an advertising ban on fossil fuel companies. “I urge every country to ban advertising from fossil fuel companies,” he said. “And I urge news media and tech companies to stop taking fossil fuel advertising.” Guterres also urged advertising and public relations companies to “stop taking on new fossil fuel clients, from today, and set out plans to drop your existing ones.”

“Many in the fossil fuel industry have shamelessly greenwashed, even as they have sought to delay climate action – with lobbying, legal threats, and massive ad campaigns. Fossil fuels are not only poisoning our planet – they’re toxic for your brand.” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

A handful of cities and one country have fossil fuel ad bans. In 2021, Amsterdam became the first city in the world to ban ads from fossil fuel companies. France became the first country to ban certain fossil fuel ads a year later. The same year, Sydney became the second city to ban fossil fuel ads.

Fossil Fuel Ads and Spreading Climate Misinformation

A three-year Congressional investigation found fossil fuel companies “deceive the public and investors about their knowledge of the effects of their products on climate change and to undermine efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.” In a report published this year, the investigation focused on ExxonMobil Corporation (Exxon), Chevron Corporation (Chevron), Shell USA Inc. (Shell), BP America Inc. (BP), the American Petroleum Institute (AI), and the Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber).

Internal documents obtained by the Senate Budget Committee revealed that fossil fuel companies knew for over 60 years that burning fossil fuels causes climate change. However, those companies practiced climate denial, as reported by Inside Climate and the New York Times. In 2015, an Exxon communications advisor wrote in an email that the company didn’t “actually… dispute much of what these stories report.” In other words, the company internally acknowledged its climate denial.

Not only did fossil fuel companies practice climate denial, but they also spread misinformation. In 1998, the George C. Marshall Institute, funded by ExxonMobil, co-published the Oregon Petition, which urged the federal government to “reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan.” The petition questioned the consensus around climate change. In 2001, ExxonMobil published an ad titled “An energy policy for the new administration.” The ad urged that “the unrealistic and economically damaging Kyoto process needs to be rethought.”

Fossil fuel companies use trade associations and think tanks to spread misinformation about climate change and lobby against climate action. After ExxonMobil joined the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), a misleading name if ever there was one, provided “critical edits” for materials that referred to the Paris Agreement and language that “potentially commits members to enhanced climate-related governance, strategy, risk management, and performance metrics and targets.” Exxon also produced the National Petroleum Council’s (NPC) “Topic Paper #1, Role of Natural Gas in a Low-Carbon Economy.”

Painting It Green

The fossil fuel industry promotes natural gas as a “safer” fuel. In 2017, an email from BP America, Inc. stated that “promoting and protecting the role of gas as an increasing part of our energy mix is a paramount priority. We need to be ready to speak to this wherever there is a credible effort to disincentivize gas.” A print ad by the American Petroleum Institute gushed about natural gas: “Natural gas doesn’t just cook dinner. Thanks to natural gas, the air up here is cleaner than it’s been in 25 years.”

Researchers looked at data from Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell from 2009 to 2020 and found that they frequently mention “climate,” “low-carbon,” and “transition,” particularly BP and Shell. They found similar results for decarbonization and clean energy but also discovered that the companies use “pledges rather than concrete actions.” A year later, a study showed that Shell, ExxonMobil, BP, and TotalEnergies link natural gas to renewables and promote it as part of their climate strategy.

Fossil fuel ads only serve as a platform to mislead and greenwash consumers, delay climate action, and line the pockets of the fossil fuel industry.

Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheesemanhttp://www.justmeans.com/users/gina-marie-cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman, freelance writer/journalist/copyeditor about.me/gmcheeseman Twitter: @gmcheeseman

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