City of Sydney plans to ban fossil fuel advertising to tackle climate change and pollution

Ads promoting coal, oil and gas could soon be banned in hundreds of buildings and public spaces in Sydney.

The City of Sydney will consider becoming the first Australian jurisdiction to ban fossil fuel advertising on council-run properties and infrastructure, citing adverse health, environmental and climate impacts.

Deputy Mayor Jess Scully said influence from fossil fuel companies, which spend millions on advertising each year, had contributed to Australia’s lack of action on climate change.

“It’s about drawing a line in the sand, without saying more, we see through this bleaching, we see through the marketing spin,” Cr Scully said.

She will propose a motion at Monday’s council meeting calling for an investigation into the restriction of fossil fuel advertisements and sponsorship deals, comparing the health effects of tobacco products.

“Air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels takes 8.7 million lives prematurely every year – worse than tobacco,” said Cr Scully’s motion.

If Sydney goes ahead with a ban, it would be the biggest victory yet for a campaign to stop advertising by coal, oil and gas companies, similar to anti-tobacco advertising laws.

The Deputy Lord Mayor compares the health effects of air pollution from fossil fuels to tobacco products.(Shutterstock: Kip Scott)

Comms Declare, a group of 300 marketing, public relations, advertising and media professionals behind the campaign, described the real estate controlled by the City of Sydney – including bus shelters and street furniture – as the “crown jewel” of the Australian advertising space.

“The City of Sydney has one of the largest outdoor advertising networks in the world,” said Comms Declare co-founder Belinda Noble.

France has passed a nationwide ban on fossil fuel advertisements and Amsterdam in the Netherlands bans such advertisements on its public transport network.

In Australia, the Yarra and Moreland councils in Melbourne have also decided to investigate the ban on fossil fuel advertisements.

Cars, heated pools among targeted ads

From adverts promoting gas-guzzling cars to those selling gas-heated swimming pools, Ms Noble said the messages about fossil fuels were “insidious”.

“People don’t realize how many messages about fossil fuels there are in their everyday lives,” she said.

Determining which ads would fall under the proposed ban will be part of the council’s investigation.

Comms Declare defined fossil fuel ads as those that promoted coal, gas, and petroleum products, companies that primarily produced fossil fuels, or organizations that generated more than 20% of their revenue from fossil fuels. fossils.

Cr Scully said it was reasonable, but she would await advice from board staff on the definition and the implications for existing contracts.

She said she was unaware that the council had accepted advertisements in recent years that might fall under such a ban.

“I think that’s a market signal that we want to send,” said Cr Scully.

She hoped that the council taking this action would inspire other councils and organizations to take similar action.

Ms Noble said momentum was building and expected more councils to follow in the City of Sydney’s footsteps.

However, the group expected it would still be some time before the federal government cracked down on the industry.

“It took 40 years to stop all tobacco promotion in Australia after we found out tobacco products cause cancer, so we don’t expect this to happen overnight,” Ms Noble said. .

The motion proposed by Cr Scully also called on the City of Sydney to write to state and federal ministers calling for a nationwide ban.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland has previously dismissed the need for a tobacco-style ban on fossil fuel ads.

She told the Sydney Morning Herald in July that Australia’s advertising regulations “strike a balance between legitimate commercial interests and appropriate community safeguards”.

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